For sale: a hard-to-access, 105-year-old, wave-swept lighthouse on treacherous rock outcroppings at the entrance of Portland Harbor.

The successful buyer will bid at least $10,000 and agree to maintain the property in accordance with historic preservation guidelines, and won’t mind the lack of utilities or a functioning pier.

The federal government plans to sell Ram Island Ledge Light, a prominent feature off the coast that’s the target of crashing surf during major storms.

The Coast Guard, lacking money to maintain lighthouses around the country, has given up many of them under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Ram Island Ledge Light was made available at no cost to groups like local governments and nonprofits, but there were no takers. So in June, the federal government started an online auction for the lighthouse.

The Coast Guard conveyed the lighthouse to the General Services Administration, which is handling the auction, but it will continue to maintain the navigational aids — the light and the foghorn.

“The Coast Guard does still go out there and make sure it’s working. That won’t go away,” said Meta Cushing, a program manager in the Boston office of the General Services Administration.

So far, one bidder has offered the $10,000 minimum. The closing date for the auction has not been announced. Registered bidders will be able to inspect the lighthouse on Aug. 26, weather and seas permitting.

About a mile offshore, Ram Island Ledge Light is visible from Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. Together, the lights mark the main entrance to the harbor, said Boatswain’s Mate First Class Greg Lewis, a member of the Coast Guard’s aids-to-navigation team based in South Portland.

“As long as you keep between those two lights, you’re entering right in the middle. That’s basically the safe water,” he said.

While most people now rely on buoys to navigate the area, Lewis said, larger vessels offshore still use the lights because they are visible earlier.

The aids-to-navigation team visits the lighthouse every six months to do preventive maintenance, such as checking the lamps. The team is also dispatched to the lighthouse whenever the Coast Guard’s monitoring system detects problems.

Lewis has taken lighthouse technicians to Ram Island Ledge Light twice. He said very calm water is needed so he can touch the boat’s bow to the surrounding rocks.

To get inside the lighthouse, the technicians must climb a 30-foot exterior ladder.

Ram Island Ledge Light was under the stewardship of the American Lighthouse Foundation. But the Rockland-based foundation allowed its license to lapse after it was unable to start a local chapter that would care for the lighthouse, said Jeremy D’Entremont, the foundation’s board president and historian.

D’Entremont and Bob Trapani Jr., the foundation’s executive director, share concerns about what will happen to the lighthouse in private hands.

Trapani said its future is only as secure as the owner’s fortune. Despite best intentions, a private buyer may not realize how much work and money are needed, he said.

“When nobody comes forward from the nonprofit or government sector and these lights go out for auction, the public loses control. But it’s also the last chance for preservation,” he said. “We hope whoever wins this has preservation front and center.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.