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Couple Lands Dream Job Tending Historic Lighthouse on San Francisco Bay

RICHMOND (KPIX) -- On a morning in late July, the first rays of the rising sun bathe the Victorian-era East Brother Light Station on the San Francisco Bay in a resplendent golden glow. In this picture-perfect postcard moment, it is not difficult to understand why so many people apply to be the island's lighthouse keepers, certainly among the most-coveted and unique jobs in the Bay Area..

"This time, I had literally thousands (of applicants)," said Richmond mayor Thomas Butt, who helmed the selection process for the new lighthouse keepers in the spring.

Most of the applicants, Mayor Butt said, were unqualified, lacking at least one of the requirements for the job, such as being a U.S. Coast Guard-certified boat captain.

That wasn't an issue, however, for Tyler Waterson and Tiffany Danse.

"I've been a kayak guide. I've been a naturalist, just a general tour guide. I've been a sailor, a captain -- a little bit of everything over the years," said Waterson. The husband-and-wife team was selected in April to be the new innkeepers on East Brother Island, running the bed-and-breakfast that provides revenue for lighthouse upkeep.

"I brought homemade truffles to the interview so I bribed them with chocolate," Tiffany Danse said.

Four days a week, Thursday through Monday, Tyler ferries overnight guests out to the island from the Richmond shore. Guests can stay in one of the historic lighthouse's five bedroom and enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the lighthouse tower.

"The idea of being a lighthouse keeper was definitely a big draw," Waterson said.

East Brother Light Station was nearly torn down by the Coast Guard in the 1960s. The Coast Guard installed an automated light system which largely eliminated the need for anyone to live on the island and staff the lighthouse.

But the East Bay community rallied around the historic and treasured lighthouse, blocking efforts to demolish it. The non-profit organization that runs the lighthouse now got permission to renovate it and open it as a bed-and-breakfast in 1980.

"You want to do your very best job because everyone before you has done such an excellent job. You don't want to be the one to drop the baton," Danse said. Tyler and Tiffany have agreed to a two-year stint as innkeepers on the island.

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