Help wanted at iconic SF Bay lighthouse inn


Daily grind got you down? Looking for a little adventure, or the chance to save a few bucks?

If so, the East Brother Light Station Dinner, Bed & Breakfast might have a position for you.

The historic inn, located in San Francisco Bay just off Richmond, needs two innkeepers to run the property year-round. The job involves all aspects of a traditional hospitality operation, including cooking, cleaning and housekeeping.

At least one of the innkeepers, who have traditionally been couples, also must hold a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license. That’s needed to ferry guests to and from the tiny island located near Richmond, Calif. The boat is provided.

Tom Butt, president of the nonprofit that has operated the inn since 1979, said the job is not easy. But it has plenty of upsides, too. For one thing, the innkeepers can earn as much as $130,000 a year. They share proceeds with the nonprofit, and income depends on how busy the inn gets. Given the island setting, he said, savvy innkeepers should be able to save much of their pay.

The benefits go beyond the salary. “It’s like stepping back a century and a half,” Butt said in a recent interview. “On a foggy day or night, you can’t see the mainland and you can imagine what it might have been like back here when the old-time lighthouse keepers were (operating the station).”

The East Brother Light Station dates back to 1874. It has been an inn since 1979.

East Brother Light Station via Facebook

The East Brother Lighthouse Station dates back to 1874, and it is one of the oldest West Coast wood-frame lighthouses still fully operating in its historic configuration, according to the California Office of Historic Preservation. The Coast Guard automated the lighthouse in 1969. The site became an inn in 1979.

There have been 13 different sets of innkeepers since then, and Butt said the current couple has been phenomenal. They are leaving in April, giving the nonprofit about three months to hire their replacements. Most innkeepers stay at least a year or two.

There have been plenty of prospective hires to choose from. A local news story about the job openings has “gone viral,” leading to more than 1,000 inquiries from around the world. Some messages are written in languages Butt can’t recognize, let alone understand. The organization posted a new message on its Facebook page aiming to answer basic questions.

Proximity to the Bay Area is not a dealbreaker, and past interviews have been conducted via Skype. The need for two people, the U.S. Coast Guard license to transport passengers and the ability to work in the U.S. are non-negotiable. “That is what I look for,” Butt said. “Of course, of those 1,000 emails I got, 980 of them don’t have most of those qualifications.”

The innkeepers, too, have been deluged with inquiries. Butt said one upside for them is a surge in new bookings.

As of press time in mid-January, the innkeeper positions were still available. For details, including how to book a room at the lighthouse station, visit

By Ocean Navigator