Lighthouses ensure safe passage through Florida's waterways and are part of our unique history and heritage. For some, they're a way of life.
And for 69-year-old Betty Phelps of Largo, lighthouses are in her blood. Betty's grandfather worked and lived at several and now she travels the state, visiting lighthouses as a member of the Florida Lighthouse Association. She's seen about 30, but wants to visit them all.
"Getting that lighthouse job that was a steady income," Betty explained. "That was 1929. The Depression was really bad. When he got that job, it's not much, but he could feed his family."
In the Bay Area, her favorite is the lighthouse at Egmont Key. The trip over is visually stunning and spiritually refreshing. It's also a popular tourist activity.
She says it satisfies her addiction to lighthouses. Phelps is known as The Lighthouse Lady by the locals.
"Often the view is spectacular. You can see all the sand bars and you can see the birds and nesting in the trees, the osprey and the water, it's just really, really gorgeous," Betty said.
Back in the day, a lighthouse keeper would spend two months on the job, then take 24 days off for shore leave.
The job wasn't just beautiful views and sounds of the ocean. Danger came during storms, and could even include enemy fire.
"During the war, they didn't want the submarines to take a lighthouse out," Betty said.
Today, technology has replaced full-time lighthouse keepers. There's now a mission to preserve those sentinels of the sea, and the "lighthouse lady" is leading the way.
Betty said, "It's just something from the past and they are usually in very picturesque locations."