Sunday, May 11, 2008

Welcome Aboard The Lightship

Your first thought might be what the heck is a lightship anyway? Well, let me share with you my thirty second-second spiel about the Lightship Columbia.

A lightship is a floating aid to navigation or simply a floating lighthouse. Lightships where first used in the United States beginning in 1820 and were anchored off shore in locations where the construction of a lighthouse was not possible. Custom also dictated that the ship be named after the site where they were stationed.

A lightship was anchored five miles off shore marking the entrance to the Columbia River beginning in 1892; it was replaced by an automated buoy in 1979. The ship, Number 604, pictured in my photos, was manned by a crew of 18 who worked on board rotations lasting from two to four weeks in length. Duty on board the ship was frequently described as monotonous and boring until the gale force storm winds struck.

The ship’s high intensity lights were visible from a distance of 13 miles in the darkness of a clear night sky. The ship is also equipped with two fog horn that sound a three second blast twice a minute which could be heard up to five miles from the ship. Needless to say, sleep was often difficult, if not impossible!

The two brown objects above my head that look like trumpets are the fog horns

Being a docent and volunteer host on board the Lightship Columbia is way beyond fun! It is simply a blast to share stories of the ship's service and to meet people who visit the museum from all over the United States. I also get to be a ship's captain for two hours; I may not have a crew to command and the ship never leaves the mooring of the dock, but I don't have to pay the fuel bill either!!

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