Thursday, 30 January 2014


Delving deep into the stern and taking away some rotting wood, the rudder tube was exposed. The uneven top is the result of hammering it down so that the new aft deck plating could be installed. I have included a ‘key’ so that the various bits can be identified. (Photos)

Some more history. Lego Legere put me on to a bit of European legislation from 1966, designed to curb the activities of pirate radio stations. Lady Dixon was destined to be ‘Great Britain OK’ (probably ‘OK Radio’ for short) and is specifically mentioned, along with more famous stations like Radio Caroline etc. The document is in French and I hope my translation is reasonably accurate!

The Suppression of the broadcasts by stations outside national territories. - National legislation and European Agreement.  1966
Great Britain OK has a radius of action covering the French and British coasts. It emits a wavelength already in use by stations in Stockholm, Spain and the Soviet Union. The station is installed on a vessel, the 'Lady Dixon', off the coast in the mouth of the River Thames”.

Of course Lady Dixon never made it out to her intended position as Customs & Excise seized all the radio equipment before she could be moved there. Spoil sports!

Amongst the documentation from the National Archives was a 1944 minute confirming that Cormorant had been registered as Lady Dixon (Photo).

The word ship is not used. There was a discussion going on about whether a vessel ‘not used in navigation’ could be called a ship. According to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, Cormorant was a lighthouse! (Photo)

This was eventually fudged by allowing Lady Dixon to be registered as a ship so long as this did not imply that the matter was resolved.

Other discussions concerned the use of the Pilots’ toilets by officers of the crew, and whether Belfast surveyors could claim special allowances if travelling to Dublin could be classified as ‘going abroad’. 
Plus รงa change.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


I made a mistake when talking about the water tanks. The plans indicate that there are 4 tanks aft and 4 forward and the caption says 'port & starboard', so 16 tanks altogether. The aft caption says '8 tons total' and the forward caption says '7 tons total'. (Photo)   I added together two lots of each, making 30 tons. It should be 15 tons.

To check this I avoided taking 'tons' literally because it should be 1 ton equals 100 cu ft. This gives a total of 1,500 cu ft and as the side elevation of the tanks is 108 sq ft, the width (which cannot be seen on the blueprints) must be just under 14 ft, i.e. 7 ft per tank, which makes sense given the width of the ship at this point being about 16 ft.

While I am at it, I can report that the rusty, truncated ventilation funnels are now restored and looking very smart (if I say so myself!). (Photos)

Painting inside these funnels was rather tricky and my hair, which has been silver for a few years, now has small patches of grey, biscuit and red. My wife refuses to cut these out, so I have to wear a cap in public – which I should have worn while painting! (No photo)

Friday, 24 January 2014


I have identified a fresh water tank under the deck of the lower deck – or in English, under the floor of the lower level! (Photo) There are/ were 16 of these containing a total of 30 tons of water. Considering that I stuck my hand (holding my camera) through a hole in the deck, this is not a bad photo!

Another structural photo taken on my trip was of the bow hawspipes (that’s better nauticalese) alongside the companionway. (Photo)

There are a lot of  pretty sizeable nuts to be found around the vessel, some are a very pretty colour! (Photo)

Now it is puzzle corner. There are several objects fixed around the superstructure that I can only describe as ‘double horns’. Are they ventilation, lighting, tannoy or what? (Photo).

And there is a 2ft ‘post’ fixed right at the edge of the stern, with a cap on top. Ventilation?

No prizes for the right answers, but it would be nice to know!

Monday, 20 January 2014


Having failed to find a copy anywhere of "Light Vessels of the United Kingdom and Ireland", I did find the author Philip Simons. He very kindly photocopied two Cormorant-related pages from his copy of the book and this included a photograph we have not seen before - the ship moored where she is now, in Whitton Marina, Hoo in 1997 - taken by the then owner Terry Middleton. The mizzen is still in place and at the top are two objects which look very much like the riding light I featured in Chapter 27.

The other photo from Philip was one I featured some time ago when she was moored in Sittingbourne in 1991 and was in much better condition. That was taken by J.M.Anderiesse, although she was owned at that time by Charles Reece.

I would love to find Charles, Terry, or JMA to see if they have any other photos or information!

Saturday, 18 January 2014


I did not return from my visit to the ship empty handed.  Simon gave me some homework to do. About 9 inches of the base of both ventilation funnels had rusted away in spite of being galvanised and some rust holes remained even on the main part of the funnel. (Photo)   

The rusty part was cut away and two tubes manufactured out of 1mm galvanised sheet. The little blue car you can just see in the photo is my Austin 7 and the chap who sold me the sheet turned out to be an old car enthusiast. He was so enamoured of the car that he cut the two bits I needed out of a new sheet, rolled them into the tube shape required and charged me only £20. The deal is that, if and when I sell the car, I have to give him first refusal!  The new tubes were welded onto the cleaned-up main parts and all bare metal and weld given a coat of zinc-rich primer. (Photo)

 Everything will be given two coats of ‘High Build Vinyl’ in a biscuit colour to match the original colour – less some of the fading.  We do not want the dreaded rust to take hold again. Simon wants the interiors to be pillar-box red. I will leave that to him.

Meanwhile, back on the historical front, the original cabin door does in fact open (we thought it was sealed) and has its own little artefact – a porthole. (Photos). Ignore the modern coat hooks; I am sure we can find more appropriate ones! And we shall have to find a wing nut for the porthole as well.

Finally there is one surviving ‘Deck Light’ which is not the switch on/off type, but thick glass blocks set into a brass holder. (Photo)   

This allowed natural light to get through to the lower deck. It is only about 9 inches long, so not much light would be getting through!  The maker’s name is HAYWARD and the other inscription is PATENT. Simon is installing his own 3 ft long versions as you will have seen in an earlier post.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


My two day stay aboard Lightship gave me the opportunity to record a number of ‘historical artefacts’, although dating them is not easy. The ship was built in 1878, but was extensively refurbished when Belfast Harbour bought her from the Commissioners of Irish Lights in 1943.

There were three brass double wall lights with bayonet holding bulbs and a pull-string on/off switch. The former was not invented until late in the 19th century and I doubt whether the latter appeared before WWI, so I assume they were part of the refurbishment. (Photo)

The second gem was also in brass and at first I thought it was a standard lamp, but I could see no electrical fittings and my guess now is that it was a hat/coat stand. Unfortunately it is not complete - one of the fish shaped feet;  one of the elaborate top hooks; and the central pole are all missing. (Photo)

The real prize is the riding light (if that is the correct term) which is nearly three foot in diameter, with a  1ft channel in the centre. (Photos) 

It splits in half to allow it to be wrapped around the mizzen mast and hoisted aloft by means of the four eyes on the top. This is an electric device and one of the bayonet bulb fittings is visible in both photos.

Simon intends to restore this and have it suspended above his dining table. Not for him an ordinary chandelier! However, the restoration of the dining room comes first!  (Photo)

Sunday, 12 January 2014


I have just returned from spending two days with Simon aboard Cormorant / Lady Dixon / The Beast / The Lightship. I suppose the official name is ‘The Lightship’ as it is now registered with that name at National Historic Ships UK. A few days before I left home Simon reported that the kitchen ceiling was bugging him, as it had been rather badly plaster-boarded and bulged in waves down the length of the kitchen. So he took it all down again (Photo). 

He discovered large areas under there which had no insulating boards fitted.  I wonder if that graffiti is original!
By the time I arrived all was well again and the plasterer has been booked to finish the job (Photo).

Wearing my historical research hat (one way of avoiding too much labouring!), I went over the ship with arc-lights and camera. My first investigation was the mast and the light operating mechanism I reported in an earlier post. I wanted to confirm the positioning of the shaft through the mast and sure enough it all lined up (Photo). 

In addition, where that shaft emerged on the far side of  the bulkhead on the left, the blueprints showed a pulley wheel with two wires going aloft through the roof / ceiling / overhead and sure enough there are two holes in exactly the expected spot (Photo).

I was rather saddened to find the remains of the mizzen mast, but at least it was being put to good use – keeping the ship away from the causeway (Photo). A neighbouring boat owner remembers it being cut down years ago because it was becoming dangerously rotten.

At least the riding lamp (is that the right terminology?) which is about 3ft in diameter, used to fit around the mizzen and be hauled up and down, is still aboard and reasonably intact. That and the other artefacts deserve a blog of their own, so watch this space.