Saturday, 31 May 2014


Just a quick post to let you know that things will be quiet for a couple of weeks. I am off to Spain in the old car for a touring holiday with some fellow enthusiasts. Simon is away too, on a jaunt of his own.

One thing to report – the demise of the old Rayburn stove. Dismantling revealed a hopeless mess inside, with many bits missing and really bad corrosion. It is too heavy and cumbersome to keep for old time’s sake. (Photo) 

So it is out with the old and in with the new – well perhaps not so new as Simon likes retro (Photo). This is for heating, not cooking!

 So, until the middle of June, it’s goodbye from me and it’s goodbye from him!


Saturday, 24 May 2014


Sadly I have had no response to my appeal for help with access to the Commissioners for Irish Lights. They owned the vessel from 1878 until Belfast bought her in 1942. Surely there must be some records of this period similar to the treasures I found in Belfast? About 500 people a week are viewing this story on the four forums (fora?). Are none of you from the Dublin area?
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Simon does have time to relax and enjoy the weather and the views. (Photo)  Actually, that is not Simon, it’s his girlfriend Laura. I knew those ventilation cowls would come in handy.

Busy as ever, Simon has applied three coats of varnish to his ‘clinker’ boat – on the outside at least (Photo).

And, true to his principle of waste not want not, the rubber ‘bin’ that used to protect the hole in the roof from where the mainmast emerged, is no longer needed now that the roof has been properly covered and so it has been put to another use – growing potatoes! (Photos)

However, there is a very big task which must be tackled very soon – insulating the deck. Simon will have to make the most of any good weather we have this summer. There is a  mountain of work to be done below deck, but this cannot really start until the deck is done and the condensation stops.

Since immersing myself in the history of Simon’s lightship, I have discovered the pleasures of research. Both large and small discoveries more than compensate for all the painstaking work in between. I must avoid becoming an ‘anorak’, but I am enjoying it. For instance the long arm of coincidence manifested itself this week.  In 1916 the German submarine U-53 was causing consternation along the US eastern seaboard and British merchant vessels were forbidden to leave port until the menace was dealt with. The U-boat had been reported by the Nantucket lightship and who was commanding that lightship?  Captain David Dudley. No it wasn’t me – I may be old, but not that old!

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Some time ago Simon bought himself a canoe, but unfortunately it was holed in a storm – sounds romantic but actually it was tied down on the roof of the superstructure and something fell on it!  Anyway, it is now repaired and this excellent weather has tempted Simon to christen it and take some photos of the hull from sea level. The hull was constructed with two layers of teak planking and covered by a sheet of ‘yellow metal’. This was Muntz metal - a form of alpha-beta brass with about 60% copper, 40% zinc and a trace of iron. It is named after George Frederick Muntz, a metal-roller of Birmingham, England who commercialised the alloy following his patent of 1832. Its original application was as a replacement for copper sheathing on the bottom of boats, as it maintained the anti-fouling abilities of the pure copper at around two thirds of the price. It became the material of choice for this application and Muntz made his fortune.  
A notable use of Muntz Metal was in the hull of the Cutty Sark and I believe that only three vessels still exist which have the teak planks on iron frame with Muntz cladding construction – Cutty Sark, Simon’s lightship and one other.
Simon’s canoe-based survey showed that, in places, the Muntz is crumbling at the edges (aren’t we all?).  There is a definite limiting line just above water level – which would make sense.

In places the Muntz is in good shape

 and in others it looks like a patchwork quilt – or a piece of modern art!

On a more serious note, there are areas of the hull that are in need of some serious TLC. Thank goodness these are well above the waterline, but will need to be done nonetheless.

Some areas look fine, although still needing work.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Well after all the excitement of Belfast, the historical part has slowed right down. ‘Dead End in Dublin’ could be the title for this chapter!  Contact with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) is proving difficult and the Liffey Dockyard Ltd., where the conversion work was carried out on behalf of Belfast, has long since ceased to exist.  Pat Sweeney, the author of ‘The Liffey Ships’, is being very helpful, but has not found any mention of the Cormorant amongst his extensive research, even though it must have been a major project for the yard at the time. So the only information I have so far about the Cormorant before she became the Lady Dixon, is that she was built in 1876/78 by the Victoria Shipbuilding Co., West Passage Cork, Ireland. She was 91 ft long, 21 ft wide and her draft was 11ft. She cost £7,500 to build and served on many Irish stations. Her construction was a composite of teak planking over Iron Frames. I have yet to find any early photos or paintings of the vessel. There is a mention of her in the history of another lightship when, in 1912 I believe, that vessel needed repairs and Cormorant took over the South Rock station for a short time. That’s it!

So, if any of you know any influential members of the CIL Board, or worked in the Liffey Dockyard during WWII ……….

Meanwhile, Simon makes slow, but steady progress with the more important work. He has laid and grouted the straightforward rows of tiles in the kitchen (Photos) and next week will be doing the tricky edging and surrounds. I wish him luck – I have never been able to cut a floor tile neatly, even when it was just a straight line across the tile!

Just thinking back to those wonderful Masters’ log books, we should not be surprised that the change(s) of name in 1943 were implemented on the cover with a pen. It was war time after all.