Friday, 27 February 2015


Having laid tiles along the side decks without trimming, Simon decided they would look better and lie better trimmed to size, which they certainly do (Photo 851).

That was hard work but reasonably straightforward. Then he got down to the tricky bits where the mats had to be cut to fit around various fitting and fixtures (Photo 852).

He reported “I am rather enjoying the challenge now. It's like really thick, awkward wallpaper...”,  which of course he should be good at!  He progressed to the Hawspipes I mentioned in the last post (Photo 853).

By this time his industrial-type gloves were looking a bit worse for wear! (Photo 854).

Finally, in order to protect his newly finished decks from the twice-daily back-and-forth of the gangway wheels and to protect the gunwale beneath the gangway (at high tide the gangway actually rocks on the gunwale), Simon had a steel ‘runway’ fabricated and it is now in place (Photo 855).


Thursday, 19 February 2015


   “The visitor of a lightship cannot fail to be struck with its admirable condition, and with the fine appearance of its crew (Photo 841).   

Sun-tanned and weather-beaten, they are models of sailors:   frank, self-reliant, unassuming, obedient, nimble, vigorous, and resolute.   (Photo 842 – Repairs aboard Osprey in 1905)

   They seem well-contented with their lot, and if they complain at all, it is of the quantity and quality of their provisions.  
    The ration of bread (seven pounds a week) is not quite sufficient for hearty men, and I confess, from my own experience, that the sharp air to which they are exposed is well adapted to whet ones appetite.  
    When they are at sea, their food is supplied; when on shore, they receive instead one shilling and three-pence  a day.   Their wages are fifty-five shillings per month; the master receives £80 per annum.
   Two men at a time are charged with the care of the lamps, the third being on shore; one of these two performs for a month the functions of a cook.   Formerly, if we may believe public rumour, the lightship crews, isolated by continental tempests which rendered the sea impracticable, have been reduced to the extremest necessities, have even perished of hunger.
    To prevent the recurrence of such calamities, a steamboat or a good stout sailing-vessel regularly visits the lightship once a month.   In the worst weather the communication is never interrupted for a longer period than six weeks, and the stock of provisions is always sufficient to last the crew for even a longer time”.
‘Lighthouses and Lightships’  by  W.H. Davenport Adams.

   Some of the ships in the CIL/NLI photographs are equipped with fog horns, but some still have the fog bell on the foredeck (Photo 843).   By 1905 some were also equipped with an underwater or submarine bell as sound carries further underwater than in air.  An example can be seen hanging over the side on a chain.

    I suppose many warning devices were invented and tried, including a submarine   ‘horn’ (Photo 844)  

  and a weird American device which looks as though it uses the hull as a sounding board (Photo 845). The effect on the ship’s crew must have been rather startling!
All these photographs are © Commissioners for Irish Lights and courtesy of The National Library of Ireland.


Friday, 13 February 2015


Well the tiles arrived ‘safely’ – they were a day late and the truck was not carrying the fork-lift that Simon had booked and paid for! Anyway, the pallets were duly dumped on the water’s edge, all 2 ½ tons of them  (Photo 831) and the truck driver went away cursing and blinding.

     Simon loaded up his trolley for the first of many trips and soon found that the tiles were too wide for the walk-way (Photo 832).  So it became the first of many, many trips! 

Of course he could not resist breaking off in the midst of all this toil in order to try a few out on the deck. Now back in December, when the roofing felt had just been applied, the deck looked very smart, (Photo 833) but was of course a bit vulnerable to accidental damage. 

These tile proved to be exactly the right size, without trimming, to lie along the side decks and with a power wash will look really good (Photo 834).

  And Simon has started on the bow area (the easy bits) and that looks pretty good too (Photo 835). Wait till he gets to fitting the mats around the hawspipes and the like!


Saturday, 7 February 2015


The preservation of Cormorant / Lady Dixon is progressing slowly but surely. Simon has at last purchased the protective tiles needed to cover the newly insulated and waterproofed deck. The rubber tiles have come from a playground and are one metre square.  He needs about 60 of them, but the deal is for 120, so there will be plenty of spares! They weigh about 2.4tons in total and will be delivered early this week. At around 45lbs per tile, Simon will have to make many trips along the catwalk with his trolley!

   He has decided not to use the tiles on the stern deck. Some time ago he bought a load of discarded hardwood decking and, after cleaning it up, intends to turn it back into ‘decking’ (Photo 820).

  To make proper use of his new log-burning stove, Simon has had some radiators installed. Some are temporary, but all provide welcome warmth. The first to be installed was a small one to absorb the heat of the water from the back boiler, even if all others were turned off (a ‘safety’ radiator)  and it had to be situated above the level of that boiler (Photo 821).

    Eventually it will be boxed in.  The little bathroom needed some heat and warming towels would be a bonus, so in went a smart towel rail (Photo 822). 

   Then Simon found a very smart radiator which fitted  in beautifully at the top of the spiral staircase (Photo 823).

    A bit more history….
I came across a very nice old (1870) book ‘Lighthouses and Lightships’  by  W.H. Davenport Adams.  I am sure he will not mind me quoting bits from his book as they give a great feel of life aboard the early lightships …….
“The form of the lightship varies according to its locality: in Ireland the hull is more elongated than in England; but in all cases the object to be attained is the same – resistance to the force of the winds and waves.   It is desired that in the most violent tides, in the midst of the angriest billows, and in situations the most exposed to the influence of the currents, it shall drag as little as possible upon its anchor.   That it may at all times and in all conditions preserve the same maritime position, it is securely moored.   Like a galley-slave, riveted to an iron chain, it can move neither to the right nor to the left.
          Let us now say a few words in reference to the resolute crews who man these vessels.  The crew of an English lightship consists of a master, a mate, and nine men.   Three out of the nine are intrusted with the service of the lamps; the six others, who always include among them a good carpenter, attend to the order and cleanliness of the vessel.   It must be remembered, however, that the nine men are never all on board together; one-third are always enjoying an interval of rest on shore.   Experience has proved that a perpetual sojourn on board a ship of this kind is too much for the moral and physical forces of human nature.   The crushing monotony of the same scenes, the eternal spectacle of foam-crested waters rolling wherever the eye is turned, the ceaseless noise of the winds, the everlasting murmur of the ocean – swelling at times into so terrible a roar that it renders inaudible the human voice – could not fail to exercise a depressing influence on the mind.   But even allowing for the occasional vacation spent upon land, the life is so uniform and unexciting that it is wonderful any man can be found to endure it; and the crews of our lightships may assuredly be ranked among the curiosities of civilization”. 

He has a lovely turn of phrase doesn’t he?