Friday, 27 March 2015


Those very helpful people in the National Library of Ireland finally managed to interpret my clues and find the photograph I was after – Guillemot on Daunt station in 1905 (Photo 991).

  As the elegantly scripted caption indicates, the visiting Commissioners from CIL are actually in the lantern, doing their inspection. This gives the clearest impression I have yet seen of the size of the lantern and the internal lamps (Photo 992).

   There are two figures on the left and one on the right. The reflectors of the lamps have obviously been highly polished – as I am certain they always were and not just for the inspection visit. Taken along with the view I published back in January, of a portly Commissioner climbing into the lantern (Photo 993), I now have a much better feeling for the scale of that 2-ton monster. Hauling it up the mast (by muscle power in the early days) must have been quite a feat – even without the Commissioners in there!  

   Back to the boat and Simon.  He is getting serious with the stern deck. The wall-papering business is going through a busy phase, so decking is not high priority. Still he has had time to start cutting and fitting (Photo 994), but not screwing down, sanding or varnishing!

The old photos are © CIL and courtesy NLI.


Friday, 20 March 2015


Rather a dearth of items this time.  I am waiting for a hi-res scan of Guillemot on the Daunt station, which I hope will show the Commissioners’ inspectors actually inside the lowered lantern in 1905. It’s one David Ryan and I found during my visit to Dublin in January, but the National Library folk are having difficulty finding it again – probably due to my poor note-taking. But they are doing their best.
   I did read somewhere that the day-markers on the lantern or mizzen masts were unique to lightship stations, but unless I am missing something, this is not so. There are differences for sure (Photo 881), Barrels has a very appropriately shaped marker, but many go for a simple ball – or are they simple?  

 The photographs from that era are not all that clear, but I suppose there may be noticeable differences (they would have to be noticeable from a distance) that I cannot discern in the photos.  This is a pity as it would be an aid to identification – not of the actual vessel perhaps, but of the station being served, which is a step along the way. For instance, ignoring the vessels with a single ball marker, we could probably be confident that the lightship supporting the Dublin Bay regatta is from Arklow station. (Photo 882)

   Similarly, the left hand vessel in Kingston Harbour in 1907, (Photo 883) was from Blackwater station; the middle one is anybody’s guess);  and the one on the right is from Coningbeg station (actually I cheat – there is only one ball but the name is visible on the side!).

  Come on all you nautical types, were the single round balls different?

Friday, 13 March 2015


My remarks in the last report about burly seamen struggling to squeeze into the 2ft diameter mast of Cormorant, produced a number of comments from various sources through various channels. The consensus seems to be that people were noticeably smaller a century ago.  The evidence quoted by ‘Pedro’ (Vast records exist from WW1, so many studies have been done on size, weight, etc., of the average "Tommy". Average height was about 5 foot 5 inches and weight was about 8 stone or 112 pounds. The Army dropped its minimum height requirement from 5'3" to 5' and there even were Bantam battalions) certainly points to there being little problem for the average Victorian sailor. Even as late as the 1960s, the Soviet tank forces were rumoured to comb the ranks of recruits for gunners who were less than 5ft tall and preferably with a right arm shorter than the left, so cramped and awkward was the T54 tank!

Looking through my collection of lightship photographs, I can find only three which have two auxiliary masts – one forward and one mizzen. The ill-fated Puffin (Photo 871) is one.

Cormorant, seen here on the Lucifer Shoals station, another (Photo 872). 

The third photo (Phot 873) is of an unidentified lightship on the Blackwater station.

Now the first thing to hit me, when I put these two photos next to each other, is how similar they are. Yes the names on the side are different; one has two ball markers on the lantern mast; and those little ‘huts’ near the stern seem to have the doors in different places.  But doors apart, these two are identical as far as I can judge.  So are both these vessels Cormorant?  I think so.

And talking of photos, I am aiming to take a few myself. I have bought myself a drone, a little one (body length 34cms), but it does have a camera (Photo 874) and I can hardly wait to make another trip down to the Medway to take some aerial shots of Simon’s ship. For the first time I will be able to get the whole ship in one photo. 

There are plenty of other things to photograph down there, including the unfortunate Ena which sadly has again fail to rise with the incoming tide (Photo 875).


Friday, 6 March 2015


I have for some time been urging Simon to cut a hole in the stump of the lantern mast.  I was of course eager to see whether there was a ladder inside, which would probably indicate that what is left of it is as old as the ship itself.  Simon has at last cut a (small) viewing hole in the mast (Photo 861).

His photography is not the best, but the hole is small and the mast is only 2ft in diameter. In spite of such constricted circumstances, he did capture the evidence I was looking for – rungs of an internal ladder (Photo 862).

This ladder is made up of individual rungs bolted to the mast and not a complete ladder as in the mast of LV Guillemot – a more modern vessel and in good shape (Photo 863).

The Guillemot mast has an access hatch (Photo 864). I do not call it a door because it is obviously securely bolted in place and not much used (emergencies only?). 

It is very similar to the bolted hatch on Cormorant’s mast, but in better condition!

Now the Cormorant mast measured 2ft in diameter, which must have made climbing inside it a fairly claustrophobic experience.  I have a fairly slim build at 175lb, (Photo 866)  so a burly sailor would have found it quite a squeeze!