Saturday, 26 September 2015


It’s a desert at the moment.  Simon is very busy at work (which is good) and has not had time for any restoration (which is bad).  My contacts in Ireland have gone very quiet and the only bit of information I have received lately is from Chris, who was visiting relatives in Dublin, but lives in New Zealand.

“My great uncle worked on the light ships out of Dun Laoghaire for decades. Out of the crew he knew in DL he's one of only two left now he told me at the weekend. He's convinced it’s because him and the other fella were the only two to ever spend their off-shift time lying out on deck in the sun all day rather than cooped up inside.    He became a doorman at the Killiney Castle after that and still going strong at 89 now”.

    Working backwards in time, the great uncle would have been born in about 1926 and, providing he started his career early, could well have served aboard the old wooden lightships. Chris has returned to NZ but has promised to find out what he can from the old chap about life aboard a lightship. Who knows, he may remember Cormorant before she went to Belfast in 1943.
    Meanwhile I have taken the plunge and bought that foghorn for Simon. With that identification mark it was irresistible.
    Hopefully I will have more to report next week, but meanwhile, for those who expressed interest when I mentioned my old car, have a look at

Saturday, 19 September 2015


Trawling through my (modest) collection of historical documents, I have come across two little nuggets. The first is an application to the Mercantile Marine Department of the Ministry of War Transport, for permission to have the Lady Dixon (ex Cormorant) surveyed for registration and tonnage measurement at Dublin (Photo 1141). 

It is dated 24 May 1943 and shows the vessel to be 98ft 6ins, which is a few feet longer than we thought. The extra may be accounted for by the ‘landing stage’ that was added to the stern (Photo 1142).

   I also found a memorandum to the Secretary of the Irish Lights Office, dated 19th May 1916 showing the “wages and materials expended and issued on behalf of H.M. Authorities during the recent Sinn Fein Riots” (Photo 1143). I have highlighted the Cormorant item.

   In my last post I described the workings of a Norwegian Pattern Portable Foghorn, half hoping that someone would come up with one I could buy for Simon – a not too secret Christmas present perhaps.  Well someone has come up with one, in excellent working order, but at what I thought was too high a price. However, examining the photos closely I came across something which changed my mind (Photo 1144).  


Sunday, 13 September 2015


Perhaps I should not have used the word 'original'.  My preference for the solid bulwarks is based on looks rather than originality (this project is not a restoration as she will never be a lightship again) or utility (she is never going to sea again, so no rough waves to deflect). I just like the look of the ship with solid bulwarks.

Saturday, 12 September 2015


We would like some feedback this week – if you would be so kind.  Looking ahead to resurrecting the bulwarks, Simon and I disagree on their construction. I favour going back to the original look of the ship and having solid bulwarks (Photo 1131). The orange rail is the closest colour I could find in Photoshop to match the rope I took down there recently, which we plan to use as a rail.

   I suspect that Steve (Eskimo Sailor) will agree with me, but Simon prefers rails so that he can see more of the sea when he is relaxing on his sunbed (Photo 1132).  It’s his ship of course but I would be interested in any views you might care to put forward.

   On an historical note, I recently came across an old photo of the innards of a portable foghorn (Photo 1133).  The internet tells me it is a ‘Norwegian Pattern’ dating from around 1900 and I assume lightships may well have carried something like this in case their normal machine had problems. 

   Winding the handle cranks the two small bellows in turn, but at first I could not work out how the large single bellows on the top functioned. Apparently if you turn fast enough the small bellows produce enough air to inflate that large bellows, which being urged to close by the spring, acts as a reservoir and the sound produced by the machine changes from short bursts (as each small bellows closes), to a continuous note, interrupted only when you pause your cranking. Ingenious. I must find one for Simon.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Simon is gallivanting around Europe on a car rally at the moment, so nothing to report from him – except for the latest sinking of the good ship Ena (Photo 1121). 

Yes there is a ship down there – or what’s left of a ship. I would not be at all surprised if this time it’s terminal. I think the attempts to dry dock her have been abandoned and she will eventually be sold to the scrappers. This was what Cormorant was heading for two years ago, before Simon found her. 
    Ena, is/was an interesting sailing barge – she was built in 1906 and was originally a small boomie before being converted to a sprittie – and she’s also a registered Dunkirk little ship. In 2002 the TV program Salvage Squad did an extensive restoration and actually had her sailing.  In 2011 she was up for sale (on eBay!!) starting at £85,000, I don’t know whether she sold, but she has been going downhill/ underwater ever since. What a waste! I am glad Simon saved Cormorant from such a fate, in spite of the huge amount of work and investment involved.
     In tracing Cormorant’s evolution, I am faced with a big gap between 1908 and 1943. Her early years are reasonably clear – she lost her foremast around the end of the century (the 18th century!) and had her hoistable lantern replaced by a fixed one by 1908. Up to this point in time she did not have a deckhouse, although similar vessels (Guillemot, Gull, Petrel and Seagull) had deckhouses of various sizes ranging from about 1/5 to 1/3 of the ship’s length. From 1908 to 1943 I have absolutely nothing – no photos, sketches or documentation – so I have no idea what state she was in when the Belfast Harbour Commissioners bought her from the Commissioners for Irish Lights. Tony Lane thinks she had a 10m deckhouse at some stage (the current living room), which was moved and supplemented by a similar sized addition (the current kitchen), probably in the 1943 reconstruction. Since then small alterations have been made by the various owners, but the basic size and shape has remained the same. As Tony has said, Simon is lucky to have such a large deckhouse to make use of.
    Tony also reckons that the basic structure of the ship follows quite closely the 17-page specification, drawn up for the Commissioners for Irish Lights in 1880 by Joshua Cole, Com. R.N., Alex. F. Boxer and W. Douglass. (Photo 1122). 

    From his visit to the ship in 2000, Tony has also come up with a photo of the bulwarks (Photo 1123) on the port side as they were then (where did it all go?). 

The rail seems in reasonable order, but appearances can be so deceptive, especially where woods (and old cars!) are concerned. Tony also sent me a very good photo of the ship in Belfast Lough as Lady Dixon (Photo 1124).

Where would we be without such stalwarts?