By Jim Gill
Most lightship sailors think of their ships in terms of the station that the ship happened to occupy at the time they were aboard. For instance, Joe over there says, “I served in Nantucket Lightship.” OK Joe, that’s fine, but which one?
1854 lightships were referred to only by number. In this manner one ship could
maintain it’s identity while over the years it was assigned to several
different stations. Lightship 612 for example served four stations. SAN
FRANCISCO and BLUNTS REEF on the West Coast,
PORTLAND and NANTUCKET on the East Coast. But the ship was always
identified as Lightship 612. Other
lightships served as many as six different stations including interim
assignments as relief.
lightships present another problem. Over the years there were probably no less
than 40 lightships called “Relief”. Some
were given this designation for the entire service life of the ship while others
due to age or circumstance were withdrawn from regular station assignments and
became Reliefs. If I said I served in Relief,
it could mean any of a dozen different ships located up and down both East and
numbers vs. names issue is, of course, important only to purists, historians and
researchers. Only a handful of lightship sailors can remember the number of
their ship but most certainly know the station name. My ship, of course, was SAN
FRANCISCO. What’s that? Was it 83/508, 612, 100/523?
Darned if I know.
that is the way it should be. In a few more years all of us old lightship
sailors will be gone and there will be nothing left. Only the numbers.