An Opinion and an Appeal – Save the Nantucket Lightship
WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?
Where is the OUTRAGE?
The Last working Lightship in North America, which was on the Coast Guard Light List, is up for sale. The Friends of Nantucket 1, WLV 612 have been fighting for 9 years to get the ship restored and operational, but the owners of the vessel, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided that this ship doesn't fit their agenda, so they have placed it on the State Surplus List and it is now on sale for scrap value. The ship has an estimated value of $250,000 dollars but it could be sold for as little as $60,000 for scrap value.
The singer, Joni Mitchell was correct in her song -”don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till it's gone".
Where is the outrage at this terrible injustice?
If any active Coast Guard personnel care about this please call your Congressman or woman.
We need to get all the interested active and retired Coast Guard support to save this Historic Lightship before it goes to the scrap pile.
As recently as last year the ship was virtually restored, all four main engines worked, all pumps, hoses, waterlines, electrical systems and electronic systems worked. Last Winter the State of Massachusetts locked the ship and turned the heat off, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage to many of the ships systems, now the vessel is crippled, all the restoration was for nothing. The Main engines are cracked, the generators are useless, the water systems are frozen, the electrical systems, so carefully restored, are useless.
Where is the outrage?
Lightships such as this saved countless ships and men and women and children from peril on the high seas. Our Nations Commerce and many historic ships carrying millions of immigrants to N. America depended on these Lightships to mark the sea-lanes and to guide them to safety.
Now when we need our Senators, our Representatives and our Congressmen to help us to save the Lightships, Where are they? They were there for the USS Salem when it needed $8 million dollars. The Nantucket lightship needs $500,000 dollars, a fraction of that amount, but the State said they don't have it. The money was promised to the Lightship for over 5 years but the MDC never followed through on their promise. Rather than save the Lightship, the MDC dropped the ball and gave it away to be sold for scrap.
We have called on Congressman William Delahunt, an EX Coastie -- He's not interested
We've called on Mayor James Sheets -- He's not interested.
We've called on Senator Ted Kennedy -- He's not interested
We've called on many other Congressmen and Senators
They want our votes, our support, and our money when they're running for office, but where are the politicians when we need them. Just because this ship isn't on their agenda isn't justification for sending it to the scrap yard.
Again, WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?
HELP US TO SAVE THIS LIGHTSHIP, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT HISTORIC SHIPS IN NORTH AMERICA.
Douglas M. Bingham
45 West Street B-1
Randolph, Mass 02368
American Lighthouse Foundation
c/o Douglas M. Bingham
45 West Street B-1
Randolph, Mass. 02368
Mr. Edward Fitzgerald
Quincy Historic Society
Thanks for taking a few minutes of your time last evening to ask for your support for the Nantucket Lightship WLV 612, at Marina Bay.
The Lightship is in peril of going to the wreckers. After 10 years of careful restoration by a small core group of Volunteers who call themselves “Friends of Nantucket 1” the Lightship was carelessly shut down by its owners, the MDC, last winter, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damage caused by frozen pipes.
The Lightship was first brought to Marina Bay in 1989 by the MDC which at the time was directed by Senior Commissioner Ilyas Batti. In February of 1989 an appeal was issued in several local and Boston newspapers asking for the publics help in restoring the Lightship, with the hopes of converting it to a floating and working Lightship- Museum. That dream was realized much sooner than anyone had imagined, in fact it was accomplished at the eve of the last Tall Ships Parade in 1991 (?).
The Nantucket was able to cruise on its own power for the first time in 7 years, and was on hand, and at anchor at Long Island, Boston Harbor to serve as the Greeting Vessel for the Tall Ships Parade. This was accomplished primarily by people from the Quincy area who gave many thousands of volunteer hours to rebuild engines, pumps and generators, and to run miles of wires.
Since that time, over $80,000 dollars was donated from thousands of visitors ( over 30,000 people ) much of the donations came from myself, from presenting slide shows and speaking engagements, and from a donation box on board the Lightship.
In addition to public speaking, I have given many volunteer hours to some Quincy Schools such as : Beechwood Knoll, Squantum Elementary, Arlington Elementary. Many local South Shore Historic Societies have hosted me , including the Quincy Historic Society, Weymouth, Hanson, Scituate, Hull, Westwood, Rockport, and many more. All have expressed an interest in the Lightship Nantucket. Many lighthouse Tours out of Boston Harbor have stopped at Marina Bay to view the Nantucket Lightship.
This ship is an asset to the City of Quincy.
The Lightship is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but not one penny was given to the restoration effort by the State. The MDC continually promised to support the Friends of Nantucket in their efforts to restore the Lightship, but the MDC never followed through on any of its promises.
Finally, after 10 years of empty promises and pledges of support, the Senior Commissioner, David Balfour, forcibly evicted the Volunteers from the Lightship in October 1999, locked the Lightship and walked away from it. The ship is now on the Disposal List, Office of Surplus Property, State of Massachusetts.
Rep. Ron Mariano promised support for the Lightship at its relighting in 1989, but he never followed through.
Why should we care about the Lightship Nantucket ?
The first Iron Hulled Lightship which was delivered to the Lighthouse Board in 1890 was built at the Fore River Engine Co., later to be called Bethlehem Steel Corp.
In 1908, 4 Lightships, all Iron Hulls, were built at the Bethlehem Steel Ship Yard in Quincy, Mass., these were Lightships # 90 - 93.
Many Lightships were involved in collisions with other vessels while at anchor, one was Lightship # 54, Boston Lightship. It was struck and damaged in 1936 by a scrap iron carrier called the Seven Seas Spray, putting a large gash in the Starboard side of the Boston Lightship. The # 54 was towed to the Quincy Ship Yard for repairs and put back on Station, 16 nautical miles East of Boston, and 6 miles north of Nantasket.
This particular Lightship, WLV 612, was built at Curtis Bay, Maryland in 1950 for the USCG, and was immediately sent to the West Coast to serve at San Francisco, 12 miles West of the Golden Gate Bridge. To get there it had to pass through the Panama Canal, only the 2nd Lightship in US history to do so. The 612 was later sent to Blunts Reef near Cape Mendocino, California, after being replaced by an unmanned buoy at San Francisco. The Blunts Reef Lightship Station also was replaced by an unmanned buoy, closing the door on Lightship history on the West Coast.
The 612 again passed through the Panama Canal and cruised to Portland, Maine to serve the Lightship Station there until 1975 when it too was replaced by an unmanned buoy.
Lightship 612 cruised to the dreaded Nantucket Shoals, the most exposed Lightship Station in the world, where it remained until December 20, 1983, effectively ending 164 years of US Coast Guard Lightship History. The LNBs, Large Navigational Buoys, which replaced all lightships at the Port entrances such as Boston, have too been replaced by smaller robotic buoys, reducing the costs of maintaining the 40 ft tall and 42 ft wide LNB.
After leaving the Nantucket Shoals in 1983, the LV 612 was painted white and served as a refueling platform for the USCG in the Caribbean for about 1 year until 1985. It then went to Kennebunk, Maine serving as a Sentry ship for Vice Pres. George Bush, standing about 3 miles offshore, to protect the VP at his Summer Home. VP Bush went aboard on several occasions to use the ships radio gear to communicate with military officials.
Finally in March of 1985 WLV 612 and her sister Lightship WLV 613 were simultaneously decommissioned at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, completely ending the era of Lightships in American History.
The Lightship 612, in 1985, was sold to a private, not for profit, maritime educational program which failed. The GSA then sold the LV 612 to the MDC in 1987, which looked for a port or a pier for the Lightship.
In 1989, Marina Bay, under the direction of George Maloney agreed to allow the LV 612 to tie up at the Marina with the agreement that the Lightship be allowed to relight its main beacon light and serve as a private aid to navigation for Marina Bay.
This act was completed on May 15, 1989 with permission from the USCG First District, Boston. This is an important date in Lightship history.
On May 15, 1934. The RMS Olympic, sister to RMS Titanic, rammed and sunk the 117 Nantucket, killing 7 of her crew immediately.
This Lightship, Nantucket 1, is the last iron hulled Lightship to serve at the last 4 Lightship Stations in the USA. It is the final link to a period in American history which few people know about or appreciate.
Many men gave their lives in the line of duty while serving aboard the Lightships, acknowledged as the most dangerous duty in US Lighthouse Service or US Coast Guard history.
The Lightships were known as the ships that never sailed, they never carried big guns, never fired weapons in anger, and yet the Lightships performed the most dangerous duty in maritime history. They guided the way to safe waters for millions of immigrants who came to the USA in search of religious, political, and educational freedoms. The Nantucket Lightship was affectionately called” The Statue of Liberty of The Seas”. This was the first light to be seen by mariners making their way to New York Harbor after days and weeks at sea.
Lightships were placed in harms way, to protect the lives of those who navigated the oceans of the world, that they may find safe harbors, and not end up on sand bars, and reefs, or collide with other vessels at sea. The responsibility of a Lightship was to mark a dangerous area near a reef or ledge, show the lights in bad weather or in darkness, sound a fog horn for days or weeks at a time, and hopefully not be rammed or struck by a passing ship that may be navigating too close to the Lightship station.
Please help us to save this, the last Commissioned Lightship in US Coast Guard history, this Lightship, only 1 of 14 left in the USA, deserves a better fate than to end up in a scrap yard. this Lightship is worth saving.
Douglas M. Bingham
Friends of Nantucket 1
Corresponding Secretary, American Lighthouse Foundation
Lightship Sailors, Honorary Member
Trustee, Marine Museum at Fall River
Evenings - 781-986-5224
Days - 508-962-4142
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NANTUCKET 1 (WLV 612) AND HER SERVICE AT MARINA BAY
N. QUINCY , MASS.
Douglas M. Bingham
In 1987 , 2 years after the decommissioning of the WLV 612 and her sister WLV 613 , the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchased the last USCG Lightship which stood a 3 week tour of duty at Nantucket Shoals .
The Nantucket 1 , as it was designated by the USCG had served at the last 4 off shore Lightship Stations in US waters , San Francisco , Blunts Reef , Portland , Maine , and Nantucket Shoals , 54 miles South of Nantucket Island . After leaving Nantucket shoals , the 612 served for a brief time as a refueling station for USCG Patrol Craft in the Florida area in cooperation with the DEA , in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal drugs from S. America .
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Parks Dept. , the Metropolitan District Commission , Ilyas Batti , Commissioner , searched for a suitable site for the Lightship and reached an agreement with a large Marina in N. Quincy , Mass. , Marina Bay .
The agreement hinged on one condition , the Lightship had to be allowed to show its Main Beacon and serve as a privately maintained Aid to Navigation for Marina Bay .
The restoration of the Main Beacon couldn't be done without the assistance of experienced personnel . The MDC posted an appeal in several area newspapers , including the Patriot Ledger in Quincy , the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe in February 1990 .
With the release of the story asking for the publics assistance to restore and maintain the Lightship , many people , including retired Lightship Sailors with photos and diaries of their experiences turned out to hear MDC Commissioner Batti and other people from State and local government agencies talk of the plan to restore the Nantucket Lightship and of the hope of taking the vessel to various ports in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .
Restoration efforts began almost immediately . By June of 1991 , a level of excitement could be felt among the many volunteers who were participating in the many areas of the ship which had lain neglected for 6 years . The Main Engines , shut down since March 1985 were being rebuilt , generators were being re-wired , electrical systems were upgraded , plumbing systems were being reconnected and resoldered . This was in the hope of taking Nantucket 1 to Boston Harbor for the largest assembly of Tall Ships since 1976 .
A dream was about to be realized on July 1 , 1992 , the Lightships Main Engines were ready to be fired up .
The Volunteers who had given so much to the lightship were about to be " paid ' for their efforts . I had the privilege and the pleasure of having been one of the volunteers who cast the mooring lines off for the first time since 1985 , we steamed out of Marina Bay on a beautiful July morning , July 10 , 1992 . The Lightship cruised into Boston Harbor , sounding its powerful Fog Signal , attracting hordes of people to the waterfront to see what the noise was about . The crew of the USCG base in Boston came running and cheering to see one of their own cruising once again . Robert Hodge CO for the event , turned the Lightship about 3 times , near Old Ironsides , to allow the people at the waterfront see the Lightship , then we cruised over to Georges Island to await our anchoring orders for the next days Tall Ships Parade.
On July 11 , 1992 the world was witness to a glorious assembly of Tall ships entering Boston Harbor under a sizzling sun . We hosted 85 visitors on the Lightship from many parts of the country . The perfect viewing platform for the Parade .
Unfortunately , this was also the last time the Lightship would be allowed to cruise on its own power . The MDC commissioners washed their hands of the Lightship after the Tall Ships event .
Many promises were made to the Friends of Nantucket Lightship since that time . The hull needed to be inspected ,the rudder and steering system had to be overhauled , and the hull needed new paint . An inspection of the Lightships hull hadn't been done since 1984 , and from what we learned after David Balfour was assigned as Commissioner , he wasn't interested in the Lightship.
The Friends of Nantucket persisted in their efforts to continue with the weekend tours of the lightship , appeals were made to the MDC for funding an overhaul , but for all the efforts of the volunteers they received only silence from the MDC .
Winter 1997 -98 came into New England with a vengeance . The Friends of Nantucket 1 would normally continue with routine maintenance of the ships
interior . Painting , cleaning , oiling , and inspecting the many mechanical systems in the Lightships interior spaces . This year ( 1998 ) the MDC had other plans , they locked the volunteers out of the ship and shut the heating system down . This resulted in the main engines , and generators freezing and cracking , irreversible damage had been done to the ships propulsion plant . The following Summer visiting season was shortened due to the damage from frozen pipes . More problems came as a result of the frozen pipes , raw sewage had leaked into the ship , because of the frozen pipes . The damage was fixed , but the problems with the MDC continued to mount . A Park Ranger , once assigned to the Lightship was removed , and replaced with a Summer employee who was unfamiliar with the vessel .The part time employee was also paid considerably less than a full Time Ranger , but was expected to do the same work , some of it , dangerous .
Another logistical problem arose , the ships fresh water system had to be restored , so bottled water was provided , although it had to be picked up in Boston , the MDC refused to have it delivered to the ship .The only other source of fresh water was from a hose which had to be connected to the pier and fed into the ship through a port hole .
An outcry of support came from many people who had been involved with the restoration of Nan-1 . The MDC relented and again opened the Lightship , but this time , there wouldn't be any heat , the main beacon , once restored , was useless . The volunteers were told , they couldn't repair the main beacon , per the MDC Commissioner .
The final blow came in August 1999 . The Lightship played Host to the first Reunion
of the newly formed Lightship Sailors ( see; www.fredsplace.org coasty links ) .
After several days of visiting the Lightship , organisational meetings , speeches , etc . the Friends of Nantucket 1 were told , the Lightship was being placed on the Surplus and Disposal List , State of Massachusetts by order of David Balfour , Commissioner of the MDC . This effectively put the all volunteer group out of business , breaking any and all agreements that were put in writing by the MDC and the Friends of Nantucket 1 , WLV 612 in 1989 .
This is a shameful event in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts . The agency which published an appeal asking for help from everyday citizens has betrayed the people who turned out to assist a historic Lightship , owned by the State , and yet , not one penny of the cost of the restoration came from the State of Massachusetts .
All the restoration costs came from average people who donated to the cause .
One important note ; the Friends of Nantucket 1 asked for , through the Freedom of Information Act , papers concerning the Lightships finances , and papers concerning the sale of the Lightship to the MDC , the papers were nowhere to be found , they were reportedly " lost ".
Appeals have been sent to Senators , Congressmen , Representatives , the White House , the USCG , the Governor of Massachusetts , Officials in the City of Quincy, not one response has been recorded by any of the volunteers ( and there have been hundreds around the USA ) who have written letters , made phone calls , sent emails , etc .
The Press and many Media people have turned out in recent days to tell of the Lightship being advertised on Ebay , but not one Media person has been willing to talk with any of the volunteers , except the Boston Herald ,and WBZ TV in Boston .
WBZ has expressed an interest in pursuing the " Scandal ' concerning the events of the MDC trying to dispose of the Lightship on Ebay , in essence , making a huge profit from a $ 1500 dollar investment . The Lightship was purchased for $1500 dollars in 1987 , and now they ( the State ) are attempting to sell the vessel for a minimum of $25,000 dollars .
This is an outrage !!
Douglas M. Bingham
American Lighthouse Foundation
The following is the e-mail address of the Governor and Lt. Governor of Massachusetts. Gov. is Paul Celucci; Lt. Gov. is Jane Swift. GOffice@state.ma.us