When Lightship 116 was completed in 1930, she was among the most modern and capable lightships in use with the US Lighthouse Service (USLHS). One of the 6 vessels of the Lightship-100 class of lightships, she was built to USLHS design, number 116 and boasted the best in stability, signaling capacity, living accommodations, and engineering efficiency available in 1929-1930 era. The other five (5) sister-ships of the class were LS#'s 100, 113, 114, 115 and 117. See the pull-down menu for the LS-100 Class Ships page with information on each one.
Lightship 116 was built in
This floating lighthouse had a signaling apparatus consisting of a 13,000 candlepower electric beacon lamp atop each mast (later consolidated on the aft mast), an electric foghorn (later replaced with a compressed-air diaphone), a HF direction finding radio beacon, and fog bell mounted on the main deck. When RADAR was installed in the 116/538, the two Light Beacons were replaced with one double light fixture on the Aft Mast. The main light beacon used a 1500 watt bulb that produced 35,000 candlepower and the stand-by light beacon used a 1000 watt bulb and produced 13,000 candlepower. The ship was equipped with two 5,000-pound mushroom anchors (one main and a spare) designed to hold her on station in all but the roughest weather. On two occasions (1936 and 1962) while marking the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, Lightship 116-538 rode out hurricanes so powerful that the ship's anchor chain broke, forcing the crew to drop the spare anchor and run full ahead into the wind for many hours in vain attempts to remain on station.
As shown in the original plans from 1930, Lightship 116 was initially designed for a crew of up to 17. The crew accommodations included 5 two-man staterooms for the unlicensed sailors, a crew's mess, and an electrically powered galley and refrigerator unit (a major advancement for 1930). The Officers (Mate, Engineer, 1st Assistant and 2nd Assistant Engineers) had their own staterooms adjacent to their mess (Wardroom) and the Captain, or Master as he was called in the Lighthouse Service years, occupied his own stateroom immediately behind the pilothouse. The two Radio Officers had their bunks in the Radio Room in the aft deck house.
With the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939, Commanding Officers of Lightships were designated to be a USCG Warrant Officer Bos'n. The remainder of the lightships crew was Coast Guard enlisted personnel. This transition was initially very slow and it took the beginning of the war with Japan in December 1941 for all civilians aboard lightships to be immediately converted to the coast guard ranks or forced to resign.
As radios became easier to operate, the two Radio Officer positions were eventually removed, along with their 2 bunks in the radio room. Then an extra stateroom was added to the starboard work area for the ships cook. This changed the full crew to a total of 16 sailors. During normal operating periods several members of the crew would be away on shore leave at any given time. Lightship duty was designated as "extremely arduous sea duty", so lightship sailors earned extra leave. With the coast guard sending a cutter out every two weeks to bring supplies, fresh food, water, fuel, repair parts and mail, it provided the perfect transport to allow crew to use two weeks of their extra leave.
The US Lighthouse Service first assigned Lightship 116 to the Fenwick Island Shoal Light Station off the
THE END OF SERVICE WITH THE US COAST GUARD.
Despite some equipment upgrades such as radar, technology began to overtake Lightship 116/538 by the 1960s. In September 1965, the Chesapeake Lightship Station was replaced by a Coast Guard offshore light tower built on stout pilings strong enough to withstand the roughest seas. Manned by a crew of just four, the "Texas" style light tower was cheaper to run and had a more powerful beacon visible for a distance of 17 miles. After being relieved at the
LIFE AFTER THE COAST GUARD.
In late 1971, Lightship 116/538 was acquired by the National Park Service and was berthed on the
The lightship 116/538 is moored at Pier 3 in
Updated 17 July 2019