Lightship # 76 WAL 504




It took most of a week to get over being sea sick. Then I learned we had very good food on the ship. Since it was isolated duty, we were given extra food rations which allowed us to buy steak and other goodies. We had several fine cooks on board also which made it taste even better. One day some of the local fishermen supplied us with live crabs so we had a real crab feed. They were steamed alive in the galley sink which had a live steam line in it. Then they made their way to our bellies. We didn’t always have steak or crab to eat, sometimes the menu was a bit more mundane.  


With a good meal completed, one could retire to his stateroom. The officers had private ones, the enlisted men had two to a room - in a bunk bed. As to whether or not one could actually sleep on a lightship, first let me say it was one of the few activities there were to take up one’s time. If the weather was real rough, you might have to sleep with your feet jammed between the springs and the bed-frame and holding on with one’s hands. If it was foggy, you had to sleep with the diaphones blasting directly overhead. It could be done - with practice.


Perhaps it is time to take a look at the ship as a whole. Bear in mind that these drawings are made from 50 years of memory and from some photos of the outside!   First, the top deck 

There were three main structures here, the Wheel House, the Captain’s Cabin (which had a door to the Wheel House) and was attached to the ladder down to the deck below. Finally, the Radio Shack which also had a ladder to the deck below. The rest of the objects should be self explanatory except for the steering cable which will be discussed later.

Note again that these drawings came from memory and are not in the exact proportions they ought to be (the bow sticks out too far).


The next deck was were most of the activity was. This was where we “lived.” Starting at the bow was a large compartment which contained the old 1904 steam driven anchor windlass (and also drove the captstain on the main deck). It contained a walk-in refrigerator ("reefer”), washing machine, fruit and vegetable storage, and the crews head. Also, up in the bow was a man-hole access to the paint locker below.

Going aft we come to the Mess Deck. While the Captain could be served in his cabin and the officers in the Ward Room, everyone ate at one table on the mess deck. The Captain sat at one end of the table (closest to the galley) and the lowest ranked man at the other end. Meals where informal and, other than using the titles of respect (“cap’n,” “chief”) we all conversed together as a group.

On either side of the mess deck were staterooms - 5 of them for the enlisted men. Three on the Port side were for 6 men from the deck force, two on the Starboard side were for 4 men from engineering force. The sixth room was the galley. It contained, among other things, an old relic of what was most likely a coal burning range that had been converted to use diesel oil. If you wish to cook something fast, you put it over the end with the burner. If you wanted to cook slow, you moved it to the other end of the range - simple? The oven had no thermostat but that was the least of the problem - how do you cook a cake on a rolling ship?

Going aft from the mess deck were two passageways. The Port passageway contained (forward-to-aft), the air receivers (tanks) for the fog horns, the cooks’ stateroom, and the officers head. The Starboard passage contained extra bunks, two chest type deep freezes and two battery lockers. In 1912 these lockers were installed (or converted) to hold a large bank of automotive type batteries which were charged during the day when the boilers were hot and used to run the beacon light at night. While I was on it, the batteries were only used for starting the diesel engines. We went into dry dock and the engines were equipped with air starters so the batteries were removed and the lockers cleaned up and used to store electrical equipment.

Finally, you came to the Ward Room where the officers “hung out.” Off of it were for staterooms for officers (1 man per room) and a small galley - mostly for coffee, etc. At the very rear was the ship’s armory - it contained a couple of pistols and a rifle. There was also a TV set there. Since the set


belonged to the enlisted men, the officers had to let us in the wardroom in the evenings and weekends to watch TV. Often, however, we would play poker or something else. Once the Captain brought his roulette wheel and we had a real gambling week (at a penny a chip!). The picture shown was of another ward room in another era but the room was very similar.



Going down another level we find mostly storage areas (except for the engine room). In the bow was a fresh water tanks that had been converted to a paint locker (I am not sure why a precious water tank was so used). Aft of that were a number of “Bos’ns lockers where robes and other gear were stored. Also there was one or two (I forget which) “Domestic Water Tanks.” These tanks were filled from the fresh water tanks below. There was an electric water heater (used when we didn’t need the electricity for the radar) and a steam water heater for other times. Aft of this was a “water-tight compartment.” How water-tight it was was a matter of opinion. Aft of there was the engine room, the forward part of which was taken up by four fuel tanks. Three held “Bunker C” fuel oil and the other held Diesel. By the time I left the ship, a leak had developed between the Diesel tank and one or more of the oil tanks so, to “save money” the C.G. District ordered us to fill all four tanks with Diesel - a waste of Diesel to burn it in the boilers!

The engine room will be described later. Aft of it, behind another so-called water-tight compartment, was the machine shop. It was fairly well equipped for such an old and small ship - but much needed. It also held the electrical switchboard and other electrical gear to convert the 110 volts DC to AC for the radio room.

Finally, at the very rear was a small fresh water tank that was not used as it was considered to be too small to bother with.


Finally, we reach the very bottom of the ship - the keel. Starting at the bow was the Chain Locker - a place were one did not want to work. When we “hauled anchor,” the wet chain would be fed from the anchor windlass, through tubes in the deck above, and into the locker. Several men - seaman - had to be there to “flake out” the chain as it came down. This means to spread it out evenly. It was hot, hard work and, as it filled up and one had to stoop, hard on the back.

Behind that were four large fresh water tanks. Aft of that was the engine room (again) and aft of that was the Shaft Alley. This was a rather cramped space (filled with a bunch of railroad rails for ballast) where the propeller shaft came from the engine and passed through the hull to the propeller. One had to crawl to the rear of it when we got underway to loosen the nuts on the ironwood bearings to let sea water trickle through to serve as a lubricant. At the end of the voyage, another trip was needed to tighten it up again.And Enjoy the Next Page!

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