Bush Bluff Station

Bush Bluff Station, 1891-1918

The Bush Bluff station was stationed in Elizabeth River in the lower bay approximately one mile north of Craney Island. It was used to mark the dangerous Bush Bluff Shoal and serve as a guide in the approach to the harbors of Portsmouth & Norfolk.

The U.S. Lighthouse Board had originally proposed to build a lighthouse on Bush Bluff and Congress appropriated $20,000 in 1885. However, after soundings were made, they found that the mud was 82-feet deep and the actual cost to construct a lighthouse that would withstand the brutal winters would cost $125,000. The Board then considered dredging, but that idea never came to fruition. The Board then suggested placing a lightship with a steam fog signal at a cost of $60,000. Congress approved $40,000 in 1889.

LV-46 was placed at the station on July 16, 1891, and served there until 1893. Built at a price of $60,000, the 124-foot wood two-mast schooner was built at Linwood, PA. There were daymarks at the top of each mast and 2 lanterns with 8 oil lamps and reflectors. There was also a 12-inch steam fog signal and hand-operated bell.

From 1893-1895, several vessels served alternately, including lighthouse tender Holly and the 80-foot schooner Drift.  In January 1893, the vessel was dragged from its position by ice about 300 yards southwest. It was re-established on February 16, 1893, about 50 yards west of its original location.

LV-97 served at the station from 1895-1911 and then again from 1912-1918. Built in 1876 in Baltimore, MD., the 87-ton, 80-foot 6-inch long two-mast wood schooner Drift, was modified in 1893 to a single mast with a single lantern with 8 oil lamps and reflectors. There was also a hand-operated fog bell. In 1893 the original lighting equipment was converted to electric using a 30-candlepower incandescent lamp.

During World War I, the station was marked by a lighted buoy on April 17, 1911, until 1912.

In 1918, the Bush Bluff station was discontinued, and the lightship was replaced with a lighted buoy.

Crew Members:

Charles Bohannon (1891 – 1893); Keeper, Frank L. Dixon (1893); Keeper, J.C. Corcoran (1897-1899), Seaman; W.H. Rowe (1899), Master; A.W. Sanderlin (1899), Cook; John M. Kendley (1913), Mate; Thomas Simonds (1913), Mate; B.W. Diggs (1913-1914), Mate; Gust Montague (1914), Mate; P.J. Pusey (1914-1915), Mate; George C. Daniels (1915), Mate; James P. Mason (1915), Mate


  1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
  2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997
  3. Lighting The Bay, Tales of Cheseapeake Lighthouses, Pat Vojtech, 1996
  4. Lightships-Floating Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic, Wayne Kirklin, 2007.
  5. Bush Bluff Lightship Station History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2020, from http://www.uscglightshipsailors.org/bush_bluff_lightship_lv46.htm

Updated 7/10/2020





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