LV-101 was built in 1915 with one sister ship. Both LV-101 + LV-102 were unique in that they were built with a steel whaleback type hull. This means that the hull is curved and rounded above and below the waterline, making the ship very stable in stormy seas. Additionally, the vessels used unique hollow masts to allow the crew to maintain the light while protected from the weather due to a concealed internal ladder. The crew consisted of four officers and seven sailors.
LV-101 was first stationed off Cape Charles, VA at the CHARLES light station. During this time the first radio was installed in 1919. She served there until 1924, when she was brought in to serve as the District Relief lightship for a short time. In 1925 she was assigned to the OVERFALLS light station off the Delaware Bay, guarding the Overfalls Shoal on the north side of the bay entrance. She served at that station until 1951. During that time she receive more upgrades, including the light beacon being switched to an electrically powered one and an expanded deck house.
In 1951 she was re-assigned to the STONE HORSE station off the coast of Massachusetts until 1963. That year she was transiting to her new station off the Cross Rip Shoal in Nantucket Sound when her engine broke down. Due to her age, over 40 years in service, the Coast Guard decided it was time to retire her. She was decommissioned in 1964.
Per standard practice, the Coast Guard offered the retired lightship to other Federal, State and City Governments. The City of Portsmouth, seeking to refresh their waterfront district, was given LV-101 on September 3rd, 1964 for use as a Museum Ship. She was towed to a specially built slip along Water Street and set in concrete, where it was restored and opened to the public in 1967. Following the standard of marking the sides of lightships with the name of their duty station, LV-101 was rechristened the Lightship PORTSMOUTH, even though there has never been an actual PORTSMOUTH aid to navigation light station. Her interior is now restored to how it looked in the 1955 era. In 1989, PORTSMOUTH, was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The lightship is part of the Portsmouth Museums, and is associated with the Naval Shipyard Museum.
Click here for current hours and admission information.
Photo taken in August 2012 by A. Pasek.
GPS: 36.837015, -76.296091