The Mystery of New Bedford’s Two Nantucket Lightships
While out shooting some pictures for a piece I was working on about the historic Wamsutta Mills, I came upon a familiar sight in the North Terminal area of New Bedford: it was the unmistakable bright red and white Nantucket Lightship.
I'd seen the vessel before, recently, and it wasn't here. I don't get to the North Terminal area all that often. Didn't I see the Nantucket Lightship docked at State Pier the other day?
Even though I was already on Route 18, heading north toward Route 6 to catch the bridge over to the WBSM studio in Fairhaven, I got off the highway and drove down to the waterfront to take a look.
There it was. The red and white Nantucket Lightship tied up to the south side of State Pier, where the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey docks when it is in port. The Ernestina has been out of town for repairs but is due back soon.
There are two Nantucket Lightships in New Bedford!
There are differences between the two vessels, most notably the lights; and the one at State Pier appeared longer than the vessel at North Terminal, but I may be wrong about that.
The discovery left me scratching my head and wondering why New Bedford would have two Nantucket Lightships and where the New Bedford Lightship was that used to dock on the waterfront.
I will answer the second question first. The New Bedford Lightship was sold by the City of New Bedford to Sea Roy Enterprises, Inc. in 2007 for $10,000. The vessel was dismantled and sold for scrap on July 2, 2007.
The two Nantucket Lightships currently in New Bedford are privately owned, according to John T. Regan, Director of Policy & External Affairs for the New Bedford Port Authority. Regan told me he doesn't know much about the status of the vessels but said the one at State Pier will have to move before the Ernestina arrives home at the end of October.
I was unable to determine just yet who owns the two Nantucket Lightships or what the owners have in store for the vessels. The one at State Pier is listed online as being homeported in Boston.
There is a monument to the United States Lightship Service on New Bedford's waterfront. The Lightship Service, also known as the Bureau of Lighthouses, was created in 1910. It merged with the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939.