Lightship Chesapeake

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Lightship Chesapeake
Lightship Chesapeake
Career USN Jack
Launched: August 17, 1930
Commissioned: 1930
Decommissioned: January 6, 1971
Fate: Museum ship
General characteristics
Displacement: 130 tons
Length: 133 ft (41 m)
Beam: 30 ft (9.1 m)
Draft: 13 ft 9 in (4.2 m)
Propulsion: 350 hp (261 kW) diesel electric
Speed: 9 knots (17 km/h)
Complement: 10 seamen, 5 officers, 1 cook
Armament: 2 x 20 mm rapid fire machine guns (World War II years only)

The Lightship Chesapeake, or more officially named Lightship 116, is a National Historic Landmark and part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

Built for $274,434.00 in 1930, Lightship 116 took on the name of whatever station she was anchored at. The ship was also absorbed into the U.S. Coast Guard during the World War II years, as were all vessels in the United States Lighthouse Service. The names the ship went under are found below:

The ship had many redundant systems in order to maintain its position through most storms. The 5000 pound (2,300 kg) main anchor was backed up by a second anchor attached to the side of the ship. The 30,000 candela main light was also backed up with a secondary lamp. On more than one occasion (in 1933, 1936 and 1962) the main anchor chain snapped during violent storms and the ship had to use its powerful engines to stay in place and drop its second anchor.

In 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was absorbed into the U.S. Coast Guard. This meant a pay cut for the men aboard Chesapeake and other Lightships, as well as a requirement for the crew to pass Coast Guard physical exams. Coast Guard captains were also placed in command of the lightship fleet, which meant a more efficient, orderly and strict operation. It did also, however, mean better supplies and training reached the crew.

In the 1960s with the introduction of automated buoys as well as permanent light stations, the lightship fleet was slowly mothballed. Chesapeake left her station at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in September 1965 when she was replaced by a large light station similar to an oil rig. This station was helicopter accessible and was easier to maintain than a lightship. Only 5 lightships were built after Chesapeake.

Chesapeake's last tour of duty was at the mouth Delaware Bay from 1966 to 1970. A large 104 ton buoy beacon replaced her at this station. After leaving Delaware Bay, Chesapeake was moored in Cape May, New Jersey until her decommissioning on January 6, 1971. She was then handed over to the National Parks Service and used as a sea-going classroom until she was handed over to the city of Baltimore in 1982. In 1988 Chesapeake became part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

See also: List of lighthouses and light vessels

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