Builder: ?, Baltimore, Maryland
Length: 80' 6"
Beam: 19' 6"
Draft: 10' 8"
Displacement: 87 tons
Commissioned: March 1894 (USLHS)
Decommissioned: 15 January 1918
The schooner Drift was originally built for the Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1876. She was acquired by the Lighthouse Service on 20 Macy 1893 and was converted for use as a lightship and given the designation Light Vessel # 97 [or LV-97]. She was used as the light ship at the Bush Bluff Station on the lower Chesapeake Bay, in the Elizabeth River about three miles south of Sewells Point and 1 and 1/2 miles north of Craney Island. Her illuminating apparatus consisted of a single lantern with eight oil lamps with reflectors and a hand operated bell as her fog signal.
In 1913 her lighting equipment was converted to electric operation using a 30 candle-power [cp] incandescent lamp with a motor-driven revolving reflector mounted on a compound pendulum. The arrangement produced a flash every 10 seconds rated at 80,000 cp. Both the lamp and the drive motor were powered by storage batteries, taken ashore periodically for recharging. This was said to have been the first light of this type in the world (although an arrangement similar in principle was used on LV 95 when built in 1912). In 1915, following the evaluation of the foregoing illuminating apparatus, it was removed and replaced by a conventional lens lantern using oil-gas illuminant which remained in use until the vessel was retired.
She served on the Bush Bluff station from 1895 until 1911 when she was replaced for one year by a lighted buoy. She was back on station from 1912 to 1918. Although apparently remaining assigned to Bush Bluff, the vessel was used extensively to mark a variety of other stations on lower Chesapeake Bay. In 1918 the Bush Bluff station discontinued and was replaced with lighted buoy.
LV-97 was retired from light ship duty in 1918. She was surveyed, condemned and laid up in January, 1918 and was sold on 27 April 1920 for $150. The new owner installed an engine and renamed her the W. J. Townsend. She was scrapped in 1945.
Cutter History File. USCG Historian's Office, USCG HQ, Washington, D.C.
Williard Flint. Lightships and Lightship Stations of the U.S. Government. Washington, DC: USCG, 1989.
Douglas Peterson. United States Lighthouse Service Tenders, 1840-1939. Annapolis: Eastwind Publishing, 2000.