U.S. Coast Guard Lightships

& Those of the U.S. Lighthouse Service


YEAR BUlLT: 1891

BUILT AT: Toledo (OH)


BUILDER: Blythe Craig Shipbuilding Co

CONTRACT PRICE: $14,225 ($42,675 for 3 ships)


DESIGN: Wood framed & planked; white oak fastened with 5/8" square iron spikes; 2 masts, daymark on fore; spencer mast aft of main for riding sail; stack on deckhouse amidships

LENGTH: 102'8" (loa); BEAM: 20'; DRAFT: 89"; TONNAGE: 130 gross

PROPULSION: Steam screw-one single cylinder non-condensing engine, 14" bore 16" stroke, 100 IEP; fire-tube boiler 5'dia x 9'lg; max speed 8 knots

ILLUMINATING APPARATUS: Cluster of 3 oil burning lens lanterns hoisted to each mast head

FOG SIGNAL: 6" steam whistle, hand operated bell


-One of 3 vessels designed for use only during the navigation season on the Great Lakes, as an experiment to avoid the high initial and recurring costs for a permanent lighthouse. Maintenance and operating cost for each lightship was estimated at $4,000 per year. Each had enough power for getting to and from station. Mooring, consisting of a 5 ton sinker and 15 fathoms of 2 inch chain was pre-positioned permanently and buoyed, eliminating the need (and cost) for the lightship to carry mushrooms and chain
-Upon delivery many construction defects were found during sea trials, and many interior modifications had to be made for comfort of the crew
-This and 2 sister vessels were first US lightships to be propelled by machinery
-1891: Masts found unnecessarily long and were shortened during winter layup
-1893: Fog bell added
-1907: Equipped with submarine bell


1891-1923: Grays Reef (MI)
(1896: Apr 26, position moved 3150 feet SE x E)


1891: Sep 14/15, turned over to Lighthouse Establishment at Detroit
1891: Oct 2 5,6, sea trials conducted; many defects noted; fitted out
1891: Oct 19, departed Detroit, reaching Port Huron in evening
1891: Oct 20, LV 55,56 & 57, using their own power to assist were taken in tow by tender DAHLIA, making 9 knots, laying over at Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge due to bad weather
1891: Oct 24, placed on Grays Reef (MI), northerly end of Lake Michigan
1891: Nov 17-20, left station without orders and put in to Cheboygan (MI); crew discharged for dereliction of duty; replaced by others "more trustworthy"; replaced on station by tender DAHLIA, remaining until close of navigation at which time went into winter quarters at Cheboygan. Many deficiencies due to missing, incomplete or faulty equipment were corrected during winter and masts were shortened
1892: Apr 14, resumed station until Dec 7, then wintered at Cheboygan
1892-1907: maintained station Apr/May to Dec, wintering at Cheboygan (Sturgeon Bay WI in 1907) Needed repairs carried out each year in winter quarters
1896: Fog signal characteristic changed to sound 2 blasts of 1 second each; silent 20 seconds then 1 blast of 3 seconds; silent 15 seconds
1896: Fog signal operated 353 hours, consuming 15 tons coal & 2 cords wood
1898: Boiler retubed; smokestack replaced; deck houses enlarged and improved
1899: Hull recaulked above water line
1900: Boiler and hull repairs
1901: Extensive rot found in frames, planking and deck; unsound timbers and planking replaced; hull recaulked and painted
1901: Apr 26, position moved 3,150 feet SE x E in 24 feet
Remained assigned to Grays Reef through 1923



Not listed in records after FY 1924, assume sold


1892-?: Maynard S Corlett, Master
?-1914: Peter D Ance, Mate
1914-?: Peter D Ance, Master
1914-1916: Thorwald Berntsen, Mate
1916-1917: Olaf J Nelson Mate
1917: Reinhart Larsen, Mate
1917: Fred P Klaus, Mate (temp)
1917: Lewis N Allard, Mate (temp)









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Last Modified 1/26/2012