Historic Nantucket Lightship leaves Wareham

Dec 1, 2014

The 128-foot Nantucket Lightship that graced the Wareham River near downtown for more than a decade is headed to New Bedford to be restored to its former glory.

There are only 16 U.S. lightships left in existence, according the U.S. Coast Guard. William and Kristen Golden of Boston now own two of them, the last two ships to be in service in the United States.

"I've known about this one for a long time," William Golden said of Wareham's historic lightship.

The previous owner, Jack Baker, who also owns the Wareham property where the ship was docked, purchased the ship in 1998. Baker spent more than $1 million restoring the ship and planned to donate it to a preservation group.

Despite his efforts, the ship remained in Wareham since the early 2000s until Monday.

At about noontime, two tugboats were secured to the ship and left Wareham for New Bedford. Golden said he has known Baker for 15 years and was sold the ship because he and Baker are both "stewards of lightships."

"We're going to try to keep it as original as possible," Golden said.

The ship, known as the Nantucket II, was built in Curtis Bay, Maryland in 1952 shortly after its sister ship, the Nantucket I. Golden purchased the Nantucket I in 2000, saving it from the scrap yard. He transformed it into a boat available for charters and events.

The Nantucket II was assigned to the Ambrose Channel in New York in 1952 and was the last lightship to mark that channel when she was replaced by a light station in 1967. The ship was reassigned to the Massachusetts coastline from 1967 to 1979. From 1979 to 1983, the Nantucket I and Nantucket II alternated assignment at the Nantucket Shoals station every 21 days.

The Nantucket II was the last lightship to mark Nantucket Shoals before being replaced by a large navigational buoy. The Nantucket station was the last in the country to switch from lightships to buoys.

The Nantucket II relieved its sister ship at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 20, 1983 and was replaced by the buoy at 8 a.m. The Nantucket II was decommissioned shortly after in 1983 and the Nantucket I, the last U.S. lightship in commission, was decommissioned in 1985.

Golden said he is not sure of the ultimate plan for the Nantucket II. His other lightship took more than two years to restore, but Golden said this ship is in much better shape, especially the inside. He said it could be restored by the spring.

"It's definitely worth preserving," he said. "It served the most noble of maritime positions -- saving lives."