Lightship Launched in Seattle

Lightship Swiftsure

Lightship SWIFTSURE after her launch on August 21 in Seattle. The vessel’s superstructure has yet to be installed.Photo: Northwest Seaport

SEATTLE – Northwest Seaport launched their Lightship No. 83 Swiftsure on Wednesday after three months of major restoration work at the Lake Union Drydock Company in Seattle, WA.

The museum reports the ship is nearing the completion of the latest phase of Northwest Seaport’s Lightship Rehabilitation Project, a multi-year, $1 million project to replace the deck, rigging, remove hazardous materials, and restore the electrical systems. When finished, the ship will be re-opened to the public at Seattle’s Lake Union Park.

Over the past several months, shipyard workers removed the deteriorated wheelhouse, radio house and the wooden weather deck. Deck beams were cleaned, primed and painted—ready to receive a new wooden deck. Below the waterline, the hull was cleaned, inspected, patched and reinforced to ensure it will last decades to come. It also received a new coat of the iconic Coast Guard Red paint.

While pressure washing the hull, it was found that most of the 109-year old hull was in good shape, but crevice corrosion had made several small holes in the plating. One hole was directly under a fuel tank still containing some fuel oil in it. Fortunately, since she was in drydock the tanks could be emptied safely and the hull plating patched. The unexpected task sent the project $80,000 over budget, requiring the assumption of a loan to finance the work—the first debt the museum has ever assumed in its 50-year history. A Swiftsure fundraising campaign will begin shortly to eliminate this debt and complete the restoration the ship into a publicly-accessible education platform.

Lightship No. 83 was built in Camden, NJ in 1904 and served on all five West Coast lightship stations. It was retired from active service in 1960 and became a museum ship in 1966. Swiftsure is not the ship’s name, but rather the name of the nearest lightship station. The Swiftsure Bank is a shallow area located west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, marking the approaches to Puget Sound and Seattle.