What Do You Call a Floating Lighthouse? Well, This One’s Called Chesapeake

August 14, 1930

Construction on the lightship now known as Chesapeake was completed by the Charleston Drydock & Machine Company in Charleston, South Carolina. As one of the more modern floating lighthouses built to serve as navigational aids along U.S. coastal waters, Lightship 116 was equipped with state-of-the-art features for lightships during that era.

Lightship 116 was initially assigned by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to the Fenwick Island Shoal Light Station off the Delaware coast from 1930 to 1933. As with other lightships, she went by the name of the station where she served at any given time and was therefore called Fenwick during her first assignment.

In 1933, Lightship 116 was transferred to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and first called Chesapeake during that assignment. The Lighthouse Service was absorbed into the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939, and those vessels were subsequently pressed into service with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Lightship 116 spent most of the war stationed at the north entrance of the Cape Cod Canal in Massachusetts.

After being released from naval duty in 1945, the vessel made her way back to the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay and remained there until 1965. She then helped safeguard maritime traffic at the mouth of the Delaware Bay until 1970 before being decommissioned and acquired by the National Park Service. Lightship 116 was berthed at Hains Point on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., and was made available for several years for public visits.

The vessel has been on loan to the City of Baltimore since 1982 and is presently moored at Pier 3 in the Inner Harbor as a floating historic museum and the best-preserved example of a lightship from the time in which she was built. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

For more information on U.S. lightship Chesapeake, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_lightship_Chesapeake_(LV-116).

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