United States lightship Swiftsure (LV-83)

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US lightship Swiftsure (LV-83), IMG-B.jpg
Lightship No. 83, also known as Swiftsure, 2017
United States
  • Lightship No. 83
  • Lightship WAL-508
Owner: U.S. Lighthouse Service; later U.S. Coast Guard
Builder: New York Shipbuilding Co.
Cost: $85,000
Launched: 1904
Acquired: c. 1905
Decommissioned: 18 July 1960
Out of service: 1960
Status: Museum ship
Notes: Now the oldest lightship afloat in the United States
General characteristics
Type: Lightship
Displacement: 668 tons
Length: 129 ft (39 m)
Beam: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m)
Draft: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
Decks: 4
Installed power: 2 Babcock & Wilcox sectional headed watertube boilers arranged for oil firing
Propulsion: 1 double expansion 325 IHP reciprocating steam engine; auxiliary sail (pre-1931)
Sail plan: Schooner rig on wood spencer masts
Speed: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
Crew: 11-15 (5 officers and 6-10 men)
Notes: Only preserved lightship retaining its steam machinery
Lightship No. 83 "SWIFTSURE"
United States lightship Swiftsure (LV-83) is located in Washington (state)
United States lightship Swiftsure (LV-83)
Location Historic Ships Wharf, Lake Union Park, Seattle, WA
Coordinates 47°40′29.5″N 122°12′25.5″W / 47.674861°N 122.207083°W / 47.674861; -122.207083Coordinates: 47°40′29.5″N 122°12′25.5″W / 47.674861°N 122.207083°W / 47.674861; -122.207083
Area less than one acre
Built 1904 (1904)
Architect New York Shipbuilding Co.; US Lighthouse Establishment
Architectural style Riveted steel hull with wooden decks
NRHP reference # 75001852[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 23 April 1975[1]
Designated NHL 11 April 1989[3]
Designated SEATL March 7, 1977[2]

Swiftsure (LV-83), is a lightship and museum ship moored at the Northwest Seaport in Seattle, Washington. Launched in 1904 at Camden, New Jersey and in active service until 1960 at a variety of posts on the American west coast, she is one of the oldest surviving lightships in the United States, and the only one carrying its original steam engines, she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969, and completed a long-running restoration in 2013.[3][4]


As built in 1904, Swiftsure was a steel-hulled ship 112 feet (34 m) long. She was extended to 129 feet (39 m) in 1930, with a beam of 28 feet 6 inches (8.69 m) and a draft of 12 feet 6 inches (3.81 m). Her displacement is 668 tons, her aids to navigation include a 1,000 watt primary light, a 140-decibel Diaphone horn, and a 1,000-pound (450 kg) foredeck fog bell. She was driven by a single screw powered by a 380-horsepower marine steam engine fired by coal boilers, it has two bunkers, each of which has a capacity of 75 tons of coal, and a freshwater hold for crew use that holds more than 11,000 gallons. During her active service she had a normal crew's complement of 15, with 11 on duty at any given time, her power plant was converted to diesel in the 1930s, the coal bunkers converted to hold diesel fuel. Her lights, originally powered by whale oil, were first converted to kerosene, and were later electrified.[4]


Swiftsure was launched in Camden, New Jersey, in 1904, and was at first designated Blunt's Reef. She steamed around the tip of South America to her first station at Blunts Reef in California, where she saved 150 people when their ship ran aground in dense fog. Formerly known as Relief, Number 83 had numerous names on her sides, all of which indicated the location of her station. Swiftsure refers to the Swiftsure Bank near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates Washington from Vancouver Island. She also guided ships near Umatilla Reef and the Columbia River Bar.

The ship was decommissioned in 1960, and purchased by Northwest Seaport in 1969, she is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989, and is on the Washington State Heritage Register. She is moored on Lake Union, in Seattle, Washington, where a long-running restoration was completed in 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Landmarks and Designation". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Lightship No. 83 RELIEF". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  4. ^ a b Delgado, James P. (9 July 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form / Lightship No. 83 "Blunts" "San Francisco" "Relief" / Lightship "Relief"" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-17.  and
    "Accompanying 6 photos, from 1988 and undated" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 

External links[edit]