Chris J LeBlanc Photography - Lighthouses
Providing details and historical information of  lighthouse pictures taken during my travels
Lightship Swiftsure LV 83/WAL 513
Seattle, Washington
Location:  Located at the Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center on Union Lake in Seattle.
Latitude:  N 47.62806
Longitude:  W 122.33703

Lightship Specifications:

Builder: New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ (1904)
Length: 129' 0"  Beam: 28' 9"  Draft: 12' 6"
Displacement: 668 Tons
Illumination Apparatus: Cluster of three oil lens lanterns raised to each masthead
Propulsion: Steam - one compound reciprocating engine, 16" and 31" bores x 24" stroke, 325 IHP; 2 boilers 9'3" dia x 16'4" long, 100 psi; propeller 79" dia; max speed 9 knots; also rigged for sail
Fog Signal: 12" steam chime whistle; hand operated 1000-lb bell
Historical Information:

  • Delivered late 1904 or early 1905 (date not found)-
  • 1905: Feb 14, cleared New York for San Francisco in company with LV 76. Capt Robert Quinton commanded LV 76, Capt E.M. Trott commanded LV 83 and designated senior Master for the voyage. Each Master "was furnished instructions, credentials, and means for prosecution of his voyage to the Pacific Coast."
  • 1906:Placed on Blunts Reef (CA) off Cape Mendocino
  • 1906: Dragged off station in heavy storms Nov 3-7, Dec 9-11
  • 1907: Dragged off station in heavy storms Jan 6-8, Feb 24-27, Mar 22-25, Jun 19-28; off station for repairs during April
  • 1915: Jan, during a storm registering 110 mph winds, dragged 2 mi off station
  • 1916: Jun 15, between 0145 and 0330, 155 people were taken aboard the lightship; being the passengers and crew of the steamer BEAR, stranded in dense fog nearby; people later transferred to other vessels in the vicinity
  • Remained assigned to Blunts until 1929
  • 1929:Assigned to San Francisco until 1942 when withdrawn during WWII
  • 1945: Reassigned to San Francisco station until 1951, then assigned Relief duty until 1960


  • 1906: Submarine bell signal installed
  • 1906: Fitted with special submersible mooring buoy (see LV 69 for earlier use)
  • 1918: Equipped with radio
  • 1922: Equipped with radiobeacon
  • 1930: Illuminating apparatus converted to electric operation
  • 1930: Submarine bell discontinued
  • 1932: Fog signal changed to steam diaphragm horn (Leslie 17" typhon)
  • 1934: Fog signal changed to air diaphone; radiobeacon synchronized with fog signal for distance finding
  • 1945: Fitted with detection radar
  • Radio and visual call sign NMGF (1940-1960)

  • 1905-1930: Blunts Reef (CA)
  • 1930-1942: San Francisco (CA)
  • 1942-1945: Examination Vessel, WWII
  • 1945-1951: San Francisco (CA)
  • 1951-1960: Relief (West Coast)
  • (1942-1945: during WWII withdrawn from station and based at San Francisco as examination vessel; armed with an Army 3-pounder. Classed as "YN" - net tender during the period)

Swiftsure Bank is located roughly fourteen miles northwest of Cape Flattery, and in 1909 was the final lightship station to be established along the Washington Coast. The first vessel to anchor at the station was the steel-hulled LV 93, which was painted yellow and had SWIFTSURE in bold black lettering on her sides.
The lightship which carries the SWIFTSURE lettering on her hull today was actually never permanently assigned to the Swiftsure station. This vessel, known as LV 83, was launched in Camden, New Jersey in 1904, and then steamed around the tip of South America to take up station at Blunts Reef off Cape Mendocino in California. On June 15, 1916, the steamer Bear ran aground near the lightship, and 155 people were forced to seek temporary refuge aboard the lightship.

In 1930, LV 83 sailed south and began service as the San Francisco lightship, marking the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Due perhaps to the infamous San Francisco fog, a foghorn was installed on the ship in 1932, and the ship's 1,000-pound bell was subsequently used as a backup. During World War II, the Navy borrowed LV 83 from the Coast Guard, who had assumed jurisdiction of all navigational aids in 1939. Guns were installed on the lightship's foredeck, bridge, and stern, and she was given a fresh coat of Navy-gray paint. With the crew's quarters enlarged to accommodate forty sailors, the lightship served as a patrol and guard boat at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.

After the war, LV 83 returned to the San Francisco lightship station, where she served until 1951 when she became the Relief Lightship for the Washington lightships. LV 83 was deployed to Umatilla Reef, Columbia River Entrance, and Swiftsure Bank on various occasions over the next nine years, while the lightships at those stations returned to port for maintenance and repairs.

After fifty-six years of service, LV 83 was decommissioned in 1960.  LV 83, along with two other lightships, holds the title of the oldest remaining lightship and is the only one to still have her original steam engines.
Historic Postcard of LV-83 stationed at Blunts Reef
My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed ...
By Chris J LeBlanc
Photo book
Book Preview
My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed ...
By Chris J LeBlanc
Photo book
Book Preview
My Lighthouse Photo Album
Lighthouses Viewed...
By Chris J LeBlanc
Book Preview
Photo book
© 2012 - Chris J LeBlanc  Photographer