fter languishing for more than six years at a Long Island pier, the historic Nantucket Lightship LV-112 has been sold to a new nonprofit group that plans to move it to Boston for restoration and a new life as a museum.
Jerry Roberts, a board member of the National Lighthouse Museum, which for more than a decade has been trying to establish a facility on the Staten Island waterfront, and Robert Mannino Jr., head of the new U.S. Lightship Museum group, signed the transfer documents Oct. 20. The 73-year-old lightship was sold to the Boston group for $1. The ship was based in Boston throughout its active career when it was not stationed off Nantucket Island.
Because the planned museum site in Staten Island could not accommodate the lightship until the pier was reconstructed and the museum opened, the vessel was brought temporarily to Oyster Bay, where it deteriorated at the municipal pier managed by the nonprofit Waterfront Center. The lighthouse museum plans for a city-owned Staten Island site stalled after Sept. 11, 2001. A succession of planned transfers for the lightship to other Northeast cities fell through.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who had been a supporter of the ship and had said the town would take it over if no other home could be found, said the ship could remain at the town pier at no charge until its future was assured. “As long as the lightship is going to be in good hands and be utilized for an appropriate purpose, I’m very satisfied,” he said of the transfer. “It’s time to put it to good use.”
Mannino said he hoped to tow the Nantucket to Boston before severe winter weather set in. Mannino brought a team to Oyster Bay in November to have the ship surveyed and water accumulated in the bilge pumped out.
Roberts said the new group signed a covenant that requires it to maintain the lightship as a national landmark and never alter it. “It has to remain in its original configuration and they’re responsible for putting it in drydock. It guarantees the ship will be treated well and will not be turned into a restaurant or sold for scrap.” The transfer was made for $1 and any future sale would have to be for the same price.
Roberts said there has been some deterioration and some minor vandalism but “the ship is in great shape” because a volunteer has been checking it once
“We’re very glad that although it took a long time we worked very hard to find an organization that would provide the best potential future for the ship and I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Roberts, director of the Connecticut River Museum. “This group was formed specifically to save the ship. I think their hearts are in the right place.”
Roberts said that the remaining board members for the National Lighthouse Museum have to assess whether there was any chance of getting a facility up and running in Staten Island.
Mannino runs a business organizing fund-raising efforts for nonprofit organizations and has been involved for years in maritime projects and served on the executive committee of Essex Shipbuilding Museum in Massachusetts.
He formed the lightship group in August, 2008, after reading about the efforts to find a new owner in a Boston newspaper. It received its nonprofit status last May.
He said there are five board members and others who are helping out including Capt. Bob Densmore, a retired Coast Guard captain who commanded the ship when it was decommissioned at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.
Mannino said the group has raised less than $100,000 so far but Sen. John Kerry’s staff has been helping to look for grants.
He said it would cost about $25,000 to move the ship to Boston where he has lined up a shipyard where the Nantucket could be placed in a drydock for hull cleaning, repainting and a survey. He said the ship has not been in a drydock and had its zincs replaced at least 15 years.
“The ship needs a lot of cleanup and preservation work,” he said.
He said the Massachusetts Port Authority has made arrangements to provide a permanent berth for the ship adjacent to a new marine park named Piers Park for a reasonable cost. Eventually the ship would be open to the public as a museum with educational programs for students.
“To get the ship back in running condition will probably cost a half-million dollar,” Mannino said. He said the ship would leave the dock several times a year for special occasions.
The organization is developing a membership program. Details are available at Nantucketlightshiplv-112.org.
This story appeared in the
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