Light Ship Petrel

Places to See | Co. Down, Northern Ireland

A lightship, is a ship which acts as a lighthouse. They are used in waters that are too deep or otherwise unsuitable for lighthouse construction. The type has become largely obsolete; some stations were replaced by lighthouses as the construction techniques for the latter advanced, while others were replaced by large automated buoys.

A crucial element of lightship design is the mounting of a light on a sufficiently tall mast.

The Light Ship Petrel was built in 1915 by the Dublin Dockyard Co for the Commissioners of Irish Lights and is the only lightship still afloat in Ireland.

Decommissioned in 1968 it was bought by the Down Cruising Club, Northern Ireland for use as a clubhouse. It has remained in this role ever since and is maintained by club members.

Inside, you will see much of the original equipment including the workroom, the original Master’s Cabin, chart table and log books.

The story goes that in 1968 an exciting opportunity arose when the father-in-law of the then Commodore of the Down Cruising Club spotted an advertisement for the sale by tender of an Irish Lights lightship, the PETREL (all the Irish light vessels were named after sea birds at that time).

A group of members quickly gathered up donations and interest free loans from Club members, set off poste-haste to Dun Laoghaire and were so impressed with Petrel´s condition that a tender of £1800. Unfortunately this tender was too low and the lighthsip was sold to Hammond Lane Foundries, Dublin for £1999.50.

However when the Commissioners of Irish Lights realised that this historic iron ship, which was of traditional revitted and caulked construction and built by skilled craftsmen in Dublin, might be preserved they gave all possible assistance to negotiate a deal between Hammond Lane and Down Cruising Club. As a result Hammond Lane sold PETREL to the Down Cruising Club for a profit of £50.

Over the years the lightship has been modified and fitted out generally by voluntary labour with most of the usual modern conveniences. Mains water, electricity, telephone, central heating, VHF radio, fuel and water facilities have all been provided.

Today she is the Club House of the Down Cruising Club at Ballydorn, Co. Down Northern Ireland and she is also a very comfortable port of call for many local and overseas visitors.

Address: Light Ship Petrel, 52 Ballydorn Road, Whiterock, Co. Down

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