Location, location, location. Much like the real estate saying, some areas along our coasts weren’t practical spots to construct a lighthouse. Maybe the water was too deep, or perhaps the area’s tidal currents were prohibitive to constructing a solid structure.
Enter lightships: stout and rugged little ships with lighted masts that could be anchored most anywhere a navigational beacon was required. Fixed in place with huge mushroom anchors, these ships were positioned in strategic locations to guide shipping traffic for 165 years.
Early lightships were made of wood and were built without propulsion. Later vessels were made of steel and had inboard engines, which meant they could be moved when necessary. This video has more on these historic and important craft.
The lightship Ambrose was anchored in the Ambrose Channel outside New York City from 1908 until 1932. She was the first sight for as many as 6 million immigrants as they arrived in the New World from trans-Atlantic voyages. Today she is moored at the South Street Seaport Museum. You can read more about the full history of the lightship Ambrose in the January 2018 issue of Soundings magazine.