Lightship No. 38 - known (locally) as "The Gull"


Built: 1860. Oak frame and teak in Scandinavia.
Length: 90.20ft.
Breadth: 21.48ft.
Weight: 189 tons
Function: Service Vessel.

Possibly the second oldest lightship in Europe. Lightships take their name from the station they are on and change name when they change station. A lightship is a floating navigational aid moored in water too deep for a lighthouse or over unsuitable sands. Lightships are not self-propelled but towed. They remain on station for 3 years then are towed in for an overhaul. This is why vessels are numbered instead of named. When Lightship no. 38 was first on station it had a crew of 11. The light was visible 10 miles away. It had a Chinese fog gong too. From 1862 engines powered the fog signal, oil and gas was used as an illuminant from 1905. 1913 saw the introduction of dioptric lenses and electric light came in 1926.

Lightship 38 is believed to have first gone on station at Lynn Well Station in 1860, which is near the Wash. It remained there until 1928 when it was transferred to Gull station on the Goodwin Sands. On the 18th March 1929 at 4a.m. in thick fog it was hit by ‘The City of York’. The lightship sank in 7.5 fathoms of water. The crew were rescued but the Master was trapped in his cabin and drowned. The vessel was salvaged in July 1929 and beached at Deal from where it was towed to Ramsgate here it was made seaworthy before being taken to Great Yarmouth for a refit. The vessel then returned to the Goodwin Sands station which by this time was located closer to Brake sands and known as the Brake Station and the vessel was renamed accordingly.

On 16th January 1940 lightship no. 38 was hit by the ‘Ernani’. The vessel was towed stern first to Harwich where it was repaired. It was then placed on the Mouse station near Maplin sands in the Thames estuary. Here it was attacked by the Dorniers and Stukas of the Luftwaffe during the second World War. In 1941 it was replaced and towed to Gorleston where it was laid up for the remainder of the War.

No. 38 was subsequently bought by Thurrock Yacht Club in 1947 for £750 and was towed to its final resting place in Grays from Harwich. Here it was used as a clubhouse until 1971 when due to a combination of vandalism and general wear and tear it was decided to build a clubhouse on land. Over the years a number of projects to restore the vessel were planned but none came to fruition and on 2nd June 2002 vandals set her alight, which was the final nail in her coffin.

In May 2009 the mast and lantern were salvaged, restored and in November 2012 the restored mast was re-erected on the Grays waterfront at the Thurrock Yacht Club.