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The Lightship

Lightships, or Light vessels, are ships with a lighthouse tower ontop. These magnificent ships were towed out to sea in treacherous waters, guiding ships to safety with the light of the beacon.  

When we wanted to start a centre for complementary health care, we were not sure what this would look like. There are all sorts of complementary therapies centres around but they all seem to look and feel the same; we just wanted something different.

One day, during a deep meditation, images of a lightship kept flashing through my mind, although I did not understand  that the concept of it related to our future centre. Using a technique called automatic writing, the whole concept became clear and the idea for the centre on a lightship was born!

A lightship is basically a light house stuck on top of a ship, designed to be in open sea close to sandbanks and other hazards to warn ships about the dangers ahead. The ship rides the waves and shines a light into the distance. This is where the symbolism comes in: the ship guides people home to their true selves, warns about dangers in life, and illuminates the path forward. It suddenly made sense to have a centre on a lightship!

They were built to position themselves near sand-banks.  These underwater obstacles tend to move over time due to the currents. Hence it doesn't make sense to build a permanent structure.  A light-ship however can be moved together with the sand-banks over time.  Since the movement of sand-banks is not dramatic, most light-ships had no propulsion: they were towed to location, dropped their anchors and stayed there until it was time to move or when they had to go into a harbour for maintenance.

They typically had a crew of 7 who stayed on board for 14-28 days, depending on location.

The lights were oil-fired, later changed to electric. These lamps were mounted on a rotating assembly. The light was focussed by means of parabolic reflectors or (like on our ship) with a lens system.

Our lightship is unique in many ways: she is the only one in the UK with this type of foghorn. In fact, there is just one "sister ship" with the same design in the world: in Indonesia! Also unique is the Fresnel lens system used for the main light: although very common for lighthouses, they were rarely used on lightships. Most of them were equipped with (parabolic) reflectors.

Sula’s Journey

Lightships are not easy to find. Although there used to be plenty of them  around when they were still in active service, most were scrapped when they were decommissioned due the massive amount of the high quality steel they were made from. So we looked at one that was owned by Trinity House, but it was completely stripped of all historical features including the light in the tower. But then we found LV14 that was owned by the Humber Conservancy board from 1959 - 1985. She used to be on a station near the Spurn sandbank and marked the entrance into the shipping lane of the river Humber. After she was decommissioned she was sold as a museum ship and as such retained most of her historical assets. She moved around the UK at several locations, and eventually ended up in Ireland where we found her.

She wasn’t in good condition but her layout was perfect for us, separating the business from our private quarters. It took a while to find and agree a mooring. But when we visited Gloucester for the first time, we fell in love with the city and its energies. So with the mooring agreed, we finally purchased LV14 and towed her back to the UK where we spent 3 years on a shipyard to restore and convert her into what she is now. Whilst in the dry-dock, we re-named her SULA which means a little bit of peace. Her final journey, 16 miles down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, took place on October 2nd 2010. SULA is now one of the best preserved lightships in the UK, and maybe even in the world, and serves us well as the home of Lightship Therapies, the Gloucester Buddhist Centre, and our home.

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Tel - 01452 527 566  E-mail - info@lightshiptherapies.net