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The Northern Lighthouse Board

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
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Compiled by:
Bob Schrage
page update: 10-01-2021

NLB Light Vessels - North Carr Lightvessels


The North Carr Rock

The North Carr Rock is dangerous rock, situated on the turning point of vessels entering the Firth of Forth coming from the north. But also dangerous for vessels to the Firth of Tay from the south. Before the rock has been marked, it was responsible for numerous casualties. By questions of the Commissioners of the vesselmasters and Officers, the Dundee Harbour Trustees, and others, consideration was given to marking the rocks by means of a lighthouse at Fife Ness. The thougt to establish a light on the North Carr Rock was abandoned fast, because the expense was very high for laying a suitable foundation on the friable rocks of North Carr.

Either, the preference was to given for a Lightvessel to be placed on 1.8 km (1 nM) due east of the Carr Rock, approximately 19 km (10.5 nM) from the Bell Rock and 13 km (7 nM) from the Isle of May, whereby short-term need for a low light on May Island would disappear.

Remark: In 1975, a lighthouse was placed on Fife Ness where a lightvessel on the North Carr was superfluous.

Nort Carr Lightvessel (I)

A beacon without sound or light, as Stevenson put it, was considered to be a rather an "imperfect landmark" - although it served its purpose (at least to a degree) until the first wooden lightvessel was stationed there in 1887. The problems of securing safe passage for vesselping in and around Fife Ness and the North Carr has long been a problem for the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners.

The first lightvessel to be stationed off the North Carr rock was timber-built with copper fastenings. She came on loan from Trinity House, and was brought north by tug from Blackwell, near London. She measured about 100 ft long and just over 21 feet across the beam, and went on station on 7th June 1887. Her position was given about 1 mile off the North Carr beacon, and was stationed in 22 fathoms of water. In consequence there was no longer any need for the Low Light on the Isle of May 7 miles distant, so that light was permanently discontinued. The light, designed by the Stevensons, was 8 feet in diameter and was made up of 8 independent lamps, mounted on gimbals, and used the vegetable-based oil, colza, as illuminant. It was fixed white and visible about 11 miles. Two 6 horse power beam engines powered the fog horn. The crew consisted of master, mate and nine seamen, of whom one officer and six seamen were always on board. It was a condition of their employment that the officers and crew resided in Crail, and when ashore to occupy themselves in a store, which had been built there for coke, provisions etc (the coke which was delivered to Crail Store at 27s (£1 35p) per ton was required to drive fog signal machinery on the Lightvessel). The officer and three crew members ashore were also required to man the Attending Boat, which sailed weekly for the Isle of May and fortnightly to the North Carr. Mr John Kirkpatrick (boatswain, "Pharos") was appointed Master.


Nort Carr Lightvessel (II)

The second North Carr lightvessel Two years later the Trinity House vessel was replaced by one purpose built for the Northern Lighthouse Board by Alex Stephen & Son of Dundee. This firm was chosen because of their experience in building strong wooden vessels for the whaling industry. The second North Carr lightvessel The second vessel - also wooden According to the "East of Fife Record" of 5th April 1889: "The new lightvessel is 104 feet in length, 23 feet 8 inches in breadth and 11 1/2 feet depth. She has been built exceptionally strong much beyond the highest class of Lloyd's for such a class of vessel; and indeed it may be said that she is fortified equal to any of the Dundee whaling fleet. Her frames are of oak and her planking of teak, with the exception of the bottom planks, which are of English elm, while the fastenings are all of pure copper." The hull was sheathed in copper for protection from vesselworm. The lantern and its mechanism weighed 4 tons. There was accommodation in the forecastle for a crew of 6 "and the captain's cabin is fitted up in superior style. Two extra berths are provided in the cabin, because it may happen when the eingineers or others are visiting the vessel that the uprising of a gale might prevent them being landed for some time." She was launched in Dundee on 2nd April 1889, and then moved to Hawthorne's of Leith for fitting out with machinery. She was towed out to the North Carr rocks on 27th July. The crew of the second lightvessel Although the vessel was fitted with lights, David A. Stevenson. when replying to a complaint in 1895 about the difficulty of distinguishing the plain white light commented: "The North Carr vessel is essentially a fog signal vessel, not a light vessel, the light being more for preventing the vessel itself from being run into." The wooden vessel (sold subsequently to Mr H Hinks, Appledore, North Devon for £275) was replaced on 3 April 1933.

Nort Carr Lightvessel (III)

The third North Carr lightvessel The third and final North Carr lightvessel was built in Glasgow by A. & J. Inglis at a cost of £15,430. Her vital statistics: Length 101 ft, beam 25 ft and gross tonnage, 250. She is built of metal and needed overhauling every three years. This lightvessel had no motive power of her own, so had to be towed whenever she was required to move. This meant, of course, more space available for the generators and other installations necessary to do her job. Up on the deck, the dominating feature was the lighthouse tower, surmounted by a lightning conductor 40 feet above the sea. At one time a fixed white beacon was shown. But latterly, from sunset to sunrise, the signal was changed to two flashes in quick succession every half minute - a beam of half a million candlepower visible for over ten miles. The source is a 1,000 watt electric bulb, magnified by the usual prismatic lenses which are rotated around it by a small electric motor. The last North Carr lightvessel The third North Carr lightvessel on station The lightvessel crew consisted of eleven men:- 1 senior master, 1 assistant master, 3 senior enginemen, 3 assistant enginemen and 3 seamen, of whom 1 master, 2 senior enginemen, 2 assistant enginemen and 2 seamen were on board at the one time. The two masters spent alternatively two weeks afloat and two weeks ashore and the other members of the crew spent, in rotation, a month afloat with two weeks ashore. During the Second World War (1939-45), when all lights were extinguished except when needed by the navy, the North Carr lightvessel was moved to a station between the Mull of Kintyre and the Mull of Galloway, helping to mark the entrance to the Clyde. In December 1959 the coast of Scotland was battered by one of the worst gales for years. On the 8th the Lightvessel broke adrift from her moorings and the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat, Mona, which went to her assistance, capsized and was lost with all hands. The Lightvessel managed to anchor about 900 yards off the rocky shore at Kingsbarns, near St Andrews and the crew was taken off by two Bristol Sycamore helicopters from Leuchars on 9 December, after an attempt to tow the Lightvessel had failed. The rescue was made in extremely adverse conditions. A full gale was blowing and the Lightvessel was rolling and pitching heavily. To assist in the rescue operations the crew cut away the 40ft aftermast, which allowed the helicopters to fly as low as 5ft above the lantern and pick up members of the crew from the chart house roof. The Lightvessel was eventually taken in tow by the Admiralty tug "Earner" on 11 December, repaired at Leith and put back on station on 16 March 1960. In 1975 the Fife Ness station was built and the lightvessel was replaced by a lighted buoy. The old beacon of 1821 still continues and can still be seen to mark the highest part of the North Carr reef. The lightwessel was eventually acquired by the then North East Fife District Council and for a time became a floating museum at Anstruther. It now lies in Dundee Harbour awaiting long-overdue restoration.
North CarrPending the building of a new Lightvessel, Trinity House offered to supply the Commissioners with one of their Lightvessels on loan with an experienced officer on board for a time. This offer was accepted and the Lightvessel was towed from Blackwall, near London, by a tug and placed in position on 7 June 1887, on which date the light from the low tower at Isle of May was discontinued. The crew consisted of Master, Mate and nine seamen of whom one officer and six seamen were always on board. The Master received £115.10.7d per annum with uniform; the Mate £97.0.7d per annum with uniform and the seamen £69.6.8d per annum with uniform. It was a condition of their employment that the officers and crew resided in Crail, and when ashore to occupy themselves in a store, which had been built there for coke, provisions etc (the coke which was delivered to Crail Store at 27/- per ton was required to drive fog signal machinery on the Lightvessel). It was a further duty for the officer and three crew members ashore to man the Attending Boat, which sailed weekly for the Isle of May and fortnightly to the North Carr. To help this arrangement Alex Watson, Isle of May Boatman, was appointed Mate of the North Carr Lightvessel; Mr John Kirkpatrick, Boatswain, "Pharos" was appointed Master. The Trinity House Lightvessel was replaced in July 1889 by a timber vessel, the hull of which was built by Alex Stephen & Sons, Dundee. It was 103 feet in length, 23ft 6ins broad and had tonnage of 255. Five years later in 1894 it was decided to service the North Carr Lightvessel and Isle of May from Granton and that only a Signalman would be required at Crail (The Coastguard Boatman, Crail, was appointed Signalman at £8 per annum). This decision was not well received in Crail and on 27 August 1894 the Provost submitted a letter transmitting a memorial from a large number of inhabitants of Crail against the proposed transfer of the Shore Station to Granton. Mr H T Anstruther MP supported the protest and the Secretary for Scotland wrote to the Commissioners on 28 August 1894 asking for the Commissioners' views on the matter. All were assured that it was in the best interests of the Northern Lighthouse Board as well as economy and had the Board of Trade's sanction. The original Attending Boat had been replaced on 6 June 1888 by the Steam Launch "May" - built by Messrs Hawthorn & Co Ltd, Leith for £510 for which a special berth had been obtained in Crail. On transfer to Granton she continued in operation until May 1899 when she was sold for £150. The SS " May" took over with the officer and crew on shore from the Lightvessel forming part of the crew when she made ordinary gas, buoy and relief work. The officers alternately acted as Mate of the "May" for which they received an extra 1/- per day all the year round. In 1902, when the Bell Rock light was being altered, these duties were increased to include all necessary trips to the Rock. North CarrThe wooden vessel (sold subsequently to Mr H Hinks, Appledore, North Devon for £275) was replaced on 3 April 1933 by the present vessel which is iron below water line and steel above and which created quite a stir in Edinburgh on account of her fog horn being tested while lying at a point ¾ mile outside Granton in the Firth of Forth. As the fog horn had a range of approximately 10 miles, north Edinburgh could hear it loud and clear and the complaints to the Office, Newspapers and Police were numerous - particularly as it was being sounded in clear weather. "Hundreds of city dwellers have had no sleep over three consecutive nights"; "The most flagrant individual breach of the peace is as nothing compared with the ceaseless boom and consequent suffering of the past three nights"; "Firth of Forth torment"; "An Edinburgh grievance which has left rankling memories in the selection of Granton for the fog horn test" were typical of statements made and written at the time. She was built by A & J Inglis Ltd, Pointhouse vesselyard, Glasgow, is 101ft in length and 25ft in breadth and 250 tons in weight; her hull and superstructure are painted red and the name North Carr is painted on both sides of the hull. It has been suggested that the wooden lightvessel should be replaced by a lighted buoy and automatic fog gun but the suggestion has been dismissed on account of their being considered too weak in power and range to be effective for such an important situation. Since taking up her position the lightvessel, has done yeoman service sharing with the Abertay Lightvessel the distinction of being one of the only two such vessels in Scottish Waters. During the war her place was taken by an automatic lightbuoy while she herself did duty at a point between the Mull of Kintyre and the Mull of Galloway. With one notable exception her only absences have been for routine overhaul every third year. She has no motive power of her own, so has to be towed whenever she is required to move. This means, of course, more space available for the generators and other installations with which she does her job. Her engine-room, for instance, is given over to three Diesel Generators and three Diesel Air-Compressors together with large fuel storage tanks and containers or "receivers" for compressed air - all catering for the requirements of the light and fog signal. The chain locker is another distinctive department, housing two spare cables, as well as the "slack" left over from the one now in use. The links of this are studded and made of metal 15/8 inches thick. The anchor weighs 3 tons; two spare anchors, of 30cwt apiece, are also carried. Up on the deck, the dominating feature is the lighthouse tower, surmounted by its lightning conductor 40 feet above the sea. At one time a fixed white beacon was shown. But now, from sunset to sunrise, the signal is two flashes in quick succession every half minute - a beam of half a million candlepower visible for over ten miles. The source is a 1,000 watt electric bulb, magnified by the usual prismatic lenses which are rotated around it by a small electric motor. In the event of a power breakdown, a paraffin lamp can be substituted, while the lenses can be turned manually. Naturally enough, the whole system has got to remain vertical, despite any movement of the vessel in rough weather, from stem to stern or from port to starboard. This problem is solved on the pendulum principle, the lamp and its adjuncts swinging on a set of gimbals, with a weight attached below. The fog signal, with it two blasts every minute and a half, can be turned to any point of the compass, and is very similar to its counterparts on dry land. But it does have a special enemy to contend with - marine growths, which must be prevented from growing near the all-important sea-water injection valves. Here the remedy lies in a pressure boiler, which blows out hot steam and keeps the passage clear. Sea-life also presents another kind of difficulty, for limpets and barnacles take up residence in prolific number on the vessel's bottom. To deal with this as far as they can, the crew make use of an elephantine back-scraper, like an out-size garden hoe. But even in spite of these exertions, about six tons of barnacles have to be dislodged when the vessel comes into port for her periodic overhauls. The only regular visitor is the lighthouse tender from Granton, which arrives every fortnight with mail, stores, rations, newspapers and reliefs. The lightvessel crew consists of eleven men:- 1 Senior Master, 1 Assistant Master, 3 Senior Enginemen, 3 Assistant Enginemen and 3 Seamen, of whom 1 Master, 2 Senior Enginemen, 2 Assistant Enginemen and 2 Seamen are on board at the one time. The two Masters spent alternatively two weeks afloat and two weeks ashore and the other members of the crew spent, in rotation, a month afloat with two weeks ashore. North Carr LightvesselThe occasion referred to earlier, on which she moved off station, took place on 8 December 1959, during a severe gale when the Lightvessel broke adrift from her moorings and the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat, Mona, which went to her assistance, capsized and was lost with all hands. The Lightvessel managed to anchor about 900 yards off the rocky shore at Kingsbarns, near St Andrews and the crew was taken off by two Bristol Sycamore helicopters from Leuchars on 9 December, after an attempt to tow the Lightvessel had failed. The rescue was made in extremely adverse conditions. A full gale was blowing and the Lightvessel was rolling and pitching heavily. To assist in the rescue operations the crew cut away the 40ft aftermast, which allowed the helicopters to fly as low as 5ft above the lantern and pick up members of the crew from the chart house roof. The Lightvessel was eventually taken in tow by the Admiralty tug "Earner" on 11 December, repaired at Leith and put back on station on 16 March 1960. May 1976 The North Carr Lightvessel was sold to the North East Fife District Council in July 1976 and was used as a floating museum based in Anstruther harbour. Jan 2002 The North Carr Lightvessel is now based in Victoria Dock, Dundee and is used by the Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS) as a base for Unit meetings and training. Sept 2010 Just £1 saves the last lightvessel from scrapyard - but now £½m is needed As reported in The Scotsman on 10 September 2010 SCOTLAND'S last surviving lightvessel has been saved from the scrapyard for the princely sum of £1. The maritime charity which has become the new owner of the North Carr Lightvessel, currently rusting in a dock on the banks of the River Tay, now faces the daunting task of raising the £500,000 needed to restore the vessel and transforming the vessel into a viable visitor attraction on the city's waterfront. The lightvessel, built on the Clyde in 1933, was stationed off the notorious North Carr rocks, a mile and half from Fife Ness, until 1975, a crucial part of the life saving network operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board. But 51 years ago the lightvessel was at the centre of one of Scotland's worst lifeboat tragedies, when all eight crew members of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat drowned after their boat capsized in raging seas while going to aid the North Carr, adrift in a severe gale after breaking free from its moorings off St Andrews Bay. The six men on board the North Carr were later winched to safety by an RAF helicopter. After being decommissioned, the lightvessel was briefly used as a floating museum in Anstruther before being towed to Dundee ten years ago. Fears were raised last year that the North Carr was destined for the scrapyard after the English-based Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS), which had inherited it put it up for sale. But it has now been confirmed that MVS has sold the lightvessel for only £1 to Taymara, a Dundee-based maritime charity also involved in rehabilitating young people with drug and alcohol problems. The charity plans to turn the 250-ton vessel into floating exhibition, conference and function venue. Bob Richmond, a Taymara trustee, said local volunteers had spent £55,000 five years ago repainting the superstructure of the vessel, but were left dumbfounded last August when MVS put the boat up for sale. He said: "The local people who had worked on the boat were so annoyed that we resigned and formed our own charity, Taymara. We put in a bid to buy the vessel but I understand it has taken until now to establish clean titles to the North Carr. And now we have established ownervessel, we can press ahead with our plans to restore and modernise the boat. "There has been no maintenance done for about 12 months, so she is looking a bit shabby. But it's really just surface rust. "Our first task will be stop any further deterioration. "But a vessel like that takes a great deal of money to maintain and she has to become viable in her own right. But we believe £500,000 is the maximum that will be required for what will be a long-term project." In the meantime, Taymara plans to use the boat as its headquarters. Mr Richmond added: "There seems to be a great affection for the vessel locally … she saved countless lives in her time." A spokesman for MVS said: "We're not a vessel preservation society.

NLB Light Vessels


North Carr Rock (map)
North Carr Rock (map)

North Carr Lightvessel (I)
North Carr Lightvessel (I)

North Carr Lightvessel (II)
North Carr Lightvessel (II)

North Carr Lightvessel (III)
North Carr Lightvessel (III)

References
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