Life on-board the Spurn Lightship

In the beginning most of the men who came to work aboard the Spurn Lightship were those who had previously worked on the Middle Lightship. The normal procedure of working on the ship was for new recruits to be given a six month probationary period before being taken on in a permanent position. It then took a few more years of service before men were able to gain promotion to other occupations aboard the ship.

A Typical Day


A regular watch aboard the Lightship consisted of four hours on and eight hours off but during the day men were expected to carry out other duties to keep the ship in 'ship shape'. Good weather tasks included varnishing, painting, splicing and cleaning. One person was delegated to clean the lighting equipment and was given the affectionate nickname 'Lampy'. Generators and engines also required regular servicing and fire and lifeboat drills were performed (The Lightship had one clicker-type lifeboat and one inflatable dingy). In bad weather, chores became even more important. The cables had to change fathoms in order for the Lightship to swing more in gales without breaking loose. Hourly reports had to be made so a record of the cable length, weather conditions, the state and direction of the tide and other incidents such as passing of other vessels could be kept. The master was required to keep a journal and the entries had strong emphasis upon the weather conditions as thermometer and barometer readings were logged. Both sea and air temperatures were taken at every high and low tide.

Self-Help


All crew members were expected to be self reliant. Men were responsible for bringing their own provisions and the ship had no standing cook which meant the men had to prepare all of their own meals. It was not uncommon for a stew to be made and a stockpot to be kept going so hot meals were always available. Any extra provisions the men required were sent by their family with the service craft that visited the Lightship regularly, usually every Wednesday. The service vessel would bring fuel, fresh water, mail and other necessities.

During their time onboard the lightship many men sustained injuries, mostly due to working with the ship's mechanics. Minor injuries were treated onboard and the captain retained a small medical book for use in such situations. However for more serious injuries the men were taken ashore in order to receive the appropriate care. In most cases of injuries, compensation was granted from the Board and in the most unfortunate cases which resulted in death, widows were, from 1965, awarded the allowance of 100 pounds per annum.

Food Supplies


It was very important to ration food and some food was kept for emergencies such as the supply boat being kept away in bad weather. Bonuses came when passing trawlers would give the men fresh, gutted fish, but this could not be relied upon. Along the same thinking, men took fishing rods in hope of catching an extra meal time treat and to wile away the long hours, however, success was never guaranteed especially with the strong tides that they often encountered. Cleaning and tidying were also the men's responsibility but they rarely did their own washing preferring to wait until they went ashore. The code of conduct onboard the Lightship was strict and the Spurn was a 'dry ship' which meant that no alcohol could be consumed whilst aboard the vessel.

In their freetime the men engaged in a variety of pastimes. Onboard, games were kept such as chess and scrabble to pass the time while others amused themselves by reading popular magazines, playing darts and cards, practising wood craft, putting ships in bottles or by literally making things from old rope. In the latter years a television was provided for the men.