Keep Oakland Beautiful Point of Interest: Lightship RELIEF.

Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it.

Note: For optimum viewing, please click on the photos to enlarge and clarify them.

At the foot of Clay Street, in Oakland’s Inner Harbor, a national historical landmark rides the tide. This is the 128-foot long Lightship LV-605, now named ‘RELIEF.’ It was an all-welded, steel lightship and one of 174 lightships stationed along our Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts.

Lightships served as floating lighthouses from 1820 to 1983, anchoring in dangerous navigational areas where a permanent lighthouse could not be built. The mushroom anchor they were equipped with allowed the lightships to ride out even the roughest weather and sea conditions.

The RELIEF carried two lights on its mast, 67 feet above the waterline; one a primary beacon, the other a backup. They provided 15,000 candlepower, flashed approximately every ten seconds, and could be seen from a distance of up to 14 miles. In addition to beacons, the RELIEF had two air-driven foghorns that could issue a two-toned blast every 30 seconds. Finally, the ship communicated a continuous radio signal that mariners could home in on.

Lightship LV-605 RELIEF’s beacon.

Lightship WLV-605 was assigned a crew of 18. Twelve were on station, while six remained on land. Every two to three weeks, half the crew on station would rotate with the land-based crew who would arrive on the supply ship, carrying supplies, mail, and movies for the crew’s entertainment.

Constructed for the US Coast Guard in 1950 at the Rice Brothers Shipyard in Boothbay, Maine, Lightship WLV-605 (the ‘W’ designated Coast Guard status; the ‘LV’ indicated a light vessel) was initially named ‘OVERFALLS’ and served as a floating lighthouse off the coast of Delaware. A decade later found Lightship LV-605, renamed ‘BLUNTS,’ on station off the coast of Medocino, California. After a decade of service there, Lightship WLV-605 was renamed ‘RELIEF’ and functioned as a relief lightship along the West Coast whenever a lightship on station needed to return to port for maintenance. After a quarter of a century of combined service, Lightship WLV-605 was decommissioned in 1975.

After decommissioning, the RELIEF changed ownership several times, in the process, moving from Olympia, Washington, to Oakland, to Half Moon Bay, and finally, back to Oakland where it is currently moored at the foot of Jack London Square.

Since 1986, the United States Lighthouse Society has owned the vessel, after having it donated to them by its previous owner, Alan Hosking. The RELIEF has been fully restored by the Society and is open to the public on Wednesdays and weekends. Please see the Society’s website for details at

Lightship LV-605 RELIEF prior to restoration.

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We are fortunate to have this renovated artifact of marine history in our estuary, where we can all appreciate it and learn about how lightships kept mariners safe in all forms of weather.

The Lightship LV-605 RELIEF, after restoration was completed.


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