The bright red ‘retired’ lightship West-Hinder has already been shining bright against the skyline of Zeebrugge for two decades. For many years this ‘lighthouse at sea’ guaranteed the light signalling along the Belgian coast. Now lying in Seafront, he is open to the public. Take a look on deck and brace yourself behind the impressive helm. Descend into the anchor room, discover the bizarre ‘mushroom anchor’ and look inside the crew cabins.
Lightships, like beacons, light buoys and lighthouses, were part of the coastal lighting on behalf of navigation.
Lightships served navigation and were moored at a fixed position at sea. They were equipped with a light tower provided with a powerful light source, a high-powered fog signal installation and a radio beacon. Lightships had striking colours and shapes.
The position of the lightship was indicated on nautical charts. Therefore, it was crucial that the ship maintained its prescribed position. A lightship was moored with a so-called umbrella or mushroom anchor.
Tasks on board
The main task of the crew members of a lightship was maintaining the ship and its light installation, and looking out for any ship accidents or plane crashes.
Extra tasks included: emitting warning signals in case of stormy wind, performing meteorological and current observations, measuring wave height and checking the seawater for oil pollution.
Bird watching on the lightships yielded interesting information about the habits of migratory birds. Since lightships were positioned far off the coast, it often occurred that large flocks of migratory birds were attracted to the light and alighted on deck.
The nine crew members of a lightship stayed two weeks on board. Then they were relieved and were allowed to be at home for two weeks.
A new destination
Slowly but surely, the lightships in front of our coasts were replaced by unmanned light platforms or navigation buoys, which are cheaper in purchase, use and maintenance.
In 1995 the ship was transferred to the maritime theme park Seafront by the then Flemish Minister for public works Eddy Baldewijns. The 420-ton West-Hinder was lifted into a pit next to the quay by Norma, the largest floating crane of Zeebrugge.
TECHNICAL CHART WEST-HINDER
|Year of construction||1950 Oostende - Beilard Crighton|
1 diesel engine (200 hp)
4 blades propeller (1,5 m diameter)
* 1 knot = 1,852km/h