Lightship Kittiwake outside the O2 in 2012
It would be fair to say that lightships, having served Irish and foreign sailors so well for over 200 years, have had a raw deal when it comes to preservation. Of the thirty-five purpose-built vessels that once protected our east and south coasts, only seven still survive. Of these seven - and I'm relying on Russ Rowlett's invaluable lighthouse directory on this - five are to be found abroad. The Osprey is a nightclub on the Seine in Paris, Gannet is in Basel of all places, Penguin is in England being converted to a yacht, and Cormorant (the original 1878 version that was at one stage the Lady Dixon in Belfast) and Albatross are on the Medway in Kent both in private hands and not doing very well.
Which leaves only two left on this island. One is the Petrel (1915) which appears safe as the club house of the County Down Sailing Club in Ballydorn on Strangford Lough.
The other is the Kittiwake (1959) which has disappeared from view in recent years and was feared by many to have met the same fate in the scrapyard as many of its contemporaries. It was removed from service in 2005 and put up for sale in Dun Laoghaire harbour. It was bought by Harry Crosbie around 2008 and towed to the Pigeon House Harbour and later to a spot outside the Point. Harry intended to install it as a cafe / restaurant on dry land on the North Wall Quay. The Dublin Docklands Development Association refused the planning application as they felt it belonged in the water. The Dublin Port Authority then acquired the vessel and it disappeared from outside the Point. There were various sightings over the years in the Alexandra Basin but, in the absence of any further news, many assumed it was simply going to be left to rust away until it had to be scrapped. The feeling of doom was not helped by the fact that I could not see the Kittiwake either on Google Satellite, nor on Google Earth.
However, hope has been restored by a single line in the March 2020 Failte Ireland Docklands Visitor Experience Development Plan, basically a proposal to revamp the Docklands area as a tourism centre. The Diving Bell on Sir Rogerson Quay is the first in a series of installations that include a replica of the old Alexandra Breakwater Lighthouse and the opening of the North Wall Quay lighthouse to the public.
Anyway, on page 26 of the brochure is the line, "Restoration of the Irish Lightship Kittiwake" under the heading, "Desired Outcomes" Of course, this is purely aspirational and might never happen but at least it shows that the boat hasn't yet been scrapped. But where is it?
Well, shortly afterwards, a mail arrived from Russ Rowlett to say that one Jim Smith, a valued contributor to his site, had spotted what he believed was the vessel, yes, in the Alexandra Basin. He spotted it, not on Google, but on Bing.