Once again I am indebted to my mysterious friend Nick from Holywood for sending me pictures of the Northern Lights tender Pharos cruising up and down Belfast Lough. Equally as mysterious, Nick tells me, is that the vessel has no name or ID markings and its transponder was turned off.
Basically, there are three lighthouse boards in these islands - Trinity House, which covers England; the Northern Lighthouse Board, which is responsible for Scotland and the Isle of Man; and the Commissioner of Irish Lights, which is of course the authority for the island of Ireland.
So the Pharos is basically the Scottish equivalent of Granuaile, going around the coast and servicing buoys and lights. But whereas the Granuaile is the third light tender of that name in our jurisdiction (which sometimes leads to confusion), the Pharos is the tenth of that name to serve the Northern Lighthouse Board. Built in Poland and brought into service in 2007, it is based at Oban on the beautiful, island-studded west coast of Scotland.
But what is she doing here? (Not that we're complaining - its very nice to see her)
Well, according to Jedan Ashmore's article in Afloat last month, she has been over here several weeks now for a complete overhaul and recertification. Dry docking took place at the Harland and Wolff docks and tests appear to be ongoing. I wonder if someone should tell them to put back her markings and her transponder.
One can only imagine the resignation of the Scottish people to the fact that the flagship of their lighthouse service had to be built in Gdansk and needs to be sent to Belfast for an NCT, while the world-famous shipbuilding industries of the Clyde and the Leith are rapidly fading into distant memory.
Nick also sent me a short video showing the Pharos. For other videos of his featuring rural and maritime stories and happenings, simply search for Irelandscapes in YouTube