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Astoria's Lightship Columbia Closer to Returning to N. Oregon Coast Moorings

Published 03/07/22 at 4:22 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Astoria's Lightship Columbia Closer to Returning to N. Oregon Coast Moorings

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(Astoria, Oregon) – If you look at the above photo of an Oregon coast icon at Astoria, and you notice something is missing there these days – you're right. The Columbia River Maritime Museum (CRMM) does not have the famed Lightship Columbia gracing its moorings, and that's been the case since October, as the beautiful vessel and the also-iconic Large Navigational Buoy were whisked away this fall to undergo a good deal of refurbishing.

The good news is that they're coming back to their respective spots in the north Oregon coast harbor town shortly. Spring will be a good time for Astoria history buffs.

It was hoped that these examples of living history would be back before spring break, but museum marketing manager Caroline Wuebben said it's more likely later than that. The lightship is being refurbished at Diversified Marine, Inc. in Portland, and then will be shipped to Tongue Point on the Oregon coast where it will spend time getting a little more work done. Wuebben said she'd know more once it's reached Tongue Point.

“Realistically – I would think early May is when we will have her ready for the public again,” she said.

Courtesy CRMM: the lightship under repair in Portland

The lightship has been open to the public since 1980, after it was retired from service along the wild Columbia Bar and donated to the museum. For 28 years it rode out bone-crunching storms along what is called the Graveyard of the Pacific, assisting countless ships through the tidal melee and saving lives.

Time and tides have taken their toll on the vessel, however, and when a grant came through from Murdock Charitable Trust, State of Oregon lottery bonds proceeds, and a National Parks Service “Save Our National Treasures” grant, the $1.5 million project of restoration was born.

Curiously, the ship was pushed by another vessel – not towed. In the early morning hours of October 20, the Lightship Columbia Drydock Project got underway with the towboat Toni B. pushing her from behind up the Columbia to the Portland marine yards.

The buoy under repair at Astoria, courtesy CRMM

There, the ship was inspected, cleaned, sandblasted and received a new paint job and several repairs. The hull, superstructure, the decks, masts, fittings and rigging all went under the knife.

“While undergoing her face lift, the engine room and other areas below deck that have been closed to the public since 1979 will be restored and modified into new exhibit spaces,” the museum said back in the fall.

Part of the National Parks Service grant goes towards creating a new mooring and gangway for the museum so that the lightship can stay open during extreme tides.

Diversified Marine, Inc. has been a partner with the museum since 2009, offering repair, retrofit and construction of tugs, barges, and commercial steel vessels, ancillary services of drydocking, repowering and mechanical contracting. It also has a fleet of marine construction vessels to provide water-based construction and environmental services.

Most recently, the Lightship Columbia was back in the water at the reconstruction facilities in Portland. Final stages of blasting and top coating of the deck were underway, and by mid-March the final colors will be painted.

Just before it returns to the Oregon coast, the light buoy will be placed in front of where the ship resides. The buoy had suffered from significant rust and metal degradation over the years, so WCT Construction of Astoria was contracted to take care of that work, which is just about completed. 1792 Marine Dr, Astoria, Oregon. (503) 325-2323. Columbia River Maritime Museum.

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Astoria's Columbia River Maritime Museum

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