The frequently asked questions below are actual questions asked by visitors touring the Overfalls. If you have a question about the Lightship Overfalls you would liked answered, please use the Contact Us link at the top of the page. We will answer your question quickly and consider adding it to our list below.

How many persons were in the Overfalls crew?

The total crew was 14 and they were broken into three sections and worked on a weekly rotation. So, the duty was two weeks on and one week off. With a third gone on liberty and others may be away for training, on annual vacation, etc., aboard at any one time would be 7-10 men.

What organization staffed the ship?

The ship was the last built for the U.S. Lighthouse Service (USLHS, a federal civilian agency) in 1938. In 1939, the USLHS and all of its assets (lightships, lighthouses, etc.) were merged in the Coast Guard. So, for almost all of its service life it was a Coast Guard ship.

Did the officers eat with the men?

Usually the officers would eat at the table back in the ward room but on occasion they would eat at a table in the mess decks.

How did the helmsman see where he was going?

When the ship was underway, especially in close quarters, the skipper would be up on the weather deck above the pilothouse giving orders over a phone to the helmsman. On long voyages in open water the helmsman could stay on course by using the horizon and the compass. On those occasions a lookout would be posted to ensure that they didn’t run over anything.

What did the crew do all day while on station?

There were always two persons on watch 24/7. Those off watch during working hours would be doing maintenance tasks and generally keeping the ship shipshape. The ship carried two cooks with the intent of almost always having at least one aboard. The cooks did not stand watch but their day started at 5:30 am and didn’t end until the galley was squared away after the evening meal, usually about 6:30 pm.

Why are the bunks in the crew’s cabins so short?

They are longer than they look, a little over six feet. People used to be shorter than they are now; it used to be that a six footer was a tall person.

Where was the Overfalls station?

It was right in the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The ship served as a mid-channel marker; inbound ships went on one side of her and out bound ships went on the other side. This was much closer to the Delaware side than the New Jersey side. (click here for map)

What does the word “overfalls” mean?

The Overfalls Shoal is so named because there is an overfalls there. Overfalls is a marine term for an "under water waterfall". It happens where there is a steep drop off under the water associated with a strong current. As the water passes this drop off it creates turbulence on the surface.

What is that rack, is it a paddlewheel off a steamboat?

Back in the 1950-60s, Lewes was the biggest fishing port in the country by tonnage of fish caught. The fish were menhaden, used for perfume products and fertilizer. The menhaden swam in large schools so the fishery sent airplane spotters out to locate the fish and then the boats would go out with nets up to a mile long and scoop up the fish. The rack is for drying the nets. Do you see the four boards going around the rack? (Wait for a positive response.) Now you see the little boards inside of those going across? (Again, wait for a positive response.) They would put four men inside, one on each board, and they would walk. The boards going across were their toe holds and as they walked they were supplying the power to wind up the nets. Imagine being one of the men inside in the winter with the cold, fishy water dripping on you!

What is that little thingy hanging down in the pilothouse?

That is the lanyard to toot the ship's whistle. It won't work right now because we are not running the air compressor. But, if you come back on New Years Eve, during the boat parade or other festivals, we will have the compressor running and you might toot it.

How can I locate my father’s Naming Opportunity (rivet, porthole, watertight door, etc.)?

By looking in the Naming Opportunity Locator Log (white loose leaf binder in the pilothouse) you can find all of the Naming Opportunities either by the name of the item or by the name of the owner. (click for more information regarding Naming Opportunities)

219 Pilottown Road - P.O. Box 413 - Lewes, DE 19958 - Telephone 302-644-8050
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