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LV14 Sula Lightship

Humber Lightvessel No 14 served all her 26 working years on the River Humber to help guide vessels around Spurn Head and the sandbanks in the River Humber. 

Built in 1959 by Cook Gemmel and Welton of Beverley, East Yorkshire, her lantern housed a fifth-order prismatic optic, manufactured by Stone-Chance of Crawley, displaying a character of 3 group flashes every 15 seconds, visible for 17 miles. In case of power failure, a standby paraffin lamp was also installed.

A diaphone fog signal using compressed air was built into the roof of the lookout shelter, acting as an amplifier. A clockwork air valve made by James Ritchie of Edinburgh produced the fog signal character, sounding once every 20 seconds; the blast lasting 2 seconds, followed by 18 seconds silence. Four diesel engines were used; air pumps or compressors, one a generator and one as a main winch drive.

A twelve-man lifeboat was hung on the boat deck, lowered by hand winch, in an emergency.

The crew consisted of the Master and six men comprising engineers, radio operators and deckhands. Five cabins could accommodate eight men, and a crew change would take place every two weeks.

Launched on 2nd June 1959, LV14’s first commission was on the Spurn station on 28th June.

Whilst the vessel never suffered a fire, rescue, man overboard or broke adrift, she was involved in several collisions. On 29th May 1961 she was reported in collision with a Hull trawler Loch Seaforth. In the same year, on 5th July 1961, the Ostend trawler Sea Lady collided with the lightvessel. 

On 17th October 1966, the Hull trawler Ross Fame also collided with the lightvessel. The most severe collision rolled her onto her beam, and she was taken out of service for three weeks for minor repairs and crew recovery.

There are two records of the Spurn Lifeboat City of Bradford being called out to the vessel; on 28th December 1968 the lifeboat landed a sick man, and on 17th June 1976 the lifeboat was recorded as assisting the ship.

A little home comfort was added for the crew in May 1966 when the trawler Coventry City crew provided a black and white TV. A real luxury at the time!

Just before Christmas, on 19th December 1984, the crew received a visit from the Archbishop of York, who came aboard. 

On 11th December 1985, LV14 was finally retired from service and laid up in Hull docks. In December 1986, she was sold to Pounds Shipyard, Southampton and on 17th December towed to her new base in Southampton.

In August 1987 LV14 was bought by Beaucette Marina, in Guernsey. The plan was to restore her to full-service condition, be positioned in Beaucette Harbour as the Yacht Club headquarters, and as a tourist attraction.

Shortly after, on 12th September 1988, she was transferred to Conwy in North Wales, where she resided as a tourist attraction for a couple of years until she was purchased again on 12th October 1990 by Milford Haven Port Authority. On 20th October she was moved to Milford Haven and located in the new marina.

Haven Lightship postcard
Postcard of LV14 as Haven Lightship at Milford Haven

On 14th March 1991, the lightvessel was dedicated and renamed Haven, the new name painted in large letters on her hull’s side. She was relocated the following year, on 18th July, to a new purpose-built berth within the dock as a working museum ship, maritime historical research and publishing, self-catering accommodation, and headquarters for the Pembroke Unit of the Maritime Volunteer Service. 

Haven was managed by Peter Williams, founder of the lighthouse publication Leading Lights.

Following her retirement from Milford Haven, LV14 was transferred briefly to Ireland before being moved to Sharpness Shipyard. Following three years of restoration and refurbishment, her new owners renamed her Sula, which means peace. 

She was towed along the canal to Llanthony Quay in Gloucester where she arrived on 2nd October 2010 to become the base for Lightship Therapies, offering complementary health care and training. 

Sula housed the Gloucester Buddhist Centre, and the owners lived on board. The owners retained its original optic, which contains a Fresnel lens – most lightships housed mirrored reflectors within their lantern, rather than an optic. Her lifeboat is one of the first fibreglass lifeboats to have been built. The former crew’s quarters and engine room were adapted to provide treatment rooms.

Lightship in Gloucester Quay

In February 2020 Sula was sold to new owners, who have now restored the lightvessel, and converted the lightship into luxury Bed and Breakfast accommodation.

The SULA website has more fascinating historic images of LV14.

LV14 Sula Lightship

  • Ex Humber LV14 Lightvessel
  • Length: 114 feet (3.6 metres)
  • Constructed: 1959, Beverley, East Yorkshire
  • Discontinued: 1985