For about 60 years, the Stephanie Anne has been plying the waters of the Delmarva Peninsula. It seems only fitting that part of the boat would end up as a museum piece preserved by the Lightship Overfalls Foundation.
Members of the foundation cut a ribbon June 4 to formally dedicate the restored pilothouse that now serves as the American Lightship Museum attached to the Overfalls store, adjacent to the iconic lightship in Canalfront Park in Lewes.
“This is a typical working boat that would have gone by the Overfalls all the time – there is a connection there,” said foundation President Tracy Mulveny. “This is a piece of the maritime history of Delaware.”
The Overfalls duty station off Cape Henlopen point was manned by lightships for 62 years, from 1898 to 1960.
Mulveny called the Overfalls the center piece of the foundation's efforts, the pilot house museum a place setting and Canalfront Park the table cloth.
During the storied history of the Stephanie Anne, it served as a water taxi to Pea Patch Island, the home of historic Fort Delaware. It also served as a charter fishing and tourist boat in the Lewes area. Capt. Bill Cheney – owner of Stephanie Anne from the 1960s to 2010 – was on hand for the dedication. The boat is named for his daughter.
Mulveny said the new owners of the boat – now docked in Lewes – were converting it to a houseboat and needed more space for the deck; the pilothouse was destined for the wood pile. She said foundation member Bert Long was instrumental in saving the pilothouse. Another foundation member, Bill Reader, devised a plan to restore and convert the donated pilothouse into a small museum.
Foundation member David Bernheisel said the volunteers stripped out the interior and even cut the pilothouse in half to add another three feet to it. A new floor and roof were added. About the only original parts remaining in the 19-foot-by-7-foot structure are the windows and doors.
Display cases were designed by foundation curator and Vice President Ray Glick, who said room is now available to display artifacts until now unseen by the public, including photographs, notes, charts and tools, some dating to the late 1930s. The show piece of the museum is the original ship's bell from the LV118 Overfalls.
Overfalls was actually the Boston
The Overfalls docked in Lewes did not serve off Cape Henlopen point, but instead was stationed off the coast of New England until 1972 under the names Cornfield, Cross Rip and Boston.
The Boston – now the Overfalls, named after the closest duty station – was donated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1973 to the Lewes Historical Society. It took another 26 years before a separate group of dedicated volunteers started restoration.
The Overfalls Foundation is also restoring a surf boat that will become another piece of its land-based museum.
So where is the real Overfalls? It's now the Lightship Relief docked in Oakland, Calif. It served in this area from 1951 to 1960 before going to the West Coast and serving as a relief lightship when other lightships were being repaired.