Boston Homes
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Nantucket lightship is now a beautiful floating home

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former state senator from Weymouth, acquired the vessel in 2000.


“There was not a toothpick of wood on the ship,” McKenzie said, repeating Golden’s comments when he relates the Nantucket’s modern-day history.


Golden, an environmental attorney, and his wife, Kristen, who has a background in architectural design, bought the vessel rather unexpectedly, then spent close to three years overseeing 11 master craftsmen creating by hand an extraordinary living area boasting mahogany and cherry and oak throughout.


Former sleeping quarters on the main deck were converted to a grand salon, and an open spiral staircase of cherry replaced the former steep ladder between the upper and lower decks.


The gourmet kitchen – this generously appointed space should not be called a galley – was designed to accommodate up to three chefs comfortably when entertaining, said McKenzie. The kitchen offers granite- topped counters, a tiered center island with an overhang for breakfast seating and custom-designed cabinets that include tiny knobs of traditional Nantucket baskets, complete with scrimshaw.


Among the high-end appliances are a Jenn-Air four-burner electric cooktop with a griddle and two stainless steel wall ovens. A floor-to- ceiling Northland refrigerator and a separate, similarly sized freezer as well as a Miele dishwasher and two compactors are paneled to match the cabinetry.


Off the kitchen is a convenient paneled half bath. The stately dining room has a custom-designed tiger maple table that can seat 12 people. The recessed lighting is abundant, supplementing the natural light streaming in through portholes.


There are two main living spaces, the salon and the den/entertainment room, which includes a flat-screen television. Tucked into a slightly elevated corner is a built-in leather banquette with a mahogany table that is set-aside space for an office.


The vessel has six cabins, each with its own shower. All are tiled differently, and two showers boast decorative tiles with marine creatures.


The carpeted stateroom is the most elegant of the sleeping quarters with its rich paneling installed on the diagonal for eye appeal. A stunning frame holds a king-size bed with storage underneath. More storage is built into an entire wall opposite the bed. An adjacent yet smaller stateroom contains two beds along with two chairs.


On the lower deck are another cabin with a large bed plus a trundle bed, a kitchenette with a microwave and a smaller cabin with the original bunks.


The sixth bedroom has two high beds built head-to-toe, designed like those in a Pullman sleeper car. They have storage underneath, and above are hooks to hold privacy curtains.


Some of the cabins have wall-to-wall carpeting, while others feature gleaming wide oak flooring. Still other areas have Oriental rugs.


The Nantucket has been used for charters and is appropriately furnished with understated sophistication. Many of the marine paintings feature local scenes with references to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.


On a more practical note, the ship has a side-by-side washer and dryer housed in the windlass room which gives access to the hoisting equipment for the ship’s two 7,000-pound mushroom anchors.


Outside this room is a magnificent, hand-carved desk that the chief master craftsman donated to the Goldens when the restoration was completed. Inscribed are Tennyson’s words from “Ulysses:” “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”


The lightship is one of a few surviving light vessels. (The Goldens also own WLV-613, named Nantucket II).


The WLV-612 was built in 1950 at the Curtis Bay shipyard in Maryland at a contract cost of $500,000, according to the U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Sailors’ website. Her first deployment was off the coast of San Francisco, and she assumed the name of that station. Later, she was moved to northern California and called Blunts Reef Lightship.


In 1971, she served outside the Portland, Maine, harbor entrance until 1975 when she was sent to Nantucket Shoals, one of the most dangerous areas off the United States coast. The area is 54 miles east of Nantucket. And her name changed again.


The Coast Guard discontinued using lightships in 1983 and replaced the WLV-612 with a large navigational buoy. It was a major cost-saving measure – $3 million annually versus $250,000. But the Nantucket I continued in service for two more years as a support vessel, mostly for law enforcement, before she was retired.


Eventually the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the vessel with the idea of establishing a museum off George’s Island, but funding was an issue, so the state declared the ship as surplus property and put it on eBay to auction. Serendipitously, the Goldens learned of her availability only four days before the auction closed and, in the final hours, submitted the winning bid of $126,100, and saved her from scrappers.


The restoration has been a labor of love. “This is a home,” a mansion on water, emphasized McKenzie. She added though that the floating vessel could become a museum, a restaurant or another business like charters. Coast Guard regulations allow 12 aboard for sailing and 149 for stationary guests.