Who wouldn’t want to live on Nantucket? It’s uniquely blessed with galvanizing ocean waves, phenomenal whale watching and mesmerizing sunsets.
Not Nantucket Island (that’s nice too). I’m talking about the luxurious 128-foot houseboat christened “Nantucket Lightship (WLV-612),” upon which these views are most breathtaking. Moby Dick’s Ahab and Starbuck (Nantucket Island natives) would have fancied this lap of luxury.
Nantucket Lightship is a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard vessel expertly transformed into a luxury yacht residence. Now, it cruises onto the Boston real estate market, available for $5.2 million. If the idea of living on a house ship makes you sea sick, hold steady until you’ve come aboard the Nantucket.
Sea tested, Nantucket Lightship’s moniker rides waves based on its mission and locale. Commissioned in 1950, it patrolled the rough seas near the Golden Gate Bridge as San Francisco Lightship. In the early 1970s, it served as Portland Lightship I at the gateway to Portland, Maine (alternating shifts with its companion, Portland Lightship II).
As Nantucket Lightship (WLV-612), it protected coastal and trans-Atlantic shipping from the hazards of Nantucket Shoals (dangerously shallow areas 45 miles southeast of Nantucket Island where ships risked running aground). From 1975 to 1983 her beacon lights warned incoming mariners and flashed promise of a better life for immigrants headed to America’s shores. Such perilous duty made headlines in 1934 when the RMS Olympic (RMS Titanic’s companion ship) accidentally rammed ancestor Nantucket Lightship (LV-117) in heavy fog, sinking the lightship and killing seven crew members.
“Our Nantucket Lightship (WLV-612) joined previous Nantucket Lightships in saving hundreds of ships from sinking in the graveyard of the North Atlantic and in saving thousands of lives as its beacons of hope provided millions of European immigrants with their first welcome to America,” says current owner William Golden.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Vice President George H.W. Bush was aboard this ship in 1983 when the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, an international crisis that inspired the worldwide civilian GPS system. Known as a “Guardian Angel” of the North Atlantic,” it was decommissioned in 1985, the last on-call lightship in the United States. Nantucket Lightship’s busy civilian duties included a 2009 memorial ceremony in honor of late Senator Ted Kennedy. Following the senator’s death, the ship flashed its beacon at the senator’s favorite sailboat, docked near the Kennedy family compound.
In 2000, William and Kristen Golden rescued Nantucket Lightship from a planned scrap heap—purchasing it on eBay for $126,100 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Then, they invested millions restoring the ship into what’s considered a new model of historic maritime preservation.
Over three years, they designed and built the ship’s custom mahogany interiors, electrical, plumbing and operating equipment. This includes a new engine, new generators, new hydraulics, pneumatic operating controls, modern GPS navigation equipment and auto pilot—upgrades that make the Nantucket Lightship safer, more reliable, and more economical to operate than when it was a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, says Golden (known as “Bill”). Even the lightship’s masts, spars, crow’s nest, fog horns and beacons were preserved.
“The Nantucket Lightship is such a unique property, with its rich maritime history, show-stopping bright red hull, and spacious and meticulously appointed interior,” says Golden. “It’s a home where luxury, comfort and history are combined.”
Currently docked at Commercial Wharf in Boston, Nantucket Lightship weighs 421 ITC, boasting 360-degree views, 4,000 square feet of living space, and a 2,000-square-foot exterior entertaining deck with a “platform for a band or opera singer.”
Beautified with exotic hardwood interiors, the ship features six staterooms (all with en-suite bathrooms and tiled showers), den, entertainment room, office, main salon and elegant dining room. There’s a professional galley kitchen “suitable for contemporaneous collaboration of three chefs, all in an eight-zone climate control interior,” says Golden.
“My wife and co-owner Kristen created the interior architecture and design, and she served as general contractor over a two-year period to create one of the most luxurious handcrafted yachts in the world within the preserved exterior of one of the most historic ships in the world,” says Golden.
The Goldens lived (and raised their son Braden) on Nantucket Lightship for nearly 20 years. Their feet weren’t always on solid ground, but the family’s sea legs are strong. They live adventurously, harboring no regrets for their unconventional luxury lifestyle—exhibiting the same free spirit as Ahab, Starbuck and all those brave U.S. Coast Guard captains who commanded lightships into dangerous territory.
“We have delighted in preserving the lightship as a historic manifestation of the maritime lifesaving tradition where lightship crew risked [all] to save the lives of people they didn’t know,” says Golden. “The preservation of these values and the iconic strength, independence and resolute determination of the ship and her mission has attracted a variety of accomplished visitors and guests and has inspired generations of children.”
The Goldens regularly chartered the ship to celebrities (Stevie Nicks, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Janelle Monáe); authors (Nate Philbrick and James Bradley); corporations (BMW, BBC, Givenchy); and inquisitive deep sea explorers (Jean-Michel Cousteau, Barry Clifford, Nate Philbrick). The couple has even served aboard as Port Captains between charters.
After two decades on Nantucket Lightship, the Goldens are moving on to another purchased lightship (of course). The couple is planning Act 2: another renovation and more adventures on the high seas, just like characters in classic adventure novels—Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.
As they await a buyer, their precious Nantucket Lightship will cruise off to another sunset, fading into a horizon of fantastical memories—sailing, whale watching, Caribbean swashbuckling, who knows? Every sea story is doused with some hyperbole, right?
“Prospective buyers of the ship are individuals who want a waterfront home that allows them to live anywhere in the world, being a show-stopper at every port of call,” says Josie McKenzie of Douglas Elliman Real Estate who has the listing. “They’re corporations that wish to develop a waterfront commercial venture and/or expand their existing waterfront footprint, such as restaurants, hotels, casinos.
“A corporation may also purchase to use as a venue for conferences and to entertain clients and key partners,” McKenzie adds. “The lightship could also serve as a committee boat or a mark for local sail boat races, regattas and iron man contests. Other prospective buyers are maritime museums, event production companies and yacht charter companies.”
The possibilities for a lightship are endless. So are the adventures—and the horizon views.