The Light

What is a lightship?

A lighthouse that floats, it serves the same function such as:

  • A light to aid navigation at night
  • A horn to warn mariners in fog
  • A radio beacon for longer range identification

Lighting the way
The Overfalls main aid to navigation was a 375 mm dual electric lantern located 57 feet above the water line. Rated at 15,000 candle power, (approximately 1,000 watts), it flashed every 3 seconds from dusk until dawn. On a clear night it could be seen for 12 miles.

The ship also had a dual diaphone fog horn with a range of 5 miles that sounded every 30 seconds in foggy weather.

A radio beacon with a range of 25 miles transmitted the call letters of the ship (NMJF) in Morse code. In foggy weather it was synchronized with the horn and broadcast every 30 seconds.

Click here to see Overfalls' full specifications.

Click here to read the about the history of lightships.

We've Made It!

This site tells the story of the eleven-year project to save and preserve one of America’s maritime treasures.  It’s a story of tens of thousands of volunteer hours of dirty work bringing one of the few remaining lightships back from the brink of ruin and all of the behind the scenes tasks that made it a reality.  It’s a story of community support that maintained the momentum when any rational person would have thrown in the towel.  And, it’s how this infectious community support spread farther afield raising the $1.2 million necessary to complete the project,

Historic Landmark Lightship Overfalls
Lewes, Delaware

The Lightship Overfalls is one of only 17 remaining lightships out of a total of 179 built from 1820 to 1952.  Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011, it is one of seven lightships in this country still open to the public.  (What is a lightship, you ask?)

Ship News

• George Elliot (1937-2014)
Sadly we report that George Elliott, Captain, USN retired, passed away at home in his sleep Friday night October 17, 2014. George was a founding member of the Overfalls Foundation and leaves a legacy of leadership and dedication that will guide future generations of volunteers for the Overfalls Lightship Foundation. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family. Click here for the Cape Gazette obituary.

• Donate to Overfalls Through Your Amazon Purchases
When you shop at Amazon, through their AmazonSmile program, Amazon will donate a small percentage of your purchase to the Overfalls Foundation at no cost to you. Learn how to make this no cost donation every time you shop at Amazon or, if you already have an Amazon account, logon to AmazonSmile automatically.

• WHYY Overfalls Video
Click to watch WHYY's segment of how the Ship was saved including interviews with Tracy Mulveny and Bill Reader and footage of the Ship's “before” and “after” condition.

• DRBLF Sundowner Fundraiser Video
Click to watch the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation (DRBLF) Sundowner fundraiser for the benefit of repairing the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse dock.

Events & Happenings

• Public Presentation
Friday November 14, 7:30pm at St. Peters Hall
Bill Manthrope, Book Signing and Lecture: “The History of the Navy at Cape Henlopen”

Friday December 12, 7-9pm at The Inn at Canal Square, Lewes

• New Year's Eve Anchor Drop
Wednesday December 31, 11pm-12:30am at The Ship

• Public Speaker & Membership Meeting
Friday January 9, 7:30pm at St. Peters Hall
Speaker to be Announced.

• Public Speaker & Membership Meeting
Friday February 13, 7:30pm at St. Peters Hall
Marvin Barrash book signing and lecture on the disappearance of the U.S.S. Cyclops.

• Public Speaker & Membership Meeting
Friday March 13, 7:30pm at St. Peters Hall
Red Molineaux of the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation (click) speaking on the history and restoration progress of our Delaware Bay Lighthouses.

« Click here for our Calendar of Upcoming Events and Ship Activities »
St. Peters Hall is located at 211 Mulberry Street, Lewes DE

Presidents Message

Welcome to the Lightship Overfalls and our 16th summer season. The Overfalls Foundation welcomes all the new members who have joined us this spring.

The Memorial Day Weekend Opening Party and Auction was a resounding success and the American Lightship Museum is now open for tours on our regular 5 day a week schedule. We are fortunate to have several new ship guide and ship store volunteers. As the season heats up (no pun intended) we will find our guides sorely pressed, so additional guides and volunteers are still needed.

On June 4th, the new Stephanie Anne Pilot House Museum was dedicated as the American Lightship Museum. I encourage everyone to take a stroll through this historic space filled with lightship memorabilia. Members can stop in anytime we are open. Visitors will find this tour included in the $5 admission fee for adults.

The Overfalls Foundation members are known for their willingness to party and this year is no exception! We will have our first Sundowner at the Ship on June 25th from 5:30-7:30pm, a calypso night with delicious BBQ and steel drum music. Other Sundowners will be on July 23rd and August 20th. The August Sundowner will be a special fund raising evening for our friends at the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation. Our second annual Clambake will be on September 13th, on the eve of the Dragonboat Festival. Save the date now! Please check our website regularly for details and updates on all these events.

I hope you all will become a frequent visitors to our wonderful museum bringing friends and family along too. Have a wonderful summer!

Tracy Mulveny

Planned Giving Program

At the April 14 2013 Annual Breakfast meeting, Dave Bernheisel and Tracy Mulveny introduced the new Planned Living program. Learn more.

See our Business Members

Stay in Touch

The Big Lift and Beyond
by David Bernheisel
Purchase Here


Lightships - Floating Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic, by Wayne Kirklin
Purchase Here

Member Organizations