Lightships, Lighthouses, and Lifeboat Stations
A Memoir and History
Bernie Webber, hero of Disney movie, The Finest Hours and bestselling book Lightships, Lighthouses and Lifeboat Stations is part history book, part memoir, written by Bernie Webber, recipient of the Coast Guard's highest award, the Gold Life-saving Medal, and hero of the Disney movie The Finest Hours. While the public will recognize Webber's name from the movie and the bestselling book by the same name, few people know that during his lengthy Coast Guard career he served on lightships (ships anchored in dangerous areas to warn other vessels of hazards) in addition to lifeboat stations (small boat rescue stations) and lighthouses. Webber poses the following question: "How did the lightship men cope with the isolation, constant loneliness, boredom, fear, or just sheer terror? All were part of life on board a lightship. Rough seas tossed the ship about, rearing up and down the anchor chain. This was a world of isolation, noise from operating machinery, and blasts from the powerful foghorn that went on for hours, sometimes days, at a time." Webber answers that question in this book, drawing on a combination of personal experience and meticulous historical research. Discussions of men going mad, lightships being run down by larger ships, anchor chains breaking, and lightships cast upon shoals are offset with humorous stories and the author's reflections on his best days at sea. Webber also explains some of the heroic actions of a few lightship men over the years, and points out that they received no recognition at the time. The isolation these men faced was intense, but they learned to make do with what they had. Fourteen historic photos are included, as well as a Foreword by Michael Tougias.
Bernie made only one request of me before he died, and that was to get published his memoir about lightships. -- Michael Tougias, master of the weather-related disaster book and author of The Finest Hours and Rescue of the Bounty: Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy.
REVIEWS and WORDS OF PRAISE
See Canadian Nautical Research Society book review in The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, Volume XXX, Number 1 (Spring 2020), Bernie Webber. Lightships, Lighthouses and Lifeboat Stations. (p. 207-08)
About the Author
Bernard C. Webber (1928-2009) was a United States Coast Guardsman. Webber and his crew of three saved 32 of the 33 Pendleton's crewmen who were on the stern section of the ship. All four Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroic actions. Their successful rescue operation has been noted as one of the greatest in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. The bestselling book published in 2009, "The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue," by Michael J. Tougias was based on the Pendleton rescue. The "USCGC Bernard C. Webber," a 154 foot Coast Guard Cutter commissioned on 14 April 2012, was named in his honor. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures released The Finest Hours movie on January 29th, 2016.
Michael J. Tougias is the author of the bestselling book, The Finest Hours (with Casey Sherman), as well as, A Storm Too Soon, Overboard!, Fatal Forecast, and Ten Hours Until Dawn. He is a sought-after lecturer who gives more than seventy presentations a year. He lives in Massachusetts.