From 1930 to 1965, the Lightship Frying Pan, a floating lighthouse, guarded ships from the danger of running aground on the shoals 30 miles off of the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
A total of 179 lightships were built for the US Coast Guard (originally the US Lighthouse Service) between 1820 and 1983. By 1985 all of the lightships that had faithfully protected 116 locations in US waters had been replaced by much cheaper navigational buoys or off shore light towers. Most of the entire fleet was scrapped for parts and materials. The Frying Pan is one of only fifteen lightships that remain. Most are in museum collections, like the Ambrose at South Street Seaport in Manhattan, a few are privately owned and kept for personal use.
For all the ships the Frying Pan saved from the watery depths of the sea, it is ironic that she herself sank while docked in the Chesapeake Bay. After spending three years submerged, the Frying Pan was resurfaced by salvors and sold to it’s current owners. The ship was emptied of tons of shells and silt and the exterior of the ship was repaired for seaworthiness. However, the interior has been left rusted and barnacle encrusted to acknowledge her unique and curious past. Among the relics remaining aboard the ship are a cabinet full of jars containing small preserved creatures and a piano.
The Frying Pan is currently docked next to a bar that shares its name and can be easily boarded and explored by the bar’s patrons.