Learn about This Unusual Sailors' Craft
Lightships are an unusual part of Nantucket's maritime history: ships that functioned as floating lighthouses, strategically moving to provide critical light to ships in dark waters. As the crew found extra time on their hands, they took up basket making. The wooden bases were made on shore and the weaving took place once on board the ship. The ships remained active through the early 1900s, but the government decided the sailors were moonlighting by making the baskets and it was no longer allowed while on duty. At that time, basket making returned to the island—there are still several artists with loyal patrons supporting the art form. The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum exhibits and documents a wide range of lightship baskets, from the earliest forms created in the 1850s to present-day versions. They are unique to Nantucket and are regarded as prized collector's pieces, sometimes commanding upwards of $5,000 each!
By Alison Abbott, AFAR Local Expert
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49 Union St, Nantucket, MA 02554, USA
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