On their journey back to the Lightship, a large wave swamped the liberty boat. Gullickson endeavored to bail the water out, but the boat sank. They floated for forty-five minutes in their life jackets, talking and holding hands, blowing whistles trying to hail a tugboat and a freighter that passed--all to no avail. After a wave separated them, Gullickson made the decision to swim to shore to get help. The water temperature was 47° F, and hypothermia had already set in as he struck out for shore. It was his last decision. At noon the lightship radioed the station to find out why the sailors had not returned. The station immediately dispatched another boat that found CS Disch at 1:07 p.m. in semi-conscious condition with his arms raised ready to slip from his life jacket into the cold depths of Lake Huron. Amazingly he survived, but Bob Gullickson’s body was never found. He was the only crewman lost during the thirty-five years the Lightship guided freighters safely into the narrow channel leading to St. Clair River.
On October 28, 2000, as guests were eating dinner at the Thomas Edison Inn in Port Huron, two couples overheard a discussion at an adjacent table about their tour to the Huron Lightship Museum. They interrupted to say that their cousin had served aboard that ship but had drowned while on duty. The other group asked if his name was Bob. They were astonished. How did they know? There is a memorial to him on his bunk, they were told, with a U.S Flag, the history of the event and a new plaque in his memory.
Two days before Veterans Day, 2000, Robert Gullickson’s sister, Carol Von Kampen came aboard the Lightship with his dress uniform and presented it to the Museum volunteers in memory of her brother. “I was very moved,” she said upon seeing the memorial. “It’s very emotional to see this 42 years later. It’s a beautiful tribute.” The crew held a small service, then Ms. Von Kampen was escorted to the pilothouse, where a full master’s salute was issued from the ship’s whistle: Three long and two short blasts resounded over St. Clair River and out into Lake Huron.
Day is done / Gone the sun / From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. / All is well, safely rest: / God is nigh.
The first vessel to be designated Huron Lightship was LV-61, which served at the station from September 25, 1893 until 1920, when it was condemned and then sold at auction the next year. During the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, which saw eight vessels founder on Lake Huron with the loss of nearly 200 sailors, LV-61 was driven ashore at Point Edward, Ontario.
LV-96 was designated Huron Lightship in 1921 and served at that station until 1935. LV-96 began its career as Buffalo Lightship in 1914, but in 1915 was sent to Poe Reef in the Straits of Mackinac and marked that hazard through 1920. LV-96 ended its service by serving at Cross Rip Lightship Station in Massachusetts from 1937 to 1954.
Length overall 97 ft.; Beam 24 ft.; Draft 9 ft. 6 in.; Displacement 310 tons (in fresh water); Mushroom anchor weight 3 tons; Dilok chain link weight 14 lbs.; Maximum ship speed 8 knots; Mast height above waterline (lantern mast) 52 ft. 6 in.; Keel laid in1918 by Consolidated Shipbuilding Company, Morris Heights (Bronx), New York. Maintained by Volunteers of the Huron Lightship Museum; owned by the City of Port Huron, and supported financially by the Lake Huron Lore Marine Society.