The USCGC Barbara Mabrity (WLM 559), a Keeper-class coastal buoy tender of the United States Coast Guard is scheduled to arrive in Key West on February 5, 2024, for a working port visit. Docking at Truman Waterfront Park, the crew will host free public tours on February 6 and 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Key West Art & Historical Society is also planning a series of events to mark the ship’s stopover.
Named for nineteenth century Key West lighthouse keeper Barbara Mabrity, the 175-foot ship was commissioned in 1999 and is home-ported in Mobile, Alabama. USCGC Barbara Mabrity is the ninth of the fourteen keeper class buoy tenders built by Marinette Marine Corporation during the 1990s. The cutters are named for famous lighthouse keepers of the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the Coast Guard. These technologically advanced cutters take advantage of state-of-the-art electronics and control systems including dynamic positioning system capable of maintaining the vessels positions within five yard in 20 knots of wind and 4 knots of current. USCGC Barbara Mabrity services aids to navigation from the St. Marks River in northern Florida to south central Louisiana including the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge south to the mouth of the river. Other missions include Marine Environmental Protection and Search and Rescue.
“We are delighted to welcome USCGC Barbara Mabrity to Key West to celebrate a quarter of a century of the ship in service and the 160th anniversary of Barbara’s retirement from the U.S. Lighthouse Service,” says Dr. Cori Convertito, curator and historian for the Society. “Due the grueling physical labor involved in operating lighthouses, female keepers were nearly unheard of in the male-dominated field. Not only it is incredible to honor Barbara for her thirty-eight years of service at both Key West lighthouses, the Society is also grateful to the ship for agreeing open for public tours.”
Barbara Mabrity was the keeper of original Key West Light from its first lighting in 1826 to 1846 when it was destroyed by a powerful hurricane. During that hurricane the tower collapsed and twelve people, including some of Mabrity’s children were injured or killed. When the present-day tower opened two years later, she returned in the same capacity until 1864 when she retired from the service at the age of 82.