HUNDREDS of holidaymakers and locals watched a local landmark leave Hartlepool Bay 43 years ago this week.
The former National Coal Board drilling rig, a familiar sight from the town, was destined to become a light tower off the Linolnshire coast.
The 215ft tower was being towed on pontoons by two Tyneside tugs, watched by crowds at Seaton Carew and the Headland.
As soon as Trinity House officials heard forecasts for weather during the upcoming days were fine and the sea calm, preparations began for the slow 110-mile voyage to Inner Dowsing, six miles off Skegness.
The rig made its stately progress across the bay on two 170ft pontoons, with the speed being kept down because the huge tower was said to be “rather awkward”.
The tower had been used for drilling operations off the Durham coast to assess undersea coal reserves.
Trinity House bought the rig the previous year and it was converted into a light tower at Hartlepool’s West Harbour.
One of the main alterations was the removal of the drilling rig and fitting of a light on the platform.
The light tower used was taken from the decommissioned lightship LV-87, built in 1932, the remainder of which was sold to Haven Ports Yacht Club, in Ipswich, which has used the vessel as its club ship ever since.
A spokesman for Trinity House told the Mail he was very glad the tower had finally left port, after a long wait for the right weather window, but he added it seemed strange to look over the docks and not see the tower.
Under the watchful eyes aboard Trinity House vessels Mermaid and Stella, the 650-ton tower safely reached Inner Dowsing, where it was manned by three keepers until 1991, when it was deactivated and removed.
Seafarers are now kept safe by a light installed on the B1D gas drilling platform nearby.
Do you have any memories of the tower you would like to share with other readers?
Contact Andrew Levett by emailing email@example.com or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.