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Greenock Leading Lights

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Leading lights pictured in 2009, Fox
Leading lights pictured in 2009

Greenock leading lights lie at the end of Madeira Street on Greenock Esplanade, and are part of a larger network set up to provide safe navigation within the shipping channel in the Firth of Clyde.

The lights on the esplanade are used to mark a deep water anchorage in the Clyde known as "The Hole".

The front light is located on the shore side of the Esplanade, and mounted on top of a Corinthian column on a square pedestal, which was probably relocated there c. 1860 from Steamboat Quay (c. 1810), when the esplanade was created using material excavated to form the nearby Albert Dock.

The rear light is located in Madeira Street, mounted on top of a metal pole similar to a lamppost, unusually located in the roadside gutter, rather than on the footpath.

Survey maps c. 1900 show the location marked as Leading Lights (Fixed Red). The lights do not appear to be marked on later OS mapping, c. 2000.

Photographs taken prior to 2010 show the earlier rectangular housings on top of the two columns. Later photographs show these to have been replaced by cylindrical projector units.

The Hole

Information on the port of Greenock, and The Hole, or A4 anchorage, is provided by the US Naval Research Laboratory Marine Meteorology Division as follows:

  • Greenock (56°57.5'N, 004°45.9'W), is located on the south bank of the Firth of Clyde, near the entrance to the River Clyde.
  • In most cases, U. S. Navy ships anchor N of the harbor in the "A" anchorages. The anchorages offer good holding in mud bottom. The "A4" anchorage, known as "the hole" (55°58.3'N, 004°46.1'W) offers particularly good holding.
  • There are 4 additional anchorages "B" anchorages 2.5 nm W.
  • The Greenock Ocean Terminal (length 376 m, draft 12.6 m but approach limit is 11.7 m) is available for a short term (24 - 36 hr) stopover.
  • Fleet landing is alongside the ocean terminal.
  • Four commercial tugs (ranging from 4 - 10 ton bollard) are available.
  • Pilotage is compulsory. Pilot pickup is at Cumbrae Island.
  • Maximum draft for vessels travelling up the River Clyde toward Glasgow is 8.5 m. The Erskine bridge height is 54.8 m.
    - US Naval Research Laboratory Marine Meteorology Division.[1]

Leading lights

Leading lights consist of two lights which form a lighted beacon which indicates the safe passage through a narrow, shallow or dangerous channel.

The beacon consists of a front light and a rear light, with the front light being position in front of, and below, the rear light. When the two lights are aligned vertically, as seen from a vessel in the channel, the vessel is on the correct bearing to navigate the channel safely.

Leading lights may also be referred to as range lights, a pattern of navigation lights, usually fixed ashore, and used by vessels to aid manoeuvring in narrow channels at night.

If the beacon is unlighted, then it is referred to as a transit.




1 Geographic Retrieved January 17, 2011.

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