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Historic lightship and former nightclub Inner Dowsing moored at Medway Bridge Marina turned into Airbnb

The oldest surviving wooden lightship is about to embark on the next chapter of her colourful life - as an Airbnb.

Moored on the banks of the River Medway near Rochester, the Inner Dowsing has been thrown a lifeline by a couple who have spent the last six months painstakingly restoring her to her former glory.

Jeremy Lyons and Eunha Ru on board the Inner Dowsing lightship
Jeremy Lyons and Eunha Ru on board the Inner Dowsing lightship

The grand old vessel, which still has the same wooden hull and floorboard from when she was built in 1840, spent the first 45 years as an active lightship, her beacon guiding boats through difficult waters.

She was decommissioned in 1945 and bought by a yacht club in Benfleet, Essex, before moving to Medway Bridge Marina at Borstal in 1983.

From there she was launched into a new era as a private members’ club and nightclub venue hosting parties and functions.

Between 1989 and 2008 she opened as a bar and restaurant and in 2009 Lightship 16, as she became known, was sold and renovated to provide accommodation.

The last owner suffered ill-health and his family were forced to put her on the market.

Cabin bedroom on lightship
Cabin bedroom on lightship

The Inner Dowsing, named after an early mooring off the Lincolnshire coast, could have easily been destined to a watery grave in the shadow of the M2 motorway bridge.

But she was snapped up by music teacher Jeremy Lyons, 48, and his wife Eunha Ru, 46, for just £100,000.

They moved in from their home yards away in Manor Lane with their three children, Joshua, 14, Ethan, 10, and four-year-old Harriette.

The couple have done much of the painting and restoration themselves since picking up the keys at the beginning of this year.

But they have had to bring in skilled trades workers to carry out the electrics, plumbing and heating.

Ahoy there! On board lightship holiday home
Ahoy there! On board lightship holiday home

The top deck has been transformed into two-bedroom cabins with en-suite bathrooms, decorated in a nautical, "but not too boatey" theme created by Eunha.

They have panoramic views across to Rochester, where the castle and cathedral can be seen, and to the North Downs valley. Stunning sunsets can be enjoyed on the seated decking area.

Down below, a new kitchen has been installed where continental breakfast will be served to guests.

It's also where the family-of-five have made their cosy home with a log-burner and piano for Jeremy to keep up his practice.

The couple, who met in London where Jeremy was at university and Eunha was in the UK to study English, made Northern Ireland their first home after getting married.

Eunha Ru - relaxing on top deck
Eunha Ru - relaxing on top deck

Eunha said: "Jeremy is from there, but we both had always wanted to return to England and about two-and-a-half years ago during lockdown, we thought let's do it.”

They came over for a holiday combined with house-hunting, focusing their search on the south east.

Eunha said they both “fell in love" with Rochester and moved into their home in Borstal, the two youngest children settling into the village school and the oldest gaining a place at Rochester Math.

She said: "When Jeremy told me there was a boat for sale at the marina, I said 'and?' We both came to see it and knew immediately it was for us.

Nautically-themed cabins have ensuite bathrooms
Nautically-themed cabins have ensuite bathrooms

"It was all that wood and the history."

They have spent around £100,000 doing the ship up and are now hoping to recoup the money on their new bed and breakfast business, welcoming up to four guests at a time.

She said: "It was so cold when we moved in and there was so much work to do. It's been very hard but we are now very excited to be inviting people into our home,"

For Jeremy, the past six months have been a "labour of love".

He said: "I could spend the rest of my life working on this."

Eunha said: "When we told our families here we had bought a boat, they were surprised.

"Now they can't wait to visit.

“It's such a community here at the marina. We have been made very welcome and everyone is wishing us the best of luck.”

A night's stay at the Inner Dowsing costs £150.

The ship is listed in the National Historic Fleet. One of her former lamps is now located at the front door of the Greenwich Maritime Museum in London.

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