The eye-catching, old-school Nantucket lightship floating at the North End’s Commercial Wharf is seemingly as historic as it is luxurious.
Its exterior remains true to its past. Its rooms inside are lined with wooden walls and equipped with modern appliances.
And it’s also as rare as the hulking landmark was critical when it kept vigilant watch off the shores of its namesake island decades ago.
The vessel, once stationed to alert Atlantic sea farers of the sandbar-laden waters between Nantucket and New York City, is among only 12 lightships still floating and, of that dozen, one of only two in private hands, according to its owner, William Golden.
“It creates perhaps the most comfortable and most authentic waterfront living experience in Boston or anywhere in the Northeast,” Golden, who has owned the ship at 55 Commercial Way with his wife, Kristen, for nearly 20 years, told Boston.com.
Those looking to try out their sea legs on a piece of New England maritime history now have their chance: the six-bed, 4,000-square-foot vessel is on the market with a $5.2 million price tag.
An online listing from Douglas Elliman agent Josie McKenzie boasts a “gourmet kitchen,” master and guest bedrooms complete with “on-suite bathrooms with showers,” and ample living space.
Golden said the boat comes with a working beacon and fog horn, too.
Lightships first lined the shores of the Bay State in 1854. They helped direct sailors to their final destinations and safe haven ashore as they navigated treacherous Northeast waters, according to Golden.
They also offered the first glimpse of the United States to those traveling from across the globe to seek new opportunity.
“These beacons were the first welcoming to America for millions of immigrants,” he said.
The Goldens purchased their 128-foot ship for $126,100 in 2000, when the ship, taken out of service in 1983, was likely steering toward a scrap-metal future.
An extensive redesign spearheaded by Kristen Golden, an interior designer turned acting general contractor for the undertaking, had a 16-man crew tear open the military ship. They furnished its walls with oak, mahogany, and American cherry, transforming the vessel into a yacht, according to William Golden, an attorney and former state senator for the Norfolk and Plymouth district.
It was a major overhaul for a ship that dates back to 1950, when it was among the last built, he said. What would eventually become known here as the Nantucket lightship was first stationed in San Francisco, before it criss-crossed the country’s waters over the years, traveling through the Panama Canal twice — the only lightship to do so — before settling off the shore of the Massachusetts island, he said.
“They were built with a technology that wasn’t used in prior generation ships, so we have a structural integrity that didn’t exist in prior lightships,” Golden said.
In its second life, the Nantucket lightship offers a unique take on waterfront living in Boston, he said, recalling the words of a recent guest.
“‘I never felt so special in my life,’ and that’s exactly what they said,” Golden said. “I think that was because they felt connected on the ship. It’s an intimate environment … you feel like you’re together and you’re sharing an experience that takes you back to a different era, that surrounds you with the artifacts of that era.”
As the listing notes, its buyer has a few commercial options beyond its current residential use, including the potential for private charters, real estate development, or a museum.
Golden, whose family plans to take on fixing up another lightship, said he’s hopeful a buyer will station the Nantucket ship in Boston, perhaps among the shiny towers rising above the Seaport.
“I think that would be a way of really preserving the historic traditions of not only the ship but of Boston,” he said.