Prentice Pendleton and the Ghost Ship: The Dead Ship of Harpswell

In the early 19th century (that's the early 1800s), the United States which was still in it's infant stage, did not have a very strong Navy. In fact, we barely had a navy at all. Other than smacking around the Barbary Pirates of North Africa, America didn't have any power sailing the open seas. So, when the Royal Navy started harassing American merchant vessels by boarding them, stealing their cargo and stealing their crew there wasn't much the United States Navy could do. Yes, the English took American sailors from these ships and forced them to become part of the Royal Navy. The practice was called impressment. England was busy with their heavy weight title bout with France throughout  the Napoleonic Wars. They were in desperate need of sailors so they began the impressment of ships throughout the world. It was very effective. In roughly ten years, the Royal Navy went from 10,000 sailors to 140,000. 

President's Jefferson and Madison were not happy about this. Because the US Navy couldn't deal with the might of the Royal Navy (yet), they turned to civilian merchant ships to counter the English on the ocean. These ships were called Privateers. They were often smaller and faster merchant ships that could harass, attack and outrun the bigger British vessels. 

One such ship was The Dash. It was a schooner built in Maine and sailed under the command of Captain John Porter. She was tasked with harassing the British navy and she was good at it. She was sleek and fast with good amount guns installed on the ship. Some of the guns were actually fake which fooled many of the ships she fought. 

She was known for her victories. The Dash captured fourteen English ships during her time as a Privateer. She was so successful, the British put a bounty on her and her crew. They were ordered out in January 1815, on a Friday which sailors don't like. She, along with another ship, The Chamberlain. As they left Freeport, Maine a storm was brewing out in the ocean. The Chamberlain turned back but the Dash did not. She was never seen again.....well, at least not with crew on board. 

Soon after her disappearance, local ships swore they seen the ship bearing down on them through the mist and fog. The reports were the words "Dash" were on the bow. More and more sighting began to occur and all of them detailed on creepy fact. Despite there being no wind or even a slight breeze, the ship moved fast. It appeared to glide above the water and against the tide without making a sound. 

A legend began to grow. Once a a family of the crew member passed away, the ship would appear to claim the body and carry that family member to the afterlife. You could write off many of these sighting to superstitious sailors of the nineteenth century for sure. We know many sailors throughout that time believed in strange legends and stories. 

But, what about members of the US Navy and Royal Navy from World War II. You see, the opening scene of the book actually did occur. German U-Boats were spotted in and out of American ports throughout WWII. The Royal Navy, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard would patrol the area searching for theses submarines. 

In Casco Bay, Maine a blip suddenly appeared on the radar screens of the navy ships. A call to battle stations went out and the Royal Navy actually did fire upon the vessel. Through the fog, sailors began to identify the ship as The Dash with name on the bow and all. How is that possible? The Royal naval vessel swears the round they fired should have destroyed the schooner but there was not a scratch on it. The rounds vanished through the ship. The subsequent investigation conducted by the US Navy, Royal Navy and US Coast Guard ruled it to be the Fog of War. An instance where the psychological effect a high stress moment of battle can make soldiers and sailors see things that aren't there. 

That is understandable. You can see where the soldiers of the sea can be so emotionally hyped and stressed out, they can misunderstand events on the water. It is understandable. However, before the events of that morning, a couple were picnicking off the coast of the bay when they witnessed the event. They watched as The Dash glided through the bay towards the well-armed navy vessels and they were close to the building where the Royal Navy shells landed ripping apart the bluff they were picnicking on. When asked what happened, Homer Grimm (one of the picnickers) told investigators he saw a tall ship not from the century floating towards the navy and he could see the name read "Dash". Well, you decide for yourself what happened.