Below is an excerpt from my second title with History Press.Legends and Lore is an expanded version of a small book I published in 2000. It was popular and I reprinted it and decided to expand the tales so this one has yachting, legendary Lake Ontario fish and other stories.
Ghostly apparitions often seem to associate with a physical object or location-old houses, 19th century stone fortresses or historic ships have all attracted supernatural entities. One rarely hears of a haunted office building though. Dark, shadowed, and maybe a bit musty is more in keeping with the preferred neighborhood of the uneasy entities of the spirit world. Nor have I heard of very many haunted yachts. Possibly the relationship between pleasure boats and their deceased owners is rarely intense enough to bring ghost captains and crews back to their old vessels. But I have heard of a few haunted yachts. One year an old wooden cabin cruiser about thirty foot or so showed up at the Clayton Antique Boat show. Back aft sat a somewhat incongruous rocking chair, the favored spot for a long departed former owner when aboard. The boat's current caretaker claimed that even when the boat had been motionless in calm water at her dock for many hours, the chair would rock, as if the elderly deceased skipper was still enjoying a visit aboard his beloved yacht.
I, too, am associated with an old wooden boat, a gaff rigged schooner. She isn't haunted as far as we know, but she did once give us cause to wonder about the possibility. She looks like a good candidate for harboring a restless shade with her black hull, wooden deadeyes, antique hardware and archaic rig. And at the time “musty” was a reasonable description of her condition below decks.
The first time we sailed her upon the calm waters of the lake on a gentle warm early summer morning, we heard a strange slightly plaintive murmuring sound from aloft. It sounded like chords softly drawn from a cello's lower register. We gazed aloft and pondered the strangely evocative harmonies and wondered, was some far off trio of old sailors having a glass together in a celestial tavern and singing a lament for a departed shipmate? “It's the new leather on the gaff jaws breaking in,” declared a pragmatic guest. But the boat's two owners, thinking of their yacht's eventful and at times troubled past, looked at each other and smiled.
cobwebs go with haunted yachts pretty well!
A few years before my association with the schooner, I heard a haunted boat story from a gentleman tied up at the dock in Cape Vincent with his fiberglass sloop. He was originally from Britain and claimed to be a bit 'fey' as he offered this tale of a fellow yachtsman's strange end. There once was a pair of good sailing friends who often with their wives and families cruised their yachts in company around the lake. But it seems that one skipper was cheating on his first mate by fooling around with the other wife. One day the faithless skipper and his spouse were anchored at Cedar Island in the St Lawrence near Kingston. They decided to take a stroll around the granite rocks before settling back in the cockpit for happy hour. Alas, the skipper slipped and fell twenty feet landing on a huge outcrop of rock to die instantly of a broken neck.
Not long after that his good friend was sailing alone aboard his own yacht on a warm star lit night off Simco Island when he saw the deceased skipper step aboard over the life lines. Another time he encountered his one time companion below decks in the galley. And several times he saw the apparition sitting quietly in the cockpit looking out over the lake. Not until the dead skipper’s wife also had a heart attack and passed on did the specter finally stop his night visits. As my informant put it “He never came back after she died. I guess they’re together now.”