In the Canadian Maritimes, boats are sometimes left to rest on mudflats as the tide drops. Occasionally I’ll see that here in mid-coast Maine, but nowhere near as frequently. It’s something that interests me, and I’ve painted it before, in Rising Tide at Wadsworth Cove.
On the last day of my Trans-Canada adventure, I painted two working boats resting in the Bay of Fundy. This painting was, I thought, unsalvageable—the only one I did on that trip that I couldn’t redeem. I had spent considerable time drafting, only to realize after I finished that the boat in the back appeared to be levitating.
Yesterday I realized that the boat seems to be levitating in my reference photo, too. I spent considerable time repainting the foreground to anchor it, only to conclude that the lobster boat is still floating. I have concluded that levitation is just a Canadian reality.
Fundy Ghost is the name of the foreground trawler, and it’s an odd choice. This nickname is sometimes applied to the most famous ghost ship of all time, the Mary Celeste. She was launched as Amazon in 1861 from a shipyard on Spencer’s Island in Nova Scotia. On her maiden voyage, her captain fell ill and died. She suffered a collision in the narrows off Eastport and rammed and sank a brig in the English Channel. In 1867, she was wrecked off Cape Breton Island and sold as salvage to an American. He went broke in the process of restoring her.
After a major refit, the Mary Celeste headed from New York to Genoa, Italy, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs. Briggs was an experienced sailor, an abstemious Christian, and a married man. He brought his wife and infant daughter along on the trip, leaving his school-aged son with relatives. His crew were all experienced sailors of good character.
Eight days after Mary Celeste left harbor, a Nova Scotian boat named Dei Gratia followed her out along the same route. Midway between the Azores and Portugal, it came upon the Mary Celeste moving erratically under partially-set sails. The ship was deserted, the binnacle damaged and the lazar and fore hatches left open. The small yawl that served as the boat’s lifeboat was missing. Everything pointed to an orderly emergency departure, but the Briggs family and crew were never heard from again.
With great difficulty, Dei Gratia brought the Mary Celeste into Gibraltar. Salvage hearings found no evidence of piracy, fraud, or foul play.
Eventually, Mary Celeste returned to New York, where her bad reputation caught up with her. After rotting on the docks until 1874, she went into the West Indies trade. She regularly lost money. In 1879, her captain, Edgar Tuthill, fell ill and died in Saint Helena.
In 1884, a group of Boston shippers filled the Mary Celeste with junk and heavily insured her. Her captain, Gilman C. Parker, deliberately ran her aground in Haiti. Parker made the mistake of selling the salvage rights for $500 to the American consul, who promptly reported that the cargo was, in fact, worthless. The conspirators in Boston were arrested. Parker was additionally charged with the capital crime of barratry. He died three months later, the last victim of the cursed ghost ship of the Bay of Fundy.