Ghost Boats

A lengthy article about the recovery of an early twentieth century river boat and its possible link to tragic drownings and heroic rescues reminded me of another “ghost ship” from the past. In 1986, while fishing west of Key West, we came across a shrimp boat awash on the Cottrell Key reef. Its nets were still hung on the booms, and there was no one in sight.
It’s hard to describe what an eerie thing it is to come across an empty boat in the ocean, much less a 65-foot vessel abandoned in the middle of one of your favorite flats. I wanted to board the vessel but thought better of it. (Having clients on board saved me from doing more than one stupid thing over the years.)
Turns out that the night before, the mate had murdered the captain in the pilot house. The Coast Guard came out later that day to find the walls covered in blood. The mate arrested in another state a few weeks later and sent back to Key West for trial.
living_and_dying.jpgThe boat itself slowly broke apart and was taken away by the sea — much like the old trawler that gave Jimmy Buffet his set piece for the 1974 album “Living & Dying In 3/4 Time.” Ironically, that wreck — called the “Good Luck” — was only a mile away and in the middle of one of the best permit flats in the world.

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