The United States had been independent less than 50 years, when it found itself again battling Britain in the War of 1812. England had been raiding American ships and even pressing sailors against their will to serve on English ships. The American Navy was aided by licensed private vessels that were captained by privateers who were authorized to detain and seize enemy ships and their goods. One of these ships was the Dash which sailed from Freeport, Maine, a merchant ship which was hurriedly outfitted with guns.
Around 1813, the Dash sailed from Maine captained by John Porter. She was considered one of the speediest ships, that could outpace any British vessel. She had 16 guns and ten fake "Quaker" wooden ones to intimidate the enemy even more. During those early years of the war she broke through blockades at Portland at least 3 times loaded down with lumber, and then sailed as far away as the West Indies to trade for coffee and sugar cane.
In 1814, she was officially tapped as a privateer, and was able to capture 14 enemy vessels without losing any of her crew.
Amidst the excitement and adventure of war, John Porter, met and fell in love with Lois Cushion, and in January 1815 when the Dash left port with the Chamberlain, another privateer, his wife was pregnant with their child. The slower Chamberlain trailed behind the Dash and when a strong gale was encountered, the Chamberlain returned to port. The Dash was never heard from again. It was at first speculated that she might have been captured by the English or worse that she ran aground on the treacherous shoals of the Georges Banks.
Within months of her disappearance the Dash was seen in Casco Bay, believed at first to have returned to Freeport, however she would eventually disappear. Fishermen and boaters frequently described seeing the ship appear out of the mist with name clearly appearing on her bow. Sightings of the ship always occurred during foggy weather.
The sighting of the Dash also seemed to coincide with the death of family members of the 60 crew members that sailed into oblivion, and it was believed they returned to accompany their loved ones into the great beyond.
Spotting the mystery ship will supposedly bring bad luck, or like the banshee it is an arbiter of death.
During WWII, two ships, one from the Navy, the other from the Coast Guard were patrolling Casco Bay during a foggy afternoon. Both ships saw a blip on the radar and they both speedily headed to the area, only to be thunderstuck to find a 19th century sailing schooner cruising along the channel headed for Freeport. Before they were able to reach it, it had disappeared.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer