Undead at Sea

It’s summertime, season of beaches, ocean, and ghost ships.

Twenty-something years ago I traveled the Caribbean on a forty-foot, eighteenth century designed schooner with some girlfriends and an Italian Captain named Gianni, also known as Son-of-the-Sea. A nickname earned by his ability to woo oceanic creatures and single handedly manage a four man ship.

Captain Gianni

We sailed the American Virgin Islands starting in St. Croix, visiting St. Thomas, and finally anchoring in an isolated cove off the shore of St. John, a breathtaking unspoiled rock.


Wasn’t smooth sailing either, we pushed through a soul-refining storm determined to feed us to Poseidon, skipped daily showers to conserve water, and rationed meals, just in case. We also watched tear jerking sunsets while Italian opera blared in the background, observed the Son-of-the-Sea partake in games of tag with schools of barracuda, and slept under a zillion diamond chips sparkling in the pitch black sky. One of the best experiences of my life.

Nikka and I couldn’t get enough of the salt-scented breeze, so we slept on deck. Everyone else snoozed in the cabin. There we were, anchored and silent in REM.


Sometime in the middle of the night, bells chimed. I opened my eyes. Another sailboat anchored nearby. As I crawled from my dreams, I noticed a crew of men descending the vessel onto a dingy, which then headed in our direction.

My skin numbed. I sprung up and screamed, “Gianni! Gianni!”

Nikka woke up, spotted the sea thugs, and yelled, “No!”

Within seconds Captain Gianni emerged. “Lorelei, what is it?”

“Pirates!” I turned and pointed at…nothing. The ship, the dingy, the terrifying crew had all vanished.

Nikka’s mouth fell open. She stumbled to the side of the boat in disbelief.

Captain Gianni nodded and said, “You two witnessed a ghost ship. They’re common.”

Even stranger, Nikka and I had identical sightings and described in specific detail the dark bandana around one guy’s neck and the thick, brillo like mustache of another. Truth be told, when we realized what had happened, it was exhilarating.

Years later, in fact, not long ago, I attended a fundraiser with my husband. The speaker, the brave and engaging Captain Phillips, had inspired a movie of the same name about his endurance during a hostile pirate siege. He shared several stories.

Captain Phillips1

Naturally, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to discuss ghost ships. The abandoned but tangible vessels wrapped in seaweed, floating wherever the wind blew, and those of a supernatural form, spontaneously visible beyond the veil that divides life and the unsettled dead.


Interested in connecting? Find links on my website: loreleibuckley.com

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