In the mid-1700s superstitions were quickly spread and easily believed. One such superstition referred to sailing ships. It was believed that it was bad luck for a woman to be on a ship as it sailed. There is a tale that some beliefs supports this credence.
On February 13, 1748, a three mast schooner called the Lady Lovibond left port for a leisurely sail along the Thames River near Kent, England with the final destination of Oporto, Portugal. The captain, Simon Reed, had just been married and brought his new wife, Annetta, with him for a honeymoon voyage.
The crew were below decks celebrating with the new bride and groom except for the Bosun and First Mate, John Rivers. Although Rivers had served his captain as best man at the wedding, he was also in love with the beautiful bride. The more he thought of her, the more jealous he became until finally, unable to bear his anger any longer he decided to take action. The ship was passing a notorious stretch of the English Channel called the Goodwin Sands.
The Goodwin Sands is a nine-mile stretch between Kingsdown, Kent and Pegwell Bay and is still one of the most dangerous passages of the English Channel. The conditions change so quickly it can be observed as the tides change and sediment moves around as the water passes through the Straits of Dover. Some believe it was once an island, but there has been no geological evidence to support this theory.
During low tide, as much as a tenth of the total area can be exposed and one can walk on the sediment. There have even been cricket matches played on the Goodwin Sands. Over one thousand wrecks have been recorded in this area since 1298, and the area has become a virtual ship’s graveyard.
Frequently when ships attempt to sail through at high tide, the sediment quickly moves about and sucks the ship down into the Sands with the stern only partially supported. This leads to the ship’s back being broken and unable to sail once the tide comes back in. The entire ship is engulfed with great loss of life.
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Two specific shipwrecks can be sighted at low tide – the “North Eastern Victory” and the “Luray Victory”, two American cargo ships that were wrecked in 1946.
As the Lady Lovibond passed through the area Rivers attacked the Bosun and took over the ship. He intentionally steered the ship onto the Goodwin Sands destroying the ship and killing everyone aboard.
Exactly fifty years to the day after the Lady Lovibond was destroyed the captain of the ship “Edenbridge” recorded in his log that he had almost collided with a schooner with three masts. He reported sounds of a celebration coming from the ship as it broke up. A rescue team was dispatched but could find no sign of the ship or its passengers.
Another fifty years passed and again on the 13th of February locals saw a three masted schooner head toward the Sands. Again, no evidence of wreckage was found.
In 1848 the same ship was reported to have been seen breaking up in the very same area with no shipwreck in sight.
The last report was filed in 1948 by Captain Bull Preswick. He was convinced he saw an actual ship that was described as the Lady Lovibond but was surrounded by a green glow as it entered the Sands.
The folktales of the ghost ship created so much attention that many curious onlookers made their way to the Sands in 1998 to catch a glimpse of the legendary ship but were all disappointed when no ship appeared.
Were the tales made up to entertain the gullible or were the reports made by people who actually believed they saw the Lady Lovibond on its way to its watery grave every fifty years? Researchers George Behe and Michael Goss believe the stories were a Valentine’s Day invention and were simply legends conceived to entertain.
We have only thirty-three years to wait before we can be sure.