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The Lady Lovibond: The ghost ship that reappears every 50 years

Nick Knight

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.

Lady Lovibond

Lady Lovibond

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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