Ship lends ghostly history to Paddlefest

CINCINNATI - Every Halloween, costume-up, climb into their kayaks and paddle across the Ohio River to "the Ghost Ship." But you can do it any time conditions permit.

As yet, no ghosts have been sighted. But the large vessel, at 183 feet long, is a sight to see and carries a fascinating history.

It was built in 1902 by a Wilmington, Delaware shipyard and launched as the "Celt", a private yacht. The U.S. Navy acquired it in 1917 for war patrol and it was re-christened the "Sachem." Two years later, it was returned to its owner.

It was sold a couple times and converted to a fishing boat. The war and the Navy called again in 1942 and it was commissioned as the U.S.S. "Phenakite."

In 1945, it returned to its original owner, Jake Martin, and once again become the "Sachem."

It was sold to the Circle Line of New York City and employed to provide tours around Manhattan Island as the "Sightseer." It would then be renamed the "Circle Line V." The ship disappeared in 1984 and maritime historians assumed it was scrapped.

A few years ago, some members of were kayaking the Ohio River near Lawrenceburg, Ind. They crossed to the Kentucky side and paddled up a creek, only to be surprised by finding a huge steel ship aground.

It became the destination of some club paddling events and photos were posted on the web. This led to it coming to the attention of a maritime historian who was quite excited that they had found the long-lost ship.

The account of how it came to rest there is unverified. But, it is said that a local man bought it from the Circle Line and transported it through the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi and up the Ohio to refurbish it. The restoration never occurred.

While it was never restored to its original grandeur, it still provides enjoyable viewing and a genuine slice of naval history. The easiest way to paddle to it is to launch at the Tanners Creek ramp, just west of Lawrenceburg, Ind. Paddle down the short distance to the Ohio River and cross to the Kentucky side. Be alert, as there is powerboat and barge traffic. Go upstream about a quarter mile and the creek's mouth will be on your right. The "Ghost Ship" is a couple hundred yards up the creek.

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