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Storm Ship Of The Hudson


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

It was noised about New Amsterdam, two hundred years ago, that a round
and bulky ship flying Dutch colors from her lofty quarter was careering
up the harbor in the teeth of a north wind, through the swift waters of
an ebbing tide, and making for the Hudson. A signal from the Battery to
heave to and account for herself being disregarded, a cannon was trained
upon her, and a ball went whistling through her cloudy and imponderable
mass, for timbers she had none. Some of the sailor-folk talked of mirages
that rose into the air of northern coasts and seas, but the wise ones put
their fingers beside their noses and called to memory the Flying
Dutchman, that wanderer of the seas whose captain, having sworn that he
would round Cape Horn in spite of heaven and hell, has been beating to
and fro along the bleak Fuegian coast and elsewhere for centuries, being
allowed to land but once in seven years, when he can break the curse if
he finds a girl who will love him. Perhaps Captain Vanderdecken found
this maiden of his hopes in some Dutch settlement on the Hudson, or
perhaps he expiated his rashness by prayer and penitence; howbeit, he
never came down again, unless he slipped away to sea in snow or fog so
dense that watchers and boatmen saw nothing of his passing. A few old
settlers declared the vessel to be the Half Moon, and there were some who
testified to seeing that identical ship with Hudson and his spectre crew
on board making for the Catskills to hold carouse.

This fleeting vision has been confounded with the storm ship that lurks
about the foot of the Palisades and Point-no-Point, cruising through
Tappan Zee at night when a gale is coming up. The Hudson is four miles
wide at Tappan, and squalls have space enough to gather force; hence,
when old skippers saw the misty form of a ship steal out from the shadows
of the western hills, then fly like a gull from shore to shore, catching
the moonlight on her topsails, but showing no lanterns, they made to
windward and dropped anchor, unless their craft were stanch and their
pilot's brains unvexed with liquor. On summer nights, when falls that
curious silence which is ominous of tempest, the storm ship is not only
seen spinning across the mirror surface of the river, but the voices of
the crew are heard as they chant at the braces and halyards in words
devoid of meaning to the listeners.

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