This story was told to me by PNCS(SW) Leslie Potter, while we were both stationed on board the USS Arthur W. Radford. We were sitting topside with several other of our shipmates while cruising through the straits of Gibraltar, 6 June 1998
Not to be outdone by the Master Chief, Senior Chief Potter spoke up. “I have heard stories about the Hornet, but none of them compare to the legend of the ‘Flying Dutchman.’ Now, shut your yaps and I will tell you a story…”
The Senior Chief slowly looked around, sizing up his audience. After a moment or two, he started telling his story. “The Flying Dutchman is probably the most famous Ghost Ship ever. But what most people don’t know is that ‘The Flying Dutchman’ refers to the Captain of the vessel, and not the vessel itself. Now there are many Spectral ships around the World that are known as ‘The Flying Dutchman’ but I am going to tell you about the original, located off the Cape of Good Hope, off Southern Africa.
“The Captain of the vessel, Hendrick Van Der Decken, was voyaging around the Cape of Good Hope with a final destination of Amsterdam. He swore to round the Cape if it took him ’til Doomsday’. Even when a terrible storm blew in, Van Der Decken refused to turn the ship around despite the pleas of the crew. Monster waves pummeled the ship while the captain sang obscene songs, drank beer and smoked his pipe. Finally, with no options remaining, several of the crew mutinied.
“The Captain, aroused from his drunken stupor shot the lead mutineer dead and threw his body overboard. Right then, just above him the clouds parted and a voice billowed from the Heavens. ‘You’re a very stubborn man’ the voice said, to which the Captain replied ‘I never asked you for a peaceful voyage; I never asked you for anything, so clear off before I shoot you too…’ Van Der Decken made aim to fire into the sky but the pistol exploded in his hand. ‘Now you are condemned to sail the oceans for eternity, with a ghostly crew of dead men. You will bring death to all who sight your spectral ship, and to never make port or know a moment’s peace. Furthermore, gall shall be your drink, and red-hot iron your meat’”
The Senior Chief spit a mouthful of tobacco juice over the rail, and then he continued. “There have been many sightings of The Flying Dutchman, often by reputable and experienced seamen, including Prince George of Wales and his brother, Prince Albert Victor of Wales. According to a German Admiral, German U Boat crews logged sightings of The Flying Dutchman off the Cape Peninsula. For all of these crews, it proved to be a bad omen. On a calm day in 1941, a crowd at Glencairn beach in Cape Town saw a ship with wind-filled sails, but it vanished just as it was about to crash onto the rocks.” With that, the Senior Chief got up, looked around and finally, walked back into the ship.