In the center of the nation, right on the Ohio River, far from the ocean, lies a ghost ship. Kentucky seems an unlikely place to find a ghost United States Navy ship. The USS phenakite (also called USS sachem) was a converted yacht that served in both world wars and now lies decaying and rusting somewhere among the trees in Kentucky.
Another rusted ghost ship is the old ocean liner – the SS United States. She was the largest ocean liner ever built entirely in the United States. Perhaps the strangest boat attraction in Kentucky is the life-size replica of the biblical Noah’s Ark.
The Ghost Steam Yacht from Kentucky
The USS phenakite / USS sachem was a yacht built in 1902 for a railway director and originally known as ” Celt. Throughout her life she was known as Kelt, sachem (SP-192), Sightseer, Circle Line V., and USS phenakite.
She was over 180 feet long and steam powered. She was later used as a racing steam yacht, anti-submarine patrol boat, floating laboratory, luxury private yacht, party fishing yacht, coastal submarine chaser and pleasure craft.
- Built: 1902
- Initial Shift: 317 long tons
- Length: 186 feet
- Speed: 15 knots
If you’re looking for an unusual attraction in Kentucky, it’s the USS sachem belongs at the top of the bucket list.
The colorful civil and naval career of Kentucky’s ghost ship
She was acquired by the US Navy shortly after the country’s entry into World War I in 1917. In service, she was commissioned as the USS sachem (SP 192) and used as a Coastal Patrol Yacht. It was even loaned to famous inventor Thomas Edison, who used it to help develop anti-submarine countermeasures. He ran government-funded experiments in New York Harbor (he was head of the Naval Consulting Board at the time).
After the war it was used again for civilian purposes and in 1932 it was converted into a fishing excursion boat. The Navy came back to shopping in 1942 during World War II and she was recommissioned as the USS phenakite (PYc-25). Her role was to patrol the Florida Keys and later patrolled Long Island Sound.
She returned to civilian service after the war and was renamed sachem before renaming tourists and then circle line V. In her new life she was used as a tour boat until 1983. For more than 40 years she transported tourists around New York City.
She was sold and restored and then used to tour the Statue of Liberty and navigate the major rivers and lakes of the United States (the Hudson, Great Lakes, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers).
The Kentucky Ghost Ship today and what to know about visiting
Eventually, the cost of the necessary repairs overtook the owners, and she was left to rust away on Taylor Creek, just off the Ohio River.
Today it rusts away on Taylor Creek – derelict and abandoned. It is a popular attraction for kayakers and is known as “The Ghost Ship”. For over 30 years it was abandoned and kept hidden out of sight.
With such a colorful career, she’s more than just another ship. At around 120 years old, she has one of the longest, most varied and historic careers behind her.
Today it is in a state of deep decay and has become a largely forgotten footnote in the country’s history. There is a website dedicated to its preservation. Perhaps one day it will become a formal attraction, or some conservation work will be done to preserve it for future generations.
It is decaying and abandoned near Cincinnati, Ohio, about 2,600 miles inland. It is about 25 miles downstream from Cincinnati across the state line in Kentucky.
The USS Sachem is only accessible by hiking across a field and then paddling on the small creek where it rests. Visitors can paddle up the creek or come across the Ohio River. She can also be seen from the street. The experience is enhanced by the fact that the ship is almost hidden behind trees, large reeds and accumulated driftwood.
Sometimes the most fun attractions and things to discover lie off the tourist map and off the beaten track.