A while back, I picked up an interesting item on eBay. It’s either an exciting, mysterious piece of maritime history or a bizarre hoax. I showed it to Nathan Lipfort, the former senior curator of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, but he had no answer for me. I’ll probably never know what it is for sure.

The item in question is a small brass tag with “N. Blaisdell & Sons, Bath, ME” stamped on it in old fashioned script. It is an ID tag for a boat, and there are several blank spots for the date, hull number and other information. The words “LAUNCH,” “1919” and “SCH CA DEERING” are scratched into these spots. The words are engraved on the back of the tag as well.

The schooner Carroll A. Deering is, of course, the famous ghost ship from Bath that was found abandoned at sea in 1921. Was this metal tag some kind of souvenir from the day the ship was launched in 1919? A little research showed me that the Deering was built by the G.G. Deering Company of Bath, not N. Blaisdell and Sons. Kerry Nelson, of the Bath Historical Society, told me that the N. Blaisdell Company was a small boat manufacturer who built the small boats — or launches — for the Carroll A Deering.

So is my little tag from one of the Deering’s two small boats? This is where the mystery comes in. When the Deering was found abandoned, both of the ship’s small boats were missing, and neither the crew nor the boats were ever found. If my tag was on one of the boats when it disappeared, then it is the only piece of evidence that has ever surfaced. Who found it and where?

There are other explanations, of course. The words on the tag are scratched on by hand, not professionally engraved as you would expect. They aren’t even in the right places. It could be a hoax, but how likely is it that somebody found a blank tag from N. Blaisdell and Sons, figured out that this obscure boat builder constructed the launches for a famous ghost ship and then modified the tag? The writing looks corroded and old, and I only paid 20 bucks for it. Not a very good hoax.

It’s also possible that the tag was taken off sometime during the year or two that the Carroll A. Deering was in operation. Or maybe it was a temporary tag that was replaced before the Deering actually launched. Your guess is as good as mine.

While there is still no official explanation for why the Deering was abandoned by its crew, several signs seem to point to mutiny. The men may have gotten rid of the captain and then taken off in the ship’s boats to escape punishment for their crimes.

If only my little brass tag could talk, maybe the mystery of the Carroll A. Deering could finally be solved.