The Dead Ship of Harpswell was a ghost or phantom, it was not a broken up ship. The ship was always under full sail and sailed straight ahead no matter what the wind and tide was like. The ship was mostly seen just before dark and between the afternoon and night.The account includes a reference to an 1866 poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. Here's the money quote:
Sometimes it was seen as a four mast ship, sometimes a two mast ship or sometimes a brig. As the ship was going toward the dock, the watcher saw there was no one on the ship and no one to steer the ship to the dock. When the ship was about to crash, the ship would disappear or go backwards and go into a mist. People thought that if someone saw the ghost ship that someone in Harpswell would die. The only people that saw the ship were the ones that were waiting for a ship. The ship was seen many times at Lookout Point in Harpswell Center and Potts Point in South Harpswell. It was also seen at Bailey and Orr's Island.
And men shall sigh, and women weep,
Whose dear ones pale and pine,
And sadly over sunset seas
Await the ghostly sign.
They know not that its sails are filled
By pity's tender breath,
Nor see the Angel at the helm
Who steers the Ship of Death!