It was always said of Richard Lee that the sea was in his blood. This may be a cliché in most circumstances but Lee was born in the seaside village of Harbourville, Kings County, and he came from a seafaring family; his father and grandfather before him were seafarers and Lee was no exception. He went to sea when he was a young man and before he reached 30 was captain of a sailing vessel.
Lee went on to be master of several vessels and one of them, the Pass of Balahama, may have played a strange role in his last voyage. This is the story of Richard Lee who sailed out of Boston as captain of the Timandra; the Timandra was never seen again and the fate of Lee, his wife and crew has never been discovered.
Lee made his first voyage as master of a ship in the late 1800s. His first command was the Scoda a barquentine built in Hantsport, which Lee took to England with a load of lumber. Lee commanded the Scoda until 1902 and on many of his voyages, he was accompanied by his wife, Eunice.
Just after the turn of the century steamships began to replace ships of sail. By 1903 Lee was in command of a steamship; his first steamship command was the Pass of Balahama, a craft that many suspect played a role in his later disappearance. The Balahama was one of a pair of sister steamships with home port in New York. Lee was in command of the Balahama until the outbreak of World War One. At this time the two ships were sold to a German shipping syndicate located in New York.
A number of Richard Lee’s relatives still reside today in the Waterville-Berwick area and most are familiar with the old sea captain’s career. One of the stories passed down to the current generation of Lee’s is that Richard was offered the command of the Pass of Balahama after it was sold to the German business group. Lee refused on the grounds that Canada was at war with Germany and it would be unpatriotic.
After the Pass of Balahama was sold Lee decided to retire. Lee and Eunice returned to the Annapolis Valley and purchased a home in Waterville. The house still stands today just off the number one highway. According to the family’s oral history, Lee and Eunice renovated their home, bought a horse and buggy and settled in to enjoy their retirement. It wasn’t to last, however. Lee couldn’t stay away from the sea.
In 1916 Lee was offered another command and he accepted. As captain of the Timandra he began to sail out of Boston, shipping coal to Buenos Aires. The sea lanes were patrolled at that time by German raiders and submarines and it was risky. After several successful voyages, however, Lee decided that the risks had been exaggerated and it would be safe for his wife to accompany him on the cruises.
Few of us believe in forerunners and psychic flashes but there is no better way to describe Eunice Lee’s prediction. She reluctantly agreed to join her husband on the Timandra. As she was leaving she looked at her home sadly and said to a relative, “I’ll never see this house again.”
After it was sold to the Germans, the Pass of Balahama had been converted to a raider. Captain Lee’s first steamship, renamed the Seeadler, was now cruising the sea lanes and preying on allied shipping off the coast of South America.
With his wife on board for the first time, Lee set sail again in the Timandra with a load of coal for Buenos Aires. The Timandra and a sister ship that accompanied it were never heard of again. “Gone without a trace,” Boston newspapers proclaimed. “German raider Seeadler suspected.”
The Timandra and its sister ship had sailed into waters patrolled by the Seeadler. It is speculation, but Lee’s ship may have been sunk by his old command, the Pass of Balahama.