It’s not always visible today, but the Cape Cod Bay Target Ship is somewhat of a unique addition to the waters off Eastham. Officially known as the SS James Longstreet, the ship sits several miles off the coast, in the same spot its sat for well more than a half-century.
Named after a Confederate general, the ship is more commonly called the Target Ship by locals. It gets its nickname, unsurprisingly, from the role it played for the military for decades.
Originally built in the 1940s for carrying cargo, the World War II vessel was soon severely damaged in a storm. With the only other solution of turning the entire ship into scrap, the US Navy soon began using it in a new role as target practice.
That’s a role it held through the early 1970s, often making for quite the spectacle for those back on shore during practice bombing runs. In fact, some say it was one of the bay’s most photographed objects for years and years.
While the ship still sits out in the bay today, you likely won’t see it during high tide. That’s because by the 1990s it had mostly broken in half. Fast forward about ten more years and a storm mostly faded the ship from view.
The ship’s rusty remains usually only become visible these days during low tide, though you’ll probably notice a lighted buoy near the site to warn off boaters. Divers aren’t even allowed in the area due to possible safety concerns, though an occasional fisherman is said to have braved the surrounding waters.
Still, though, the so-called Target Ship maintains quite a reputation for those who remember it from years past. Some maintain too, it should always remain just as it is, forever a part of Cape Cod Bay, even if you can’t always see it.