Essay: “The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship”, William Hope Hodgson, 1911.
This story has the classic Hodgson sea story opening: a derelict is spotted in the night.
The White Hart spots a derelict and decides to tow it out of shipping lanes and also claim the salvage rights. They think maybe the recently lost liner Lavinia may have collided with the ship.
On two different times, men are put aboard the derelict to watch it while it’s being towed. On both occasions, they disappear.
The captain, determined to investigate, leads an armed party aboard, and they build a shelter on deck to stay the night since all the disappearances were nocturnal.
They hear strange noises and men appear on the masts of the ship.
A fight ensues, and the mystery is solved.
The ship is not awash below decks. It has a concealed hold, water-tight, below a compartment flooded with water, and it holds gold bullion taken from the Lavinia and other ships.
The men from the White Hart who disappeared are found alive and chained up. (Though why the pirates bothered to do this is unclear. There isn’t any mention of people from the sunk vessels, so the pirates don’t have any scruples, it seems, about killing people.) The ship lured vessels with a distress call and then seized their gold and sunk them. The strange sounds heard and the men suddenly appearing at the top of the masts are because the masts are metal and hollow inside. They have ladders in them which the pirates use to go from the water-tight hold below the “water-logged” decks to the deck itself.