In a separate incident, beaches in Cornwall and Devon were being scoured by police and Customs officers after two packages of cocaine worth about pounds 120,000 were washed ashore.
A search involving Margate and Ramsgate lifeboats was organised by Dover coastguards after the 30ft Top Cat was discovered in fog off Ramsgate, Kent, by a fishing boat on Sunday. The Top Cat's dinghy was found abandoned at sea, 10 miles off Margate, containing a smaller quantity of cannabis.
Derek Chambers, head of Customs investigations at Dover, said: 'When we find the crew, they will be arrested.'
The Mary Celeste, a US brigantine, was found drifting and abandoned in open sea in 1872 en route from New York to Genoa. What happened remains a mystery.