Caribbean Commander (Chapter 16)
With the tide receding now, great effort was involved in securing both ships. Benney was now involved in making fast, stretchers over both sides of the ‘Anna’, there would be three on the Port side and three on the starboard side, spaced equally from bow to stern quarter. Soon the crew could get to work scraping with their steel adzes. There was now about three feet of water left of the tide, men were sloshing around the bow section already busy clearing barnacles and weed. I decided a quick visit to Moses would be appropriate, and, leaving a message with the Bosun’s Mate of my whereabouts, I scrambled over the side and slid down the manila hanging from the port rails. I dropped into the warm, muddied water, finding it came to my waist. Looking along the length of the ship, I could see that there was quite a lot of cleaning to be done. She was encrusted from stem to stern, large patches of stone-coloured barnacles were much in evidence, and even some marine growths that I didn’t recognise. Green weed hung from her sides, now waving and drying in the breeze some four to five inches long. With this removed, the ‘Anna’ would have a much faster turn of speed!
I sloshed my way around the bow and headed towards the ‘Dolorosa’. She was lying in a little deeper water. Underfoot the going was treacherous. Coral sand giving way to stone and bigger rocks. It was quite exhausting, and several times I had to regain my footing as I slipped on the weed encrusted sea bottom. I was aware that I was getting into deeper and deeper water! It was now up to my chest in the swirling water! I turned towards the shore, thinking that heading inwards, the going would be easier, but, frustratingly the water became deeper. We had grounded the ‘Anna’ on a bank! With a sigh, I turned back to the ship. Moses my friend, you would just have to wait, was my thought. When I reached the ‘Anna’, I turned towards the shore, and immediately the water began to shallow. Within minutes I was on the beach, which was host to a littering of spars and timber, cordage and leather buckets, canvas rolls and numerous other bits and pieces. I plodded through the sand feeling the warmth of the sun on my back. A few minutes and I was directly in line with the ‘Dolorosa’ and began to wade into the water towards her. Obviously the bottom here in this bay, was a mixture of bars and troughs. There seemed to be a large trench between the two ships. Here, I was able to walk waist deep a long way from the shore. I could see the men around the ship’s hull were busy fastening the huge baulks of timber that were her props. I waded slowly towards them as the water swirled around my chest, I noticed that they were only waist deep alongside her! She also must have come to rest on a bank! Good news when the refloating process began later. It meant that there would be deeper water to either side of her if things went wrong. I was suddenly aware of an ebony apparition emerging from the water with a rush. Moses stood shaking the water from his head, gasping in air! He saw me and headed my way.
“Cap’n suh! I not know yo comin suh!”
“That I can see Captain Samuels! And pray why are you swimming, at leisure, whilst your crew are toiling hard?”
He grinned, showing his sparkling white teeth.
“No swimming Cap’n! I….I is look for dah damages! Mebbe yo wan’ look too suh?”
“ I have every confidence in your assessments Captain Samuels! I was merely coming aboard to wish you good luck and to check that you would be ready for sea in the morning?” I said with tongue in cheek.
He looked at me with horror struck eyes!
“Mornin’ Cap’n? Sea in dah morning’?” he looked at me with incredulity!
“Relax my friend…it was purely a jest! Does it look bad down there?”
“Da blade…’e go in easy suh! Is bad wood dere…soft!”
He had been underwater using the age old test to ascertain the quality of a ships timbers. If a knife would easily penetrate to any depth in any plank, it needed replacing!
“Ok then Moses! So be it! It has to be done! I am going ashore to see Anna for a while. Send for me if you need me!” I said.
He looked at me with eyes that seemed to be fully aware of my sneaky intentions, a small tic at the corner of his lips said he was desperately trying not to smile.
I smiled back at him, there was an almost imperceptible nod. I wouldn’t be bothered for a few hours, that was almost a certainty!!!
(To be cont..............)