Caribbean Commander (Chapter 24)
I watched as the boat pulled away from the end of the pier. The breakers were already crashing against the outer wall. It would be quite dangerous for the small craft to exit the harbour safely. With Moses at the tiller, the sea boat made her way slowly around the pier head, her bow lifted as the first of the breakers hit her, up, up until she was standing on her ends, then a crashing drop into the trough. I watched, my heart in my mouth, as wave after wave battered the small craft. Then they were through the breakers, and into the smoother waters beyond. I turned aft and walked towards the steering platform and the chartroom. When I had been lying on the beach, before sleep overtook me, I had been thinking about the small parchment that we had discovered aboard the slaver’s vessel, wondering what the crosses and markings, that were marked on it meant, on the ’island’….well, we presumed it was an island. Now, whilst I had a little time to waste, I would look again at this parchment and try to assess where it lay in regards to the area to the north.
A knock on the chartroom door.
“Captain sir? Would you like some refreshment? I’ll have your steward bring some food and some wine if you feel the need.”
“Aye Mr Connors. I think maybe some bread and some salt pork would assuage the hunger, what say you?”
“Aye aye sir!” with a smile he said “I’ll try and find some bread amongst the weevils, and some of that French rough red you like sir.”
I laughed aloud.
“Mr Connors, I hate the stuff, and well you know it! With regards the weevils, bring them if you must, I could benefit from more protein eh?”
“Sir, seriously, I have some wine from your cellar at home, some left by M. Baptiste I’ll have Ryan fetch a flagon from the Bond.”
“Excellent Mr Connors…then please join me will you? I have need to find this island, if it is an island!”
He left with a bang of the door. I turned to the chart locker, the chart I would need would be to the north of the chart that lay on the table at present. All the charts had an Admiralty number, and the number I required was number 601. The charts were in numerical order and I quickly found the chart I was looking for. It covered the area to the north towards Jamaica. Laying it upon the chart table, I held down the four corners with paper weights. One of which was my prized bible! Smoothing the chart, I then searched in the drawer beneath the table for the small piece of parchment that Moses had recovered from the ‘Balazhad’ when she was captured.
It was a dirty scrap of cream coloured leathery paper that I retrieved from its resting place beside the Navigator’s ruler. In fact, I soon realised, it wasn’t a scrap of paper at all, but a piece of animal skin, about a foot square, with roughly cut edges. On the skin there was an outline in black of what looked to be an island. To the right on the ‘island’ there was depicted a raised area. A mountain? A hill? There were in fact five areas marked with crosses, two of them were very faint and possibly would have missed muster in the heat of the moment aboard the slaver. In the bottom corner there was some Arabic script. This looked to have been written in a dark red ink??… or blood?? I shuddered involuntarily at the thought. My mind filled with the horrors we had witnessed previously. The dozens of female captives, violated, starved, beaten and mutilated were a vivid memory for all of us. How could I find out what the Arabic script meant? I turned to the main chart, hunting for a similar shaped island that had been mapped by the Royal Navy survey teams. Nothing! Perhaps it was too small to have been mapped? As I bent to examine closely with a magnifying lens, a knock on the door and Ryan entered with a tray covered with a cloth.
“Thank you Ryan! My compliments to Doctor Crossley, ask him to join me if you please!”
“Aye aye sir.”
Ryan turned and left on his mission to find the Doc. Perhaps the Doc might know some Arabic? I knew he used the Roman language Latin, how could we find this ‘island’????
(To be cont........................)