Caribbean Commander (Chapter 42)
Both boats had cast off the lines and were now being hoisted inboard by the boat crews, two lines of men, facing each other, holding a manila line, running through blocks on each side of the davits. The boat was hooked on and Mr Jordan gave the order for both lines of men to ‘heave’ and as both teams heaved on the ropes, working their way backwards towards aft and for’r’d, the sea-boat was evenly hoisted from the water and made-fast in the davit cradle. This operation was repeated for the second boat. The heat of the sun made both lines of men labour, their bodies glistening with perspiration at the effort they were putting into retrieving the boats. Finally, all was stowed and the davits made ship-shape.
“Sea boats stowed sir!” The cry came from the sea boat coxswain to Jordan.
“Very well Dennison, fall out and get the men aloft! Set more canvas!”
“Aye aye sir”
A scurrying of feet as the boat crews ran the length of the decks and jumping onto the rails, scampered into the rigging. I could hear the slapping of slack canvas against the yards. The wind would come, perhaps when we were well offshore. I crossed to the steering platform and picked up the glass and headed across to the starboard foc’s’l break. Raising it to my eye I looked for the ‘Dolorosa’. Perspiration from my face steamed up the lens. I used my breeches ‘let down flap’ to wipe it clear. The ‘Dolly’ was fine on the starboard bow, now about eight or nine miles distant. Her sail pattern looked odd with its mixture of felucca and fore and aft rig, but she had full canvas, so there was probably a wind further out. God! This heat was depressing, my head ached and my skin burned. I wished I could have jumped over the side into the welcoming blue of the water. I had a sudden thought.
“Ryan? Have Mr Jenkins join me in my cabin would you?”
The swarthy skinned Ryan tipped his forelock in my direction. “Aye sir”
I went below to my cabin to change my sweaty breeches I washed in cold sea water from my wash stand jug and basin, although the water was more tepid than cold. I was standing naked, sponging with a wet face-cloth when there was a tap on my cabin door.
Jenkins poked his uncapped head around the cabin door, and, noticing my ablutions, made his excuses and was about to depart.
“Come in Mr Jenkins, no doubt you have the same equipment as I do!”
Ruddy face more red than usual, Jenkins entered, and sat as I pointed to a chair.
“You sent for me sir?”
“Aye Mr Jenkins I did. I was wondering, would it be possible to use some of our old worn canvas, some of the old red mains’l canvas that’s been patched, to perhaps make a large square canvas container that could be lashed to the quarterdeck after rail, in such a manner as to be able to fill it with sea water, and make a bathing pool?”
He pondered for a few moments.
“Aye sir. I think maybe it could be made, but the canvas is quite poor, and has probably gone to sleep since being stowed! It may not be strong enough tohold a lot of water”
“No matter. Maybe it would be of help during this heat. It would allow the crew, and officers of course, to bathe safely and relieve some of the discomfort! I know I would enjoy it”
“But…Captain sir…. You wouldn’t be bathing with the crew sir? I mean…..” His voice tailed off as he caught my glower.
“You think I might catch something Mr Jenkins? From a crew member that would lay his life down for me? I think not! They may be lowly…but we all were born the same were we not?”
“Aye sir. I suppose we were” he admitted grudgingly.
“Very well then. Look out the canvas, take as many men as you need, and, if you think it’s possible to rig it, then do so. It will give us all a little recreation”
“Aye aye sir. I’ll see to it right away”
With his downcast eyes avoiding my nakedness, he turned and left the cabin.
I clambered into fresh breeches and went back on deck. The setting of extra canvas had cast a little welcome shade across the decks, but the heat was such, that just walking a few paces from my cabin to the deck has made my changing of my breeches a waste of time and effort! Jordan had rigged an awning across the helmsman’s position, hopefully making that static duty more comfortable. At the steering platform I also checked the glass. Nine four seven millibars I read, that was a deep depression indicator. I wet my finger and raised it above my head. There was no breeze to cool my index to give any indication of wind direction, but, I had this very ominous feeling, a gut feeling that Mother Nature was about to have a bit of a tantrum….and probably at our expense!!!