As we cleared the island, the wind increased in velocity, and before too long the canvas was cracking with the strain of it! We would cross to the mainland using our present sail pattern, then, once cleared from Port-de-Paix, we would set course for Pelentenka Island with all canvas set!
“Steady on 170 degrees helmsman! Mr Perkins?….I need a volunteer boat crew to slip and run ashore, find out if there is the likelihood of any fresh powder and shot! I’ll keep the “Anna” underway whilst they investigate…no point in berthing if there’s no chance of re-arming is there?”
“No! Indeed sir! I’ll get it organised immediately!”
“Oh and Mr Perkins? Make Jawalla one of the crew! It might help to have a native patois speaker in the party! We don’t know who, or what is left after the raid do we?”
“Aye aye sir! I’ll see to it!”
I did not feel confident that we would find any fresh supplies of ammunition on the mainland…if I had raided the coast, I surely would have taken all there was for my own use! I felt that Redbeard and his Arab friends would have done the same!
My thoughts drifted to Anna! I prayed she would remain stable until I returned! I trusted Crossley implicitly….but he didn’t have a lot of experience with the medical problems of womankind, or childbirth related problems!
“Captain sir?” my thoughts were interrupted by Jordan the gunnery officer, “Captain? I have the corrected inventory of our ammunition and dry store supplies!” He handed me a piece of parchment listing the various amounts of salt pork and powder, bread and water, shot and musket balls!
“This means little Guns I’m afraid! Just give me the bare bones of it! Have we enough to do the job…do we need to take on more ammunition before we attempt the incursion? If we do….and there is none on the mainland….. we will have to abandon the idea and set sail for St Lucia!”
“Well sir…we have enough shot…that’s a fact….we need at least 3 more kegs of powder….we have enough dry food supplies for ten days! We might need to refill the water casks at a later date….but we desperately need pistol shot and musket balls! As you can see we are down to just over a thousand rounds of musket and six hundred of pistol shot!! Methinks we will need more than that to do the job!”
“Right Guns! Re-store and re-arm it is…but….just in case nothing is available on the mainland…do we need to cancel the raid? Or can we take a chance that we can shanghai some extra munitions from Pelentenka and its inhabitants?”
“At a push sir…we can make it without re-storing….but it would be better if we were able to face any enemy with a full magazine!”
“I hear what you’re saying Guns! Let’s hope there is some ordinance left at Port-de-Paix eh?”
“Aye sir indeed!”
The “Anna” was heeling as we beat across the straits, the wind filling her canvas driving her forward at a brisk rate. By 3.30 in the morning, we were within five miles of the coast of the mainland.
“Mr Perkins! Stand the boat’s crew to! Half an hour and we will be slipping the whaler!”
“Aye aye sir!” I heard him bustling amongst the crew, shortly followed by running feet and numerous curses and oaths as men, freshly woken from slumber in their hard cots, stumbled on deck to stand by to lower the boat!
Twenty minutes and the wind had brought us to within a mile of the shore!
”Right Mr Perkins! Let’s get them away! Take in some of this canvas! Take the way off her!”
“Aye sir! Topmen aloft!!!” his shout echoed across the decks in the darkness. Men came tumbling through the hatches, probably still rubbing sleep from their eyes, and stumbling into the demanding job of climbing aloft, in the fresh wind, and taking in canvas wet with spray! The yards would be wet and slippery with salt…and a clear head was quickly acquired… unless one wanted to risk falling one hundred and fifty feet to the sea below, or even worse, to the decks below!
Just after four in the morning I bought the “Anna” round with her head to the wind, we had clewed-up everything but the mizzen, which would hold us into the wind, and, as the way came off her, I ordered the boat to be lowered. I strode to the bulwark and looked down as the falls were lowered and just a couple of feet from the water, Perkins turned to me,
“If you please Mr Perkins! The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can get to sea!”
The whaler pins were knocked out and the boat dropped the last few feet to the inky water below. The whiteness of displaced water gleamed in the blackness. I could make out no persons in the boat now…but I could sea the oars on the starboard side beginning to make splashes…then the boat was disappearing into the blackness…I could hear the rhythmic chant of “One and two…and one and two!” as the coxswain called the stroke….What would they find on the island? Moses had given me the run down on the situation of a few days ago…but time had passed since then….would there be any ammunition for us! I didn’t fancy making a rush at the fortifications I envisaged on Palentenka, without sufficient ammunition!
“God’s speed men and safe passage!” ….I paused in mid thought….I was talking to a God I didn’t believe in?? I thought of Anna!!!…perhaps I needed to believe in something? Some deity that would watch over her….and us!!!!