I was jerked back to consciousness by hands grabbing my body. I was being lifted, swaying in the arms of the men in the boat. I felt myself hoisted, bumping against the ship’s side. I was being helped aboard the “Anna”. I felt sick, I turned and vomited more stomach contents into the scuppers!
“There you are sir…we’ll get you below to your cabin!” Perkins concerned voice behind me.
I spluttered a thank you, but I really didn’t want to be confined to my cabin. I needed air, sweet, life giving air.
“Moses? Where’s Moses?” I managed to whisper in a croaky voice. The vomiting had taken its toll on my throat.
“Moses my friend….I wish to stay on deck…the air up here will help me recover much more quickly than the air in my cabin!” My voice was barely a whisper.
“I t’ink we make yo sit in da chart’ouse Cap’n…yo’ get da air dere!”
There it was…the compromise! I couldn’t argue.
I could hear mutterings around me…one voice, quite plainly heard, asking what we were going to do about the raid now the Captain was unfit to lead the men ashore? I thought…attack is the best means of defence!
“The raid goes ahead Number One…I will lead the men ashore as arranged! I just need some time to get my strength back…A large measure of rum would certainly help!” I saw the twinkle in Moses’ eye, he walked over to the helmsman, and I saw the helmsman leave. Five minutes later, I had a large measure of French Cognac thrust into my hand, no doubt taken from my supply in my cabin, but it was welcome nevertheless! It burnt its way down my gullet like a fire, then started a warm glow in my stomach. I felt better already! I sat on the high chair in the chartroom.
“Right….” My voice was already stronger, “Right then, are the boats ready?…… before we leave, we need to get this ship trimmed…I want her listing about fifteen degrees to port…… Mr Jordan? Are the guns crews happy about the arrangement with the ladies?”
“Mr Jordan?….where’s Jordan?”
“Here Captain!” Jordan was crossing the deck below me.
“Guns crews ready and made-up Captain…I have fifteen extra men to give you for the raid ashore!”
“Fifteen men? Well done Guns! Well done indeed! So the ladies will be able to cope?”
“More than able sir, they are very keen to be able to help. My Gunner’s Mates have been giving them instructions. They are quick learners and already have the sponge-out procedure running well.”
“Good….So let’s get this ship listing enough to give you the elevation you require for the starboard battery. Once that’s done we can get ashore in the boats”
“Already in hand Captain….whilst you were enjoying your swim…I have arranged a transfer of ballast stones, and have secured our water butts in the portside dry store…. and anything movable has been, or is being, shifted to the port side….the list is already beginning to show, I think you’ll find sir!”
I hadn’t taken any notice really……but yes….now I could feel the ship listing under my feet.
“We have run out a killick fore and aft sir, and we are now tethered like a goat in a pen! God help us if we need to get under way quickly!!”
“I have set the hands to….shifting our canister shot and grape shot to the port side…that is under way now sir!”
“Very good Guns! You have been busy! …….. Mr Samuels? How about the boat’s crews? Ready?”
“Dey ready Cap’n……we jus’ wai’ fo yo’ now Cap’n!”
I stood….feeling stronger by the minute! That had been a close call….I had nearly drowned…but thankfully, survived to lead the men into the foray ashore.
“How much more time will you need Guns?”
“You have an hour’s work to get ashore Captain….more than ample time for me to finish off the bits and bobs aboard!”
“What time is is Number One?”
“Fo’ bell Cap’n an’ a few!”
“We will leave for shore at six bells Guns! Give us an hour to get ashore and set up…you can begin your bombardment at the change of watch….ok?”
“Fine sir…..I wish I was coming ashore with you ….but I really need to be here with the gun’s crew!”
“So!….we’re ready to go at 2300?” I looked around at the sea of faces…Perkins, Moses, Jenkins, Benney and Jordan…all nodding their heads and muttering “Ayes”.
“Give every manjack a large measure of spirit before we go ashore Guns….not leaving out our the gun’s crew left aboard of course…..and include the ladies if they wish to partake…a little Dutch courage never goes amiss! Especially when we don’t know what we’re up against!”
“I’ll see to it sir!”
“Right then…..an hour it is! I wish you and the ladies, good luck Guns.”
“Thank you sir! I think we will all need it!!
(To be cont..........)