Under A Renegade Flag (Part 6)
Later that afternoon, when the decks were crammed with
items preparing for our inventory transfer, I had an
idea...the tide was rising...why not warp Zee Scwalbe
off her moorings and tow her out into the channel and
with a small amount of canvas set, take the whole ship
and it's contents over to Port-de-Paix? I took my
suggestion to Capt Van Eike, he agreed! It was the
obvious solution to our moving from one ship top
High tide was at 1530 or thereabouts, so we set to....
getting as much gear onto the decks as possible, leaving
enough room for top-men to set sail and work halyards
etc! We used the boatmen supplied by Baptiste to tow us
out into the strait, we had to tack against the wind as
soon as we caught it , it blew from the wrong
quarter!...Well before the top of the tide, we were
under way...my first attempt at taking a ship to sea on
my own!!.. (although Van Eike was seldom more that 3 or
4 feet away at any given time)...I had four cables out
through the fairleads to the four boats ahead of us...I
let go of the head rope, and the bow eased away from the
quayside, I waited until we had 20ft of clearance then
gave the order to cast off the springs and stern
rope...I leapt up onto the foc'sle...gave the order
"Give way together" and thirty two oars hit the water
simultaneously!! The oarsmen struggled to get us under
way...but...slowly she edged out into the channel....the
wind was fitful...coming in gusts of force three to four
...dropping away to nothing!...As we progressed slowly
around the pier head...I heard the flapping of the
canvas of the fores'l and lower main that we were
setting....I needed to judge the moment just right to
"Let go"...I did not want to embarrass myself in my
first piece of ship handling...the sails flapped and
slapped....then..about three or four hundred yards
outside of the pierhead...they filled and ballooned
outwards...here the breeze was more steady....out of the
lee of the land! I waited a few minutes to ensure that
it was not going to drop away...climbed onto the
cat-head and gave the order "Let go headropes!!"...I
could imagine the sighs of relief of the oarsmen
struggling to pull Zee Schwalbe's weight!
The four cables were hastily recovered and cheesed down
on the focs'le deck...the tide and wind were taking us
down the straits..."Stand by to come about! Helmsman
make the course 215 degrees!" I ordered as I returned to
the steering platform! We came about and tacked up the
strait...we would have to zigzag across to
Port-de-Paix....I looked at the helmsman out of the
corner of my eye...he was smiling...I looked him full in
the face...raising my eyebrows...he looked
for'ard....then the smile returned to his face...I must
be doing ok I thought!!! It took us over an hour and a
half to cross to the other side...as we came towards the
entrance to the harbour. I furled all sail...lowering
our two boats to take the cables again to warp us
alongside...the ropes passed across and as Zee Schwalbe
slowed...I gave the order..Make fast! Give way
together!!"....the oarsmen dipped their oars and began
to pull us the last 200 yards to the jetty...I would tie
up astern of Squalus!...I was still on the focs'l when I
first noticed a small green felucca style boat crossing
the straits behind us...I collected a glass from the
charthouse...went aft and tried to make out what or who
she was! Too far away!! I returned to the steering
platform, guiding the helmsman in the actions needed to
bring the ship safely alongside...I signalled the boats
to come left....I waited until the ship's head started
to swing, then put the helm hard over! The helmsman spun
the wheel and, ever so gently, Zee Schwalbe drifted beam
on towards the quayside....men were on the quay waiting
to take our ropes...I ordered the boats to pull
alongside our Port side...one for'ard and one
aft....using the prows of the boats I gave the order to
"give way together" and the two boats' oarsmen proceeded
to pull.... and slowly, we edged, beam on towards the
quay, until only a few feet gap remained..."Pass the
head and stern ropes!" I ordered....the heaving lines
with their "monkey's paws" sailed across the gap...both
being stamped on as they bounced onto the
quay....quickly the main cables followed...and were
swiftly made-fast around the bitts on the quayside! We
bumped gently against the rope fenders on the wooden
pilings..."Make fast for'ard!!...Make fast aft!!" I
shouted holding my crossed arms above my head with
closed fists! We passed our fore-springs and
after-springs across...and the ship was safely
berthed..."Breakout the gangway...make fast amidships!"
I ordered!!!...The helmsman tied off his wheel and as he
came across the deck...he winked at me and said sotto
vocce..."Well done sir! Nice piece of seamanship!"
"Thankyou Matthews! Thankyou!" He smiled and walked on
aft....I watched as the gangway was rigged...the small
green boat was coming around the harbour entrance...I
raised the glass from under my arm...looked through the
"Stand by to receive visitors!!" I shouted above the
clattering of the deck crew rigging the gangway....I
walked aft..up onto the quarterdeck and watched as the
felucca bumped against the jetty steps....what on earth
could Anna want? I saw her step from the boat onto the
steps and prepare to climb...suddenly Van Eike was by my
side...."Well Mr Allen! Quite impressive! I knew I had
made the right choice!!!" He had made the right
choice??? Was that vote rigged beforehand???
"Thankyou sir! I just hope it wasn't a fluke!!"
"I have no reservations on that score Allen! None at
all!!...Now I wonder what M'lle Baptiste wants in such a
We waited as we watched Anna run along the jetty...up
the gangway, stopping at the head to ask permission to
come aboard....I welcomed her aboard...Van Eike asked if
she would like some refreshment and we all three retired
to his cabin!
After we had dispensed with the normal pleasantries and
formalities...Van Eike asked Anna to sit, poured her a
drink of wine...and we settled down to hear her reason
for coming across to us today!
"Captaine! Meester Crees! We have big trouble ashore on
Island...we think ship people, maybe "Le Cochon" come
ashore at Louisville and murder and burn down homestead
of Famille Gaston....They are business partners of my
Papa!! 'E 'as gone to Louisville to arrange the...'ow
you say...the bury???.. Oui...the burying...and...Jaques
Passal...'oo is a fishman 'as seen two ship anchor in
Liberte Bay...'e is sure les Ship est "Le Cochon"
ships!!! What can we do? I very feared Captaine! So I
come to ship for safe....'ow you say...safety?"
"Yes Anna! Safety!" I turned to Van Eike..."If they have
raided on the coast sir, it will be a first...but can we
afford to take that chance?" I knew full well that
Redbeard had not come ashore...but who was I to question
the wisdom of M Baptiste? Or his lovely daughter come to
"No Allen!We cannot take that chance...do you think you
can handle Squalus in a fight...having never sailed her
"Only one way to find out sir!!"
"There is that! I shall be with you to guide you...but
we must check out and maybe destroy those ships...and if
they are at anchor...tonight would be the best time!!
Meanwhile M'lle Baptiste...would you consider being our
guest whilst we see what we can do to reduce the odds
and repay a debt?"
"Oh thank you Captaine! I would be most pleasure!!"
I smiled at her pidgin English....Her use of it gave
away the secret of her inner terror!!!
We spent the next couple of hours preparing for the
coming fray! I was helping to stow some dunnage (Rubbish
timber framing and left over sawn timber baulks) when I
had a sudden idea! I quickly went aft, knocked on the
Captain's cabin door. "Enter!" I stepped inside, Van
Eike was seated at the Davenport with a chart spread in
front of him, Anna sat demurely across the room on the
seats she had helped re-upholster, her feet drawn up
beneath her, glass of wine in her right hand. She smiled
at me and lifted the glass slightly, I coloured a
little, hoping the Captain hadn't seen the gesture!
"Mr Allen! I'm glad you came by! I cannot find this
Liberty Bay on the chart! Have you any ideas?"
"Escuse Captaine!" Anna's voice timidly interjected "It
is also called Bayerne Liberte`..It is about 20 of your
miles down the coast from here!"
I leant over the chart, but Van Eike had spotted it.
"Thank you Ma'am'selle!"
"Sir! I have an idea! Because the gun crews are
untrained, and we are untrained;I have had doubts about
fighting her against two enemy as we are at present! But
I have been thinking of another idea!! We could load the
two old boats from Zee Schwalbe aboard, and turn them
into fire-boats!....we creep into the bay without
lights, lower the boats full of tinder, dunnage and a
barrel of powder in each! We then pull with muffled oars
to within sight! If the sentries are asleep, or not
doing their job, it might be easy to slip the boats
alongside and light fuses, and swim back until our other
boat, the Squalus boat, can pick us up! It would need to
be a silent approach, and we will need a lot of luck!
But, it would save damaging Squalus, and possibly save
the lives of Squalus crew!"
"If the wind is right we could also set them afire, and
let them drift down onto the two of them! with the same
The Captain sat impassively for several minutes, then
got to his feet.
"An excellent idea Number One! Let's get to it!"
I looked at Anna, she was flushed, her eyes shining with
excitement! She could see the sea being rid of two of
this plague of vermin!
We used the old boats from Zee Schwalbe (the whalers
that had previously been used to chase our quarry) to
pull ourselves off the jetty, and out into the deeper
water, there was a very light wind from our Port
quarter. Good! That meant we would be running free all
the way to the headland, then we could take in sail and
hopefully slip unobserved into the bay!
Preparations were under way, combustable items were
brought on deck from all over the ship. as we recovered
the boats, Benney, the shipwright came on deck carrying
a barrel of powder and dropped it at my feet.
"Two barrels Number One?" He asked.
"Yes Chips thankyou! One for each boat!"
"Very good sir!" He turned and walked aft to the hatch
to the magazine. It was a bit of a crazy idea...but it
might work! We recovered both boats to just below the
gunwhales, and set about loading them with the incendary
The Sail master had set a limited amount of canvas, just
enough to do the job, we had two fors'l a jib, lower
main and mizzen set...Squalus was a "quick" ship! She
moved around in the slightest sea, she was lifting her
nose eagerly, waiting for the canvas to fill and billow,
it was almost as if she was alive! Almost as if she
could sense the coming adventure!
The canvas slapped against masts and yards, timbers
creaked, ropes cracked, she was feeling her feet, it was
difficult to see much aloft, but I could tell by the
silence of the top-men that she was behaving
The slapping of the water along the hull grew in
intensity, she lifted her nose into each swell. The wind
was more breeze than light air out here in the strait; I
listened for the slap of the sail filling...suddenly she
heeled over to port, and the canvas filled, with a loud
crack. She lifted her head and surged into the oncoming
swell, I stepped to the starboard side, walking uphill
to do so! I peered down at the water, now rushing
by...she was certainly a fast ship, we would have to
take a measurement along a measured mile in a fair wind
to find out how fast she really was! But she was a
greyhound compared to the Zee Schwalbe!
Two hours ticked slowly by, without light showing we had
to be careful of other shipping. We were lucky so far!
Nothing in sight! I raised the glass, I could just make
out the headland and the point against the night sky.
Another 3 or 4 miles and we could begin taking in
canvas, and, with any luck, slowly make our way into the
bay. I felt a presence behind me, and turned to find Van
Eike and Anna there!
"How much farther Number One?"
"About three miles sir...then we enter the bay proper! I
think we can take in the fores'l and the mizzen, and
just creep along using the lower main!"
"Good thinking! Have you thought of who might lead in
"I have sir! I will lead in one, and I want Moses in the
"Good choice...Ok! keep me informed!"
He marched off across the sloping deck towards the
chart-house, I presumed to test the chart for soundings
and depth. I thought there must be deep water, or the
other two ships would not have used this bay for a safe
We "came about" to a new course as we swept past the
headland, there was a light showing on the point, but I
knew not what it meant or what it was. Maybe some sort
of navigation beacon maybe, they were becoming more
popular in the constant fight against shipwreck! I
passed the word to take in the fores'l and jib,
maintaining the mizzen for the present for easy
manouvre...Up ahead I could see pinpricks of light. As
we got closer I could see that the lights were indeed of
the two ships at anchor! I steadied Squalus on course,
then passed the word to take in the mizzen, leaving us
running free under the lower main only. We slid into the
bay almost silently, only the slapping of the wavelets
alongside the hull making a noise. I passed the order to
furl three sheets..I could hear the order being
whispered across the deck. Slowly we came up on the two
ships, Anna had told me there were three in the pirate
fleet, "Lucifer", "Esperanto" and RedBeard's own vessel
As the way came off her, I whispered the order to Benney
to lower the boats as soon as we came up. Squalus slowed
to a stop and just drifted about a mile from the two
brightly lit ships. Good! They were not expecting
company! We were darkened ship, no lights must show! I
heard the creaking of ropes running through blocks as
the boats were lowered..
"Keep it quiet men!" I urged!
They needed no telling. Every man was set on his alloted
task|! A faint splash as the first boat hit the water,
quickly followed by another from the Port side!
"Right Mr Benney! You're in charge! Let the Captain know
we have set out. Then prepare to pick us up in a hurry
when the fireworks start Ok?"
"Aye Aye Sir!...God's speed sir"!
"Thank you Benney!" I turned and looked at Anna, "Crees
please be careful!" I smiled at her to assure her I
would!!!....GOD'S SPEED? We would need God's luck I
We pulled with muffled oars away from Squalus, she
looked sleek and fast in the little light there was. I
looked back at her outline, gradually merging with the
darkness, she was a fine ship indeed, I would enjoy
working her! The other boat under Moses was coming away
from the ship more slowly than us, so I gave the order
to ease our way more slowly to let the other boat catch
up, I could hear the gentle splashes as the oars bit
into the water...splash!..splash!...we would have to be
quieter! I ordered "Ship Oars!" and the oars were raised
upright while we waited for Moses, a few minutes and he
was within distance...I made meanings that I wished the
both boats to be more silent! He nodded that he
understood, and, we started again, the oars gently
stroking the water, lifting feathered, then softly
dipping again. I told my crew that the power should be
in the pull, and there was no need for splashes if we
feathered the oars when lifted and gently dipped
them..then heaved, and repeat the process. A few minutes
later and we were gliding silently along 50 yards apart!
(To be cont....................)