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Under a Renegade Flag (Part 6)

Novel By: achristop
Action and adventure


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Submitted:Mar 23, 2007    Reads: 165    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


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�������������������������������� Under A Renegade Flag� (Part 6)

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����������������������� 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
����������������������� another!
����������������������� 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
����������������������� eyepiece....ANNA!!!
����������������������� "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
����������������������� hurry!"
����������������������� 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
����������������������� that!!!
����������������������� "No Allen!We cannot take that chance...do you think you
����������������������� can handle Squalus in a fight...having never sailed her
����������������������� before?"
����������������������� "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!!!

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����������������������� 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
����������������������� result!"
����������������������� 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
����������������������� cargo!
����������������������� 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
����������������������� beautifully!
����������������������� 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
����������������������� the boats?"
����������������������� "I have sir! I will lead in one, and I want Moses in the
����������������������� other!"
����������������������� "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
����������������������� anchorage!
����������������������� 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
����������������������� "Black Swan".
����������������������� 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
����������������������� thought wryly!!

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����������������������� 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....................)
����������





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