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Under a Renegade Flag (Part 8)

Novel By: achristop
Action and adventure


Stealth!... and action at last View table of contents...


Chapters:

1

Submitted:Apr 13, 2007    Reads: 164    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   



Under a Rengade flag (Part 8)


At 2320 we arranged the two boats to pull Squalus off
the quayside, the wind, from the Southeast, made it an
easier task. With both boats tied-off for'ard, we
manouvred out into the channel, and, with just the upper
main and mizzen rigged, managed to get under way after
just a mile. The crew of Zee Schwalbe fared a little
differently...the boats returned to the quayside after
pulling us out into the channel, and hooked up to the
two cables leading through the for'ard fairleads on our
old ship...but she was reluctant to move, maybe she
thought she had now retired, whatever it was, she did
not want to move. The boats pulled, she came away a
little, then suction drew her back to the jetty again!
It took nearly half an hour to eventually get her under
way! The job was made even more difficult because of the
lack of moon. I was watching through the telescope as
she struggled to get around the end of the groyne, but
with some perseverance, she bagan to fill her canvas,
and the boats were cast off, and recovered!
We had our running lights rigged and lit, however, I had
left orders for Zee Schwalbe to run without lights until
we were out of sight of the Island. All I could make out
astern of us, was a large white patch in the darkness.
The wind was quite strong out here, the breeze whipped
the canvas that the top-men were setting, very often
dragging it out of their fingers, as they struggled to
undo the lashings. It was a night without stars, without
moon...the only sounds were the slapping of the water
along the keel, and the cracking of canvas mixing with
the creaking of rope and running tackle! Looking aft, I
could see Zee Schwalbe gaining ground, with a good
amount of canvas set. I gave the order to set Main and
For's'l, it would take longer to set, because of the
crew numbers being cut in half!
Van Eike came on deck at 0100 to see if I wanted a
relief. I was too keyed up to sleep, so we spent the
next hour going over ideasfor the coming fracas. If
Lasalle took the bait that is!
Zee Schwalbe had crept up to within half a mile of us
now, I could see her outline quite plainly, her white
canvas standing out in the darkness. I could even see
the bone between her teeth at the bow. She looked good,
but I knew that Squalus must look even better!!
Suddenly, lights were lit on Zee Schwalbe! It was time
for the deception to be initiated.
"Mr Jenkins! Light us up if you please!"
We had already planned, that as soon as we were out of
sight of land, we would light up both ships, more than
adequately, as a Merchantman would probably do, being
more concerned about navigational safety, than being
attacked.
"Mr Jenkins! We'll run up the Portugese flag at first
light! And I think some merrymaking on deck might be a
good idea, as we run down the channel between La Pia and
La Guana!"
"Aye Sir! That might be an idea....it would only need a
fisherman to note our passing, and, Lasalle will know
within the hour!!"
Van Eike appeared on deck, telescope under his arm,
casting a fatherly eye across the gap between us and Zee
Schwalbe. He strolled casually over to the steering
platform.
"Number One! I know you are as anxious as I am to cross
swords with Lasalle....but, one of us needs to be
sleeping, off watch, whilst the other takes the watch
through until daybreak! I have chosen you to be the one
to get some sleep! So, get below and get your head down!
Nothing will happen for a few hours yet! I will send
someone to shake you if it does!"
"Aye Aye Sir! But I don't think, for one moment, that I
shall sleep! I think I really need to check on the
munitions and gun crew before turning in!"
"Get below Allen! That's an order! I want you fresh as a
daisy at daylight! So, Jump to it man! Get below!!"
There was no choice in the matter! and, of course, the
Captain was right. Daybreak could bring problems enough!
So, reluctantly, I bade him goodnight, and went for'ard
to my accommodation area! As I stripped and climbed into
my "mick", my thoughts were not only on Lasalle...but
ashore! My thoughts were of Anna! Had she managed to
hoodwink her father? Had she somehow managed to get us
the breathing space to do the job? I ruffled my
horsehair bolster, seeking comfort...I listened to the
snores and grunts of my messmates, I listened to the
slapping of the waves along the ship's side....and
before long I was lulled into sleep! What would tomorrow
bring?
"Mr Allen Sir?...Mr Allen Sir?" A voice dragged me up
from the depths of sleep...It could only have been a few
minutes since I had closed my eyes..."Mr Allen sir! it's
Cartwright! Captain's compliments sir! It's first light!
He would like your company on deck!"
"Ok Cartwright! thankyou! My compliments to the Captain!
I will be there in a trice!"
I tumbled from my "pit" and sluiced my naked torso under
the cold water in the large waterbutt filled with
sea-water..it was a shock, but I needed to be shocked
awake! And there was me saying I would not sleep! I had
managed to go almost comatose for 4 hours at least! I
rubbed down with the coarse calico drying cloth at the
side of the butt, and headed back to dress. Seven
minutes after being shaken, I was on deck beside Van
Eike!
"I have the watch Captain....I will call you if anything
changes!"
"Very well Darby..." I was shocked...He seldom called me
that!! "Our heading is North by Northwest a point west!
I calculate we have covered about 50 miles...but we'll
have to wait for a sun sight! Will you look after that?"

"Aye Sir! Get some sleep!"
"Good morning Number One!" He smiled as he walked aft
towards his cabin and a welcome rest!
"Lawson!!! I want double lookouts in the tops....it's
getting light! And...I shall need to signal Zee Schwalbe
as soon as it's light enough! Get that Portugese flag
up...make it two!!! With the largest at the stern!"
"Aye Aye sir!"
With little planning, we were about to take on one of
the bloodthirstiest pirates the world had ever seen!! I
just hoped our subterfuge would pay off...and that
Lasalle would take the bait!!


Full daylight came at 0630...Two men were lookouts in
the tops with instructions to note every small detail
about anything they sighted! we didn't know how Lasalle
would show his hand, if indeed he did show his hand! I
was still quite pessimistic about our little plan, and
our planned subterfuge! What if he decided to enlist the
help of others? What if he attacked Zee Schwalbe,
unarmed as she was? These thoughts raced around in my
head. Problems that could arise, were like a fog
circling my head! I needed action to dispel any
lingering doubts.
"Mr Lester!!" I called the signalman to me at the
Starboard rail. "Mr Lester! Let's get a signal aloft to
Zee Schwalbe...I need it to read..."Post double
lookouts! Make merry on deck! Keep abreast of me 1 cable
apart!" Hoist as soon as you're ready!!"
"Aye sir!" He read the signal back to me, then sped off
to the signalling platform to select the appropriate
bunting! Another hour and we would be running down the
straits between La Pia and La Guana! A narrow waterway
about 7 or 8 miles wide at the most! This was my
favoured position for an attack by anyone! It meant that
there was sufficient cover to hide any would be
aggressor...plus we would be in close company, unable to
manouvre in the confined space without great difficulty!

The chronometer showed the time as seventeen minutes
past seven, when the cry came from aloft.
"Small vessel...looks like a fellucca, or Arab dhow,
twenty degrees off the Port bow sir!"
I ran for the telescope!..."Well done men!!" I shouted
to the men aloft "Where is she heading? What's her
course?"
There was a pause ( men aloft were checking her heading
and speed) I grabbed the telescope from the Navigation
room table, ran out onto the Port side poop rail, I
could see nothing off our Port bow!!
"Where away up there? I can see nothing!!"
"She'll cross our bows sir...range about 20 miles! She's
heading away sir, course roughly Northeast...speed about
10 knots! She's moving fast sir! And.....Yes it is an
Arab dhow, by her rig!"
"Very good Jennings! Let me know if she changes course
or speed!"
I crossed back to the navigation chartroom, opened the
chart at the area ahead, looked at the compass
rose...Northeast was......I moved the parallel rulers
along the course....that would take her directly to
Garouba!!!
"MR LESTER!!!!" I hollered at the top of my voice,
"SIGNAL IF YOU PLEASE!!!!"
He came running from aft, slid on hands alone to the
deck from the poop ladder and doubled to my side.
Panting he waited for my scribbled notation.
"Make to Zee Schwalbe "Suspected messenger vessel
sighted heading Northeast toward Garouba! Prepare for
imminent interception along this course. Ensure you now
take up station on my Port side 2 miles apart.
Acknowledge"" Get it aloft as soon as you can!!"
He loped off towards the signal platform......"Mr
Pomfrey?? MR POMFREY??"
I shouted orders to get men into the scuppers with
muskets and powder!
"Where the hell is Mr Pomfrey? He's supposed to be the
stand-in Gunner for God's sake!"
Almost as soon as the words were uttered, Pomfrey
arrived breathless at my side.
"I was below on the gun deck Number One...I heard the
lookout's cry and thought I had better get the gun deck
primed ready for action!!"
"Very well Pomfrey!" I felt a tinge of guilt! The man
had already pre-empted my order! "Well done! I want her
ready for action...but nothing to be shown understood?"
"Understood Sir!" He ran off across the decks to return
to his station!
During our run out from Tortuga, Benney and others had
been changing our appearance, by constructing false
upperworks on the poop and near the foc's'l
break...another small area near the beak! This was
hastily erected timber frame and canvas. The idea was to
give the appearance of a passenger carrying
merchantman....the false upperworks were meant to give
the impression of extra accommodation areas etc.....Zee
Schwalbe was doing the same I hoped! I fetched the glass
and raising it to my eye, looked across at her in her
new station, 2 miles distant on our Port side! Sure
enough, she now sported a fine new accommodation block
just fore of the quarterdeck rails...from this distance,
I could not tell it was made from dunnage and canvas!!!!
I sent Lester for'ard to the crews mess to give the
order for the music to start on deck....a few minutes
later, the sound of a mouth harmonica and a squeeze-box
rang around the decks! On Zee Schwalbe the same order
would be given as soon as they heard our "musicians"
start up! I had given orders for seamen to sing shantys
and do a few reels to accompany the music....all was
baited!!! Now all we had to do was wait|!!! Wait for the
shark to bite! I didn't think the shark would be long in
coming!!!! I spent a few moments in thought....My
Anna...My lovely Anna....I hoped she was safe!!!




"


We waited, and waited. Nothing! I stood the men down
from a state of readiness, with two men posted in the
tops, we were bound to sight any stranger in good time!
The hands on deck were getting a bit fed up with singing
and with the music...It was going to be a lost cause I
felt. Still! I had to remain convinced that Lasalle
would rise to the bait, and that in a few hours we could
be in action, if not before! I decided to get two hands
to prepare a ladle of pitch, take it to the foc's'l
break and get a fire lit under it! My plan was to use
every means of subterfuge to defeat "Le Cochon" and
maybe fire would help. We had old fashioned bows and
quivers aboard, retained from Zee Schwalbe...no-one
could claim to be an archer, but accuracy would not be
important! I had also ordered the guns on both sides to
be run out as far as the concealed ports, loaded and the
trunnions wedged into place, hopefully they would not
move with the ship's roll in the meantime! All we needed
now was the villian of the piece to show!!!
Three thirty in the afternoon, the sun was beating down
on the white "holystoned" decks. It was sweltering!
Watches had changed, but I "stood to" still. I wanted to
see the day out until the light faded! I looked, through
the glass, at Squalus. They were suffering the heat too!
In normal times, I would have allowed the men to have a
swim after taking in sail and letting her drift. But not
today! Ferguson had just brought me some food. A stale,
and weevil holed, piece of bread and some mouldy cheese.
He took out his Jacknife and proceeded to cut away the
mould. I wondered just how fresh our "fresh" cheese was!

"Ferguson? Is all the stock of cheese..........?"
"DECK THERE!!!! SHIP SIR!! CARRYING A LOT OF SAIL! SHE'S
3 POINTS OFF OUR STARBOARD BOW SIR!!"
"Well done Lester!!! Action stations Mr Perkins! Make a
signal to Zee Schwalbe...."Unknown ship at 020 greeen,
from me!" Get it aloft!!! Jump to it!!"
"JORDAN!!! Gun decks ready?? Get men in the scuppers
with muskets too...Keep their heads down! Light the fire
under the pitch! And prepare some fire arrows!!"
"Aye Aye Sir! Resume the music and dancing sir?"
"Yes Mr Perkins! Let's put on a show they won't be able
to miss!!"
I ran to the foc's'l...leapt up the ladder and into the
fore ratlines. I got to the first yard, wedged myself
tightly against the ship's roll, raised the glass to the
horizon. It took me a few seconds to find her! There!!
Sure enough she was carrying a load of canvas....too far
away to make out her speed, but she had enough sail set
to be making a good rate of knots! She would be with us
in an hour and a half, maybe two!
"Right men! From now on, we're on stage! I shall have
the glass trained on them! They will have the glass
trained on us! So, make sure nobody gives the game away!
All set below on the gun decks Jordan?"
"Aye sir! All ready!"
"Very good! Have the bosun break out some rum! The men
will fight a better fight with some grog in their
bellies!"
"Aye Aye Sir!"
Signal flags soared aloft! The signal to Zee Schwalbe! I
watched her as the message was read, then suddenly the
answering pennant was flying! she had acknowledged, and
was assuming a state of readiness too! Although she had
no main armament, I was sure Moses had given thought to
means of disabling our friend!
We had to make Lasalle come to us in Squalus, and not to
take on Zee Schwalbe first! I would manouvre the ship to
put us in the firing line first, the rest was up to
fate!
"Mr Perkins! Make to Zee Schwalbe....Proceed
independently when I turn away to engage!" That would
give Moses the chance to take flight if he became the
target first!
An hour passed, the vessel approached at speed and now
lay about 10 miles away! Maybe another hour! I looked at
the bone between her teeth...it was difficult to judge
her speed, but it had taken her an hour to get to
approximately the half way point!
"Deck there! She's flying the Cross of St George sir!
She's an Englishman! An English brig sir!!"
"Very well Lester! Keep me informed! She is possibly
running in under a false flag! She will show her true
colours soon enough!"
"Sir!" Again from Lester in the tops. "I think I can
make out gun ports sir! And...I think they're open!!!"
"By God and Hell thunder Lester! It looks like this is
it! We are unarmed merchantmen, and he is running out
his guns!! Looks like it's our man sure enough!"
"Mr Jordan??........ Damn it where's Jordan?"
I relaxed! Jordan was where I had told him to be! On the
gun deck!
All was now ready!!! Come on you pig! Let's be 'avin
yer!!!



The "English" brig ran in from our Starboard bow! I now
decided to place us firmly between her and Zee Schwalbe.
I watched as she closed towards us. She had her gun
ports open, I could see the full length of her Port
side, but not her Starboard side as yet.
"Lester!! Get down here now and Jackson! We'll need all
hands on deck! You can set up a chain of command to the
gun deck! Have someone on the access hatch and verbally
pass the word! I want nothing to give away the fact that
we are armed!"
She came to within 2 miles, the bone in her teeth still
showing....then....she came about! Swung 70 or 80
degrees to Port and showed us her Starboard side, at the





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