Eight Bells for the Whydah Gally

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Historical fiction about the Prince of Pirates.

The lightning was furious and non stop. Mighty explosions could be seen and felt from a terrible depth. Abraham stopped struggling. One last air bubble escaped his thin blue lips. A kind of peace covered him as complete as a watch coat. He could see his mates following him down into the briny dark. Abraham had an absurd urge to wave to them, but the sea pummeled galley above him had capsized and one of her splintered yard arms slid easily through him, making a kind of grotesque cross. It pinned him to the sandy bottom. The boatswain's mate’s dead eyes watched the tempest play out from a pirate's graveyard. He made the perfect epitaph.  


The captain stood on the starboard side of the sterncastle where he spotted his other two ships, the Anne and the Fisher. He collapsed he spyglass and had a quiet word with Mr. Tom who was standing close. He nodded at the serious looking young captain and yelled at the helmsman

“Come right to sixty degrees!”

The Helmsman replied “Come right sixty degrees, Aye aye, Sir!” then

“Steady on course, Sir!”

“Very well!” responded Mr. Tom.


Mr. Tom  had questions but knew better to hold his tongue and to ask them without such a large audience about and all pretending deafness. He glanced at the Captain but he was already looking toward the horizon. ‘What’s he up to and tis it profitable?’ Mr. Tom thought.


Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy looked fate right in the hairy eyeball and saw his future on the northern horizon. The 28 year old captain/ commodore/ prince of the golden age pirates ordered to stay the course anyway.


Four bells. The last dog watch. Men sleeping and men eating. The ship had an easy pitch and a gentle roll. The creaking of the deck and someone above piping a lonely tune were the main sounds that could be heard but there was a fair bit low whispers and beard scratching to be heard as well. The crew were worried. “Why the change of course?”, “I thought we were putting in Damariscove Island.” and “I hear Mr. Tom’s in a palaver with the captain right of this now.”

“Keep your bloody gob shut, Squeak.” said John Brown, a short fat Jamaican deck hand.

“I don’t means nothing.” Squeak whined at the man while secretly pulling his knife slowly from its scabbard, in case the fat man wanted to make more of it. But all seven men in the dank smelly cabin space had secretly pulled theirs as well. The mood shifted and the tension was palpable. Big feat appeared on the ladder descending into the space with purpose. The rest of the big man entered shortly. It was Dov the Jew and he smelled a fight. Knives were resheathed and Abraham was the first to fall when he charged the big man. Charly lost another piece of an ear and Knute’s eyes were swollen shut again. Four men sat on Dov. Riley the carpenter came at the big Jew's head with a running kick but in the end he lost two toes. Currently being digested by Dov. An ear splitting roar brought the fracas to a halt.

“Avast, ye scabby dogs! Avast!”

The small cabin now smelled worse with blood, sweat, mildew and gunpowder. The men pulled themselves together and stood, leaned or sat at attention. Mr. Sally placed his pistol back in his belt and cleared his throat. He scanned their faces and spat on the deck. He gave his audience a rictus smile. His meaning conveyed, he gave them the captains plan to take the Mary Anne off the elbow of Cape Cod.


Good news travels fast and by next bells the entire crew were dreaming of unknown riches.


On 26 April 1717 they captured the ship Mary Anne off Cape Cod. Captain Bellamy arrested her captain for refusing to pilot them up the coast.

“I hope you hang for this.” said the Mary Anne’s Captain Deacon.

“And I would if that were my fate, Sir. I think the Lord has other plans.” said Bellamy and then he laughed but his eyes didn’t. Captain Deacon lost his water.

“Mr. Tom, secure the prisoners below and have the captain placed in my stateroom. That boy can stay topside. Send seven over to make repairs and helm our new acquisition. And where is that sniveling carpenter Thomas South? Send him over as well.”

“Aye aye, Sir.” said Mr. Tom.

“Mr. Tom?”

“Aye, speak up, Abraham. I’m busy.”

“I wanna volunteer, Sir.”

“Sod off, mate. Her holds are full with Madeira wine. Ye sure to stay sober here. Mind me orders and watch the prisoners below.”

“Aye aye, Sir.” Abraham said. He then turned around and cuffed Indian John on the ear.

“Aye! What was that for?” Indian John asked, but got no answer.


That evening at sunset the repairs had been made and they prepared to get underway. But by five bells there was no wind and a blinding fog set over the four ships. Bellamy's ships Anne and moved out to sea, eventually reaching Damariscove Island with heavy damage. The Mary Anne was lost that night, ten miles south. She was thrown on the beach at Pochet Island. Only three survived.


Slack Halyard! Haul Braces and Sheets! Make All!” commanded Captain Bellamy.


The ship bell rang and all hands ready at stations. A Nor’easter with hurricane force hit just after midnight. In no time the Whydah Gally was taking on water faster than her bailer could handle. The little galley was pitching high. She was heavy with 4.5 short tons of silver and gold, more than 60 cannons and 144 people and so, rolled violently. She lost twenty crewmen in the first thirty minutes.


“Set us free, man! For the love of God, let us swim if we can! Your captain has surely brought the wrath of the All Mighty down on himself and now us!” a prisoner pleaded with their jailer.

Abraham had tied himself to an iron ring set into the bulkhead. The sea was rolling back and forth through the passageway washing his feet as he grinned at his charges.

“Alright lads. I’ll release ye then.”

The men started shouting “Give us the key, Man!”

His grin got bigger and he said “As soon as Black Sam comes below and dries me feet.” he then laughed a cruel laugh.


“Captain! It’s blowing marlin spikes!” Mr. Tom shouted from the mizzen.

“Mr. Tom, loose the prisoners!” He raised his cutlas high in the air and said “Let the devil fight for them!” He continued chopping through a halyard on the gunwale and never spoke to Mr. Tom again.


Black Sam Bellamy tied one hand to the foremast and cursed God with the other. The little galley dove deep into a trough. A thirty foot wave came over the yards and washed the captain backward and around the mast. His arm, broken at the elbow, still held him fast to the massive timber. He coughed out sea water and screamed obscenities toward the raging sky while the rigging fell around him. The gaskets on the main sails loosed. Black Sam watched the sails unfurl and snap the masts. They seemed to struggle in the riggings as if they had a mind to fly away from this tortured scene. Black Sam watched helpless as his ship was torn to sunder. His white face now purple red with rage and pain turned up to the heavens. The prince of pirates bared his teeth at God.


The Whydah Gally dove deep one last time and buried her forecastle thirteen feet in a sand bar. She sent her captain flying through the tempest, leaving his arm still tied to the splintered mast. Captain Black Sam Bellamy was decapitated in the fallen rigging just five hundred feet from the shore line at Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The Whydah Gally, now a ghost ship, lay there as thirty to forty foot waves battered her hull until her masts all fell off. She was then dragged back out to deeper waters where she finally capsized.  



The next morning only two surviving crew members were found. Half drown and battered, they were dragged from the beach. Arrested by Justice Joseph Doane and his posse. Mr. Tom was held seven months for trial and was acquitted. Indian John was sold into slavery (John Quincy Adams’ grandfather bought him). He was hanged sixteen years later.

Submitted: April 14, 2017

© Copyright 2021 R.Guy Behringer. All rights reserved.

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