February 25th, 2021

steer between them!, Helm

More of the Story

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Well here's a scene, an excerpt from Chapter Sixteen, "An Unexpected Intervention," of Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story.  This is the instant I tried to depict in the cover art for the book, in the painting titled, "Helm, Steer Between Them!"
             He awoke to find the cabin was dark, the lone candle having long since burned itself out.  As he tried to comprehend what had awakened him, a dull flash momentarily illuminated the space.  Lightning?  No, it wasn’t bright enough.  Then he heard the far away rumble.  Thunder?  No, if the flash had not been lightning, then the sound was not its resulting report.  Gun fire!  Pierce sat up, wide awake as the realization of what he had heard and saw became clear in his mind.  More flashes lit the cabin and within minutes the reverberations of a not too distant broadside rang in his ears.
            Pierce got up and struggled into his trousers.  The early morning was warm and he didn’t need his uniform coat.  As hurried as he was, he didn’t make it out the door before there was a hurried knock upon it.  “Yes?” he said, still a little groggy.
            “Mr. Hotchkiss’ compliments, sir,” said Steadman.  “Furious appears to be engaged with an unknown vessel, sir.”
            “Very well, Mr. Steadman.  I shall be but a moment.”
            On deck he nodded in Hotchkiss’ direction, and that individual pointed forward.  Some distance forward of the schooner, Pierce could make out the dim shape of the Tritonish frigate.  The fog was thinner and she was easy to see.  Yet there was something disconcerting about the image, if there was something more.  Flashes of gunfire came again, and now Pierce saw the second ship.  It was beyond Furious, and had just fired a full broadside into the Kentish vessel.
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            Since their initial encounter, Furious and Island Expedition had been on a starboard reach, heading to the south and the uninhabited beach upon which Jackson and Pierce would settle their dispute.  During the night, Island Expedition had purposely fallen some distance behind to avoid a collision if the fog and mist became too thick.  The Gallician frigate had come out of the fog from windward, and had fired its first devastating broadside into the Tritonish frigate from near point blank range.  They paralleled each other, mere yards apart, and made no effort to alter course or maneuver for an advantage.  With more sail set now, the schooner forged ahead and rapidly closed with the frigates.  “Ready the port battery!”
            Aye aye, sir!”
            “Helm, steer as to pass between them!”
            “Aye aye, sir!”
            “Sure madness, Edward!” warned Hotchkiss.
            “But a method to it, Isaac!  When I give word, we must put into the wind, and as our guns bear, concentrate fire on the Toad’s starboard quarter.  Let us then fall off the wind and repeat with the starboard battery.”
            “Aye!”  Hotchkiss nodded with understanding.