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!"
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.
“Gallician, I believe,” said Hotchkiss. “I got a glimpse of her ensign as the last shots were fired. It came out of the fog at her, just as Furious did to us.”
“With the day’s events, Isaac, could they have relaxed their caution?” As Pierce asked, the clouds and fog lit up from another broadside.
“I’m not certain, but they did respond in a timely manner. That’s the second full broadside they’ve given in reply, against only three fired at them.” The rumble of gunfire echoed across the water. The smell of gun smoke wafted over the schooner’s deck.
The mist and fog illuminated again and for a brief instant Pierce saw the attacking Gallician ship. “Damn my eyes, Isaac! That’s no corvette they’ve tangled with. From my brief look, I’d say a very large frigate, at least.”
“Perchance they’ve met their match?”
“Do we stand by and watch? We are neutral, are we not?”
“Aye, but according to the last prick of the charts, we are in Vespican waters. We would be right to detain them both.”
“Are you quite mad, Edward? Sail this schooner in amongst two battling frigates?”
“We would not take both on. I’m sure we could add to the force of one or the other. And should you beg to ask which, Isaac, you do not know me as you think you do. Call all hands, and beat to quarters!”
Aye aye, sir!”
Hotchkiss passed the word to the bo’sun’s mates and soon their shrill pipes filled the night air. The marine drummer arrived on deck, wiping the sleep from his eyes, and half-dressed, began the rapid tattoo signifying action stations. Many of the below deck watch had already been awakened by the distant cannonade and all stations were manned quickly.
Smythe and Mrs. Packingham appeared on deck as well, looking quite bewildered, confused, and slightly annoyed. “My word, Edward!” said Smythe. “What is with the noise?”
“Nearly frightened me to death, I must say!” added the lady.
“My apologies, sir, ma’am, but we must aide Furious. She has come under attack by a Gallician frigate. I must ask you both to retire below. Sick bay may prove safe, and if you are of a mind to do so, Doctor Matheson might appreciate your assistance.”
“Surely suicidal to take on a frigate, sir!” astounded Smythe.
“I don’t plan to match her, sir. But can we prove a distraction, a thorn in her side, and then Furious might have the advantage. Now below with you both, while there’s time!”
Hotchkiss approached. “Guns are manned, sir, and we are ready for action. We did not clear away on the lower deck, if that is all right with you.”
“Yes, yes, quite all right. Now a touch more canvas, topgallants, I think, that we may close with them.” Flashes of another broadside brightened the mist and clouds. The rumble of gun fire echoed over the deck.
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.