Tuesday, April 05, 2005


A Pirate’s Tale – part 68 “Sometimes a Great Explosion”

“They’re taking the hook.” Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp muttered between puffs on his pipe as he saw La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza take after The Festering Boil. “You’re out of my hands now, brother – avenge the potato sack race.”

He looked northward where the Sabado Gigante and La Conchita positioned themselves for the attack. They showed no signs of fearing the greatness of the British Navy or the power of the HMS Susan’s Doily. “We shall teach them respect!” Tharp bellowed to his gunners who now readied the cannon. He maneuvered his frigate so that La Conchita found herself sandwiched between the two much larger ships. As they came within range of each other’s guns, Tharp strolled to the far side of the deck where The Sea Witch sat with sails down waiting to fly into action.

Tharp nodded to Jezebel who smiled and saluted. Her sails now full, she pulled around the Doily and made herself visible to the now bewildered crew of La Conchita. The two cannons she had borrowed from the British naval vessel were primed and ready as she got up to speed and aimed at the hind quarters of her target. In the distance, Jezebel could hear the simultaneous volleys from La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and The Festering Boil.

With a look that could only be described as “bloodlust,” Jezebel ordered the firing of the cannons aboard The Sea Witch toward the stern of La Conchita. Two of the girls touched fire to the cannons which erupted in dual thunderclaps and a thick explosion of white smoke. Her timing was perfect and the ship’s rudder crumbled under the two direct hits.

The Susan’s Doily now presented her broad side as The Sea Witch zigged and zagged to confuse any intended cannon or musket shot.
Seeing the Conchita in trouble, Stinky St. Claire had himself and a few men loaded into a long boat and they set out to try to make a hasty repair to her rudder. He felt that The Sabado Gigante, being, as she was, “impregnable to attack,” would fair as well without his expertise as she would with it.

He was halfway to the Conchita when his Sabado Gigante fired her first volley.

As he saw the half-hearted cannonballs fall cruelly down upon the mid-ranged Conchita he became keenly aware that something was not right. “Merde!” He exclaimed as he spun back toward the mother ship. “What are you doing? Idiots!”

He saw his gunners running around in a panicked confusion. What Stinky St. Claire couldn’t see was that the confusion was caused by the fact that each of the cannons fired from the Sabado Gigante triggered a fast burning fuse – all of which ran through holes in the deck toward the depths of the ship. What was at first seen by the gunners as an oddity quickly became an act of potential sabotage as they all compared notes on where these flickering, sparkling cords of fire might be going.

Now there was even more damage to La Conchita! And this time, St. Claire was responsible for it.

Despite her friendly fire wound, La Conchita managed to get off a volley of her own. The well-placed shot was an attempt to pay back the big ship for rudder damage done to their own ship and it worked. Damage to the stern of the Susan’s Doily was negligible, but the rudder was completely shattered.

The men aboard La Conchita cheered but their enthusiasm would be short lived as the fuses that had begun burning downward at the first volley of the Sabado Gigante found their own destination; barrel upon barrel of black powder stored in the deepest hold of the ship.

The explosion that followed did more than pick up St. Claire’s long boat and toss it, stern over bow like a piece of silver being flipped to decide who goes first. “Heads! You Lose.” Tharpy growled as he puffed again on his pipe. It shattered the unsinkable Sabado Gigante into a million toothpick-sized pieces and rained them down on the ocean for miles around. Small slivers of burnt and burning wood fell onto the decks of both La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza and The Festering Boil several miles away.

La Conchita was thrust violently from starboard to port casting a dozen or so of her sailors and several cannons into the sea. The impact of the explosion nearly capsized her which, as it soon turned out, would have been a mercy.

The shock wave blew into the side of The HMS Susan’s Doily and shivered the great frigate’s timbers knocking several men off their feet and blowing out the burning bowl of tobacco in the Admiral’s pipe, but they regained their equilibrium and fire quickly and positioned their cannons on the one remaining target – La Conchita.

Before the wounded ship could right itself completely and reload for another volley, Admiral Tharp gave the order (after taking a deep drag on his pipe) – “Fire!”

The only sound was the crunch of wood and the screams of dying men. The devastating volley launched at La Conchita left barely a skeleton of the ship’s frame in tact as water rushed over the rest of her body. Even Tharp, who had seen hundreds of ships sunk during battle had never seen one succumb to the depths so quickly. In a matter of two minutes, her crows nest sank beneath the surface. A few survivors could be seen grasping desperately for anything that could float.

Tharp ordered two longboats with marine escorts into the water to pick up whoever they could in an act of mercy. As the powder smoke began to clear, he could see Stinky St. Claire standing straight and tall on the spine of his overturned longboat. His body rigid and his right hand locked in a formal military salute; he looked like a surfing statue.

Jezebel, who had turned The Sea Witch away from the Sabado Gigante before her fateful moment thereby catching great wind in the sails from the explosion but no damage, returned to the scene of devastation and brought her agile ship about in Stinky St. Claire’s path.

“Madam,” Stinky began, “I am your prisoner, dispose of me as you see fit.”

“Shut up, Stinky!” Jezebel said with a smile.

“Do you know me, madam?” Stinky asked.

“Let’s just say, I knew your father. Now stop asking questions and catch this line.” She tossed some rope in his direction and he gratefully broke his posed stance to take the life line.

Quacking could be heard overhead as a duck flew over on his way to the island.

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