33. To Sea Again

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Tuesday, 1st September 1733

In the early afternoon of the first day of September, Tim and Mick watched from Elizabeth's main deck as Roberts was carried bound and cursing down the ladder to the waiting longboat. After he had been set atop the burlap sacks of potatoes and onions, Aldrick called down to him. "There are twenty-five tons of lead ingots below here. They should bring you sixty or more pounds."

Then he shouted above the increased cursing, "Away, the boat."

A quarter-hour later, the men on the sweeps pulled the longboat from the islet while the hands aboard Elizabeth chanted, "Weigh-ho," as they walked the bars around the fore capstan to shorten-in. The longboat was passed a hawser from the bow, and it took up the slack to await the order.

When the anchor broke free of the bottom, Aldrick ordered, "Pull away," and Elizabeth was towed slowly out from the protection of the eastern island and into the stiff easterly breeze. As the outer jib filled, the longboat fell back to the davit falls and the hands closed the snatches fore and aft.

Once the boat had been hoisted clear, Aldrick ordered the fore and main topsails unfurled, braced around and sheeted for southwest. Elizabeth wallowed for a while in the seas beyond the island's protection until the sails and her way gave stability. She accelerated as more sails were set.

At three bells of the afternoon watch, the DR plot showed another two miles and four cables to Bolton's southern line of the shoals, and the lookouts were reporting dark water ahead. Satisfied, Aldrick turned over the ship to Wilson and walked aft.

Elizabeth rose to embrace him as he arrived at the taffrail seat. "I feel better already. When we sailed in, I found these islets more beautiful than ever I imagined was possible, but that first gunshot destroyed the magic. We must return here in friendlier times to recapture that."

He pulled her closer. "We shall, Beth. We shall."

After a kiss, they sat on the taffrail seat with Judith, relaxing and talking while the following breeze across the deck took the intensity from the late summer sun. "This is so much more comfortable," Elizabeth said, "than sitting in the still air of the anchorage. Will it cool quickly as we sail north?"

"No, not quickly, but gradually. I have observed in the late spring that with each degree of latitude away from the sun, the thermometer shows a degree lower. I have no experience of it at this time of the year when the sun is much farther south."

"Did you not bother to observe? That does not seem like the forever curious Aldi I know."

Aldrick chuckled. "I have not been here in the autumn since instruments with Fahrenheit's new scale became available, so I had no way to measure other than hot and hotter, or cold and colder."

Judith pointed to the watchkeepers' hutch. "I had not seen a thermeter before George showed me the one over there. I was confused when he said it would be ninety-five degrees or hotter in the Canary Islands."

"Yes, we come closer under the sun voyaging south at this season of the year." He nodded toward the thermometer. "It will likely show a hundred or more degrees in Kingston, and we shall keep a record of it along the way, so we can determine whether my postulation has merit."

Elizabeth tilted her head. "Kingston? Why to Kingston? Will we sail around Cuba and up the Florida Passage? Why not north from here? We are most of the way through Windward Passage now; would it not make sense to continue north?"

"Indeed, it would. But we have aboard the Royal mail which I am bound by oath to deliver to Kingston. Besides, if we were to head immediately home, we would appear suspicious arriving in the Pool of London without commodities from the islands. The word will have spread that we sailed last month for Kingston."

"How would anyone know what we are about?"

"The cargo we took on in Saviour Dock. Thirty tons of copper kettles, tubs, pots and pans, and twenty tons of tinware boxes, bins, canisters..." He shrugged. "They know our trade in the islands, and little remains secret along the embankment. If we return two months later with it still aboard and without a shipload of sugar, tobacco, mahogany, whatever, as we lay at quarantine in the Pool, our treasure will be greatly endangered."

"Could we not dump the copper and tinware overboard as you did with the lead?"

"Twenty-five thousand pounds value? Sufficient to support four or five families for their entire lives." Aldrick pursed his lips as he thought. "We could, but since we still have the Royal mail to deliver to Kingston, it would be a waste."

Elizabeth nodded. "If Peters and his crew headed there instead of to Havana, they will see us arrive. What then?"

"Jimmy told me their destination was Kingston." He paused to reflect. "Two days since the lad said they had rowed away, so five days now at sea. Two or three more days they might arrive."

"So, they will surely see us. What then?"

"They do not know our ship. They had sailed from London before we began building her, so we will be nothing but another in the harbour, and that is how we must appear to all. And the crew must..." He paused as Wilson walked aft and addressed him.

"Sir, as requested, reporting we have reached the edge of the shoals both by eye and DR. What course shall we set?"

"Thank you, Mister Wilson. I shall go aloft and assess."

As Aldrick rose, Elizabeth did also and asked, "May I go with you?"

"I would prefer not at this time; the ship has a goodly motion in these seas, and I need to be quickly up and down. I will show you the safe manner when we are in a calm anchorage."

Elizabeth nodded, then Aldrick strode across the quarterdeck, swung himself around onto the mainmast shrouds and scurried up the rattlings to the topsail yard. He asked the lookout, "Have you seen anything but dark water ahead?"

"No, Sir. The only pale is now all back there." He raised his arm. "Broad to starboard and abaft that now, Sir."

"Thank you, Lad." Aldrick scanned ahead and to port, then back at the receding islets and the shoals surrounding them. "We will be coming to port, up into the wind, so you will feel it stronger."

"Aye, Sir." The lad hesitated, then added, "Sir. How did you defeat the whole crew of Avenger? Just you and a dozen?"

"By observing and thinking. I see the word has not yet spread from watch to watch, so I will tell the whole story to all once we are in a place where we may relax." He pointed ahead. "But now we all have a ship to sail safely. Eyes well peeled, Lad."

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