45. Southward Again

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Sunday, 6th September 1733

A light breeze rippled the water's surface when at daybreak on the first Sunday in September, Elizabeth and Aldrick lay gazing out through the windows of their night cabin. "Is that sufficient wind to sail off the anchors? Or will we need the longboats to pull us?"

Aldrick examined the ripples. "This would allow us to move out on our own at two or three knots until we clear the protection of the island. We can expect the breeze to build through the day if it follows the usual pattern."

"Then ease through the night."

"Exactly! And the variability makes it difficult to time our approach to Saint-Domingue. I have lain awake the past long while, considering options on how best to do that."

"And?"

"I need to examine our charts."

"Then, why had you not done that rather than lying here and fretting?"

"It was too comforting having you snuggled into me. I did not want to disturb that."

Elizabeth hummed a deep sigh as she wrapped her arms around him and snuggled closer. "You say the sweetest things."

"Your beauty and love inspire them." Aldrick rolled to his back, pulling her atop him.

"I need to visit the closet first." She rose and climbed from the bed. "Go pull out the charts so we may examine them and relieve your concern. Then we can come back here with nothing to distract."

A short while later, as Elizabeth joined him, Aldrick pointed to the chart

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A short while later, as Elizabeth joined him, Aldrick pointed to the chart. "This is the most detailed one we have, but it offers no information about the water depths. Neither soundings nor shadings." He tapped his finger on a small bay labelled Baye Saint Mare. "I think this is the place Brady had meant. It is the closest I have found to what he called Bahee San Mar." 

Elizabeth chuckled. "Yes, that is how the French pronounce it."

"Fine, then this is it. We need to make our approach and departure in daylight since we have neither a detailed chart nor any experience of the waters."

"What about the French? They must know."

"Brady and I found none has any knowledge of navigation, and this visit had been their first, so they have little or nothing to offer. Although we know the waters through Windward Passage..." He opened the dividers and measured. "This area is unknown to us. These forty miles in and these thirty back out must be done in daylight."

"How far is that from here?"

He spanned the dividers between Long Island and the waters south of Cap St Nicolas; then he placed the points on the latitude scale. "About two hundred to the beginning of the unknown."

"So, at eight knots, it would take just short of a full day. Can we make a steady eight in these conditions?"

"The entire route is across the prevailing winds, and if they return to their usual strength, they will give us a large range of sail adjustments to control our speed." He paused and examined the level of the mercury in the glass. "It is still stable a bit above thirty, so we should have clear skies to shoot merpass and Polaris to fix our latitude."

Elizabeth tapped her finger on the chart. "And to fix our position with the pelorus as we sail past Inagua."

"Exactly! And we know that its western coast is correctly charted. The cartographer, Mister Price, had used our information for this portion."

"So, what had been your concern?"

"I had been considering the possibility of anchoring this evening on Inagua and then weighing around midnight, giving us daylight as we approach Cap St Nicolas." He tapped the chart. "But if we are able to adjust the sails to maintain eight knots, there is no need to anchor."

Elizabeth nodded. "And what about taking the French to Kingston? Is there any reason we cannot do that?"

Aldrick pursed his lips as he tilted his head side to side, then he shrugged. "None. None whatsoever. We shall do that." He pulled her into a tight embrace. "Come, Beth, back to bed."

"Are you certain? Are you making this decision only to please me? It might not be the best if you are."

"Yes, I am certain, and I am pleased it pleases you. But think; we know the route and the waters through the entire passage to Jamaica, so there will be no need to compromise our safety for them. We do not know if there is an infirmary in San Mar, and if there is, what quality it offers. They are certain to receive care in Kingston, and likely finer." 

Elizabeth sighed a loud moan as she felt him swelling along her thigh. "Good! Then back to bed it is."

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At seven bells of the morning watch, Elizabeth sailed off her anchors, and by one bell of the forenoon, she was making eight and a half knots with the fair breeze a point forward of her beam. She continued her course of southeast by south, and shortly after two bells of the first dog, the northwest point of Inagua rose above the horizon fine in her port bow. 

Aldrick responded to the call on the voice tube, and he ascended to the quarterdeck with Elizabeth at his heels. "Well done, Mister Charles. Have the other officers and midshipmen muster up here. We will take advantage of this to practice our visual fixing."

"Aye, Sir." 

Aldrick took Elizabeth aft to the taffrail to explain his intentions. "We will close to within five or six miles, and then follow the lay of the coast southeastward. This will not only give us twenty miles of land on which to fix, but it will also move us farther from the Spanish waters."

"May Judith join us? George has been instructing her in navigation, and he tells me she has a very quick grasp of it. He can tutor her here with reality and practice, rather than with theory. I think neither of them dares to ask."

"Yes, certainly." Aldrick winced. "I had not even considered that she might be interested. More of my ingrained male attitude."

Elizabeth shrugged. "At least now you are quick in recognising it." 

"But still after the fact."

"We will continue to work on that." 

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