Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Protective Craft - Synopsis and Excerpt

ISBN 9781781766576
Publisher FeedARead

(as of 29 July 2017)

The Commodore's adventure continues, in this, the follow-up to "Any Means to an End".  He must return to the New World, where surprises abound, and loyalties are stretched to breaking, while an abandoned love resurfaces to change everything .....


Friday 9th July 1680
The three ships stood proud by the north side of what according to the charts, could be Ocracoke Island.  We certainly seemed, in the light of day, to be on one of the barrier islands off the coast of the mainland.  Longboats were launched and parties landed to explore the island. These were led by Tyrell, Longbottom and myself from the Retribution, each taking three marines and three gunners.  One group, led by Longbottom was to stay with the longboats, and the other two groups were to head in opposite directions around the island to see what could be seen, note it down and report back.  Dauntless was sent north to find the mainland and get some repairs done using native forest wood.
Sails on the frigates were patched by the crews remaining on board, but since there was just sand dune and thick grass on the islands, it was just as well they had no damaged masts or spars.
The exploration continued for several hours.  The southern team under Tyrell, after finding the end of the island, looped back on the ocean coast and then cut back across the island.  There, they assisted Longbottom in his fishing and cooking efforts.
My team had progressed northwards and eventually walked along the central dunes to view both sides of this long sand bar.
With me I had Tranter, Buttons and Fish along with the marines Staithes, Lord and Waltham. These were all from the original expedition last autumn to the Caribbean.  As we walked in the sand and sharp grasses the sailors began to talk.
“If this is part of Virginia, why can’t we see evidence of any colonists Sir?” Buttons led the questions.
“I can only suppose that movement beyond James Towne is very difficult.  The land is occupied by natives who, like most people, get upset when someone comes along and squats on their land.  Put it this way, if the Swedish king decided that after an explorer landed on an empty piece of Northumberland coast that the land was Terra Incognita, it would therefore be available for claim by Sweden.  The locals might be a little upset later when a Swedish fleet arrived and deposited enough people and materials to build a complete town with fort and stockade.  Then, to top off the insult they found they haven’t quite brought enough of the right materials or food and then went to the locals and demanded that they help them survive until the next fleet arrives.  This fleet then arrives and deposits troops and weapons to destroy the locals and expand the settlement further.”
Fish piped up, “I see your point Sir, but aren’t the locals here savages.”
‘If you have someone break into your bedroom in the night and try to rob you, wouldn’t your behaviour become savage, especially if they wouldn’t leave?  More to the point, who told us that they were savages?  Only the very people who wish us to put our lives in danger so that their company can make a profit as they sit back in safe houses in England, most probably in London or big manors on large estates.”
‘But Sir,” pressed Lord, “Some of the people in Virginia are indentured servants who will get land for themselves at the end of their service.  Isn’t that worth coming for?”
“Think about it, Lord.  In this heat in the summer months and the bitter cold we had described to us back in James Towne, who are the masters going to send out to do the work and fight off any Indian raids?  The indentured labourers.  They are the ones who will die off first, well before anyone has to worry about which parcel of land they are to receive.”
I continued to ram the point home to my audience.  “Think about this.  We have been to James Towne and we will visit Charles Towne.  The colonies are called Virginia and Carolina.  It is all about kingship and power.  These aren’t set up for the benefit of the common man.  It’s about royalty allowing a company to make money with a slice going to the crown.  We as agent of the crown have to back that support up with force if need be.  I wouldn’t mind if the crown had asked the natives for an agent to be placed in a tribe to organise goods for ships to arrive, do some trading and then leave, just like the merchants do in the Baltic and other ports around Europe.  But not here.  The Spanish and Portuguese set the precedent by getting the Pope to allow the carving up of the world between them and then everyone else had played catch-up slowly and turned on whatever is left.  We missed an opportunity, lads, in the forties and fifties to have a true change in society where land belonged to all and every man had a say in how the country was run.  In England, the problem is that those in power are greedy whether they be Lord Protectors or sovereigns.  They all want to keep what they have and take more, and it’s always at someone else’s expense.”
“But you have a farm, a shipping company and are paid by the crown sir!”
“I know!”  I admitted.  “I am a vested interest, and I too intend to hold on to what I have got.  If we stay together we’ll try to get some more to line our pockets with too!” I laughed.  “I at least will try to bring some wealth to those with me.”
My decision to go back to the ship along the ocean coast was made after seeing more dark clouds on the southern horizon.  The group finally returned to the ships as the sun was setting.  This was only after agreeing on a sketch map of the island and approximate distances.
On board the Retribution, Crabtree brought in to the cabin a pleasant stew made from the fish Longbottom had caught with his team off the island beach earlier in the day.
“I think you will enjoy this soup Sir.  I think that the flatfish used in making it is similar in flavour to a flounder from our shores.”
“Let us hope it didn’t follow the ship all the way over here, because it would have become rather tired!”

Saturday 10th July 1680
I awoke still anchored off Ocracoke.  The dawn broke a fiery red with high clouds glowing as if they were burning.  Dauntless appeared from over the other side of Pamlico Sound and Master Christian Johnson sent the signal that repairs had been made and they were ready to proceed.
The Kent and Retribution began to pick their routes carefully out of the sound, towards the break in the offshore sand bars.
The ships all sallied forth through the gap in the barrier islands (to the east of the smaller islands) before heading south again.
The sun continued to shine brightly and fry those on deck.  I spoke to Longbottom.  ‘I think we should reduce the length of time the men are on deck in this heat.  They seem to be wilting rapidly!”
“You may be right Sir, however, you may change you mind if you go below deck.  I would prefer to be up on top.”
“Point taken Fred.  I shall leave things as they are.”  The breeze was quite cooling in the open and there was the occasional splash of spray that cooled those on deck.  I did go below to the lower gun deck and it was stiflingly hot down there.

Sunday 11th July 1680
Following the barrier islands south to Cape Lookout, Captain Joshua Bibb of the Kent was the first to steer west again to follow the coast and more offshore islands that go all the way along this coast.
I was not happy about that, I decide where this flotilla goes.  I will let the action go for now, but note it for use later.
Dauntless followed and Retribution brought up the rear.  At eleven o’clock the ships moved close enough to shore to anchor and raise the church pennants.
Afterwards, the ships’ boats took those who wanted, to the beach for swimming, washing of clothes and a hunting party set forth into the dunes to get some seabirds.
I went with Crabtree in the gig with a couple of rods and line to do some angling between the ships and the shore.
“Tell me Sir, if you don’t mind, why we are heading further south.  I thought that the colonies were in the north.”
“Mostly they are. The latest one is Carolina, which we are probably in now.  I know I can trust you to keep this to yourself.  We are heading to Charles Towne next.  That is the main settlement in Carolina at the moment.  Along with that large section of this new world,” I motioned towards the land, “The new owners, for that is what they are, also hold the title to some abandoned Spanish lands the Islas Lucaya, that are also called the Bahamas.  It seems that the Spanish removed all of the native Lucayans from those islands for slavery or by disease and, as they were pretty well useless for farming, left them devoid of inhabitants.  It seems that a few people have moved in from England and the colonies and have set themselves up there.”
“And we go to claim it for England?”
“Not quite.  We go to enforce the will of the Lords Proprietor of Carolina who have been given title to the islands by King Charles.  That was nice of him wasn’t it?”
“Indeed it was Sir.  It must be nice to be a friend of a king.  Do they have an assembly to run their affairs like in Virginia?”
“Again, not quite.  You need to remember we’re talking about Stuart kings here.  They, the Lords Proprietor have been given what Charles himself hasn’t got.  That is to say, a feudal fiefdom.”

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