AAR - April: Against the Wind - The hard lot of the Service

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Commander Peter Harrington woke suddenly to a beating drum. The ship was beating to quarters. He had a new shirt and breaches on in moments and grabbed his vest as he headed to the quarterdeck barefooted, meeting the carpenters mate on his way to take down the bulwarks. He stepped out into the morning breeze and joined his first lieutenant Christopher Brandon on the quarterdeck. He handed him a glass as he finished up buttoning the vest and he studied the ship that had been sighted. She was a razée of old French lines, but with a crew that lacked discipline and an air of not being a tight ship he figured it didn't belong to any navy. He had heard of a French ship captured by the Crimson Pirate called The Crimson Revenge. It could only be her. Closing the glass and handing it back he told Brandon
"Continue tack starboard and close-haul us. After a few minutes signal the merchantmen to tack again. We will place ourselves between them and the pirate."

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Returning to his cabin he dressed properly and made sure his steward Baddeley was making him a pot of tea.

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Back when news of the peace broke he feared HMS Castor would be payed off. He did not like life on dry land and half pay even less. But instead he had been escorting east indiamen and patrolling pirate infested waters. It had been uneventful months but Harrington was pleased. A steady pay, although a Commander's pay was not much, and as much sea he could ever wish for. The only thing not to like was that he had gained a reputation for being a wasteful captain. He himself thought it was undeserved. All he ever did was training his crew to actually fire the guns, not just running them in and out as most captains, and replacing a modest number of spars after a most severe storm. It was all in the interest of the service, and now it would come in handy.

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When he returned on deck the Crimson Revenge was down wind and almost on the other side of the merchantmen.
"I thought I told you to place us between the merchants and the pirate, Mr Brandon?" Harrington was more inquisitive than angry.
"We would have been had he attacked, but he has set a wide course. We will have no trouble getting between them should he steer for the convoy, sir."
"Signal the merchants to tack again and make sure we follow that damned pirate."
"Hoist is already prepared, sir." Harrington answered with a smile. "Mr. Elton, Raise the hoist!"
"Your tea, sir." Baddeley interrupted.

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Emptying the last from the cup Harrington asked:
"Are the guns ready?"
"The guns are double shotted and run out, sir."
"Then take us close, Mr Brandon."
"Rudder to larboard. Lay down men! Lay down at your guns."
"Not you, Mr. Elton" he added, noting the midshipman laying down.

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The 24 lb balls struck both the hull and spars and made holes in the sails. There were shouts of pain telling of splinters or falling debris taking their toll.
"Note down the time in the log, Mr. Elton, if you please."

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The wind passed straight abaft and Castor shot forward aiming to cut the path of the Crimson Revenge.
"Closer." Harrington murmured to himself "We need to get closer.".

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Precious seconds passed. Would the pirates be able to reload before Castor could move out of the reach of the broadside? Harrington could see the men working at the guns as Castor moved ahead just enough to cut in front. He shouted,
"Stand to your guns, men!"
The Crimson Revenge still continued her slow larboard turn. Harrington could not believe it.
"Two points to starboard!" Harrington commanded.
"Fire as you pass her stem! Rake her! Marines..."
The guns started to speak hiding the crackle of muskets and completely drowning his voice.

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"Hard larboard." Harrington demanded in the strangely silent moment after the guns had spoke. There were still muskets firing but as the range widened even those grew further apart. Harrington was trying to assess the damage done to the pirate ship. It was with satisfaction he could see shrouds and stays snapping and the fore topmast giving way with a crash. Dark smoke billowed up from the Crimson Revenge. She was on fire.

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"Continue hard larboard! To the larboard guns! Fire!" He was early. He didn't want to wait for a good rake, but pour as much ball into the bigger enemy as quickly as possible.

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"Reload! Show those pirates what the service can do!" He saw the guns run out, one after the other, all ran out in just over a minute. The training had yielded results.

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The broadside of the Crimson Revenge had lost much of its power, but it still had effect. The merchant ships seeing the weakening of the enemy smelled blood and turned into the fight. The two dueling ships fighting for positions were surprised by the unusually effective fire from Earl Camden raking the pirate and bringing down the main topmast in the middle of her tack.

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Harrington cursed out loud.
"Those damned merchants are going to sink her. They will tell tall tales of how they succeeded where we failed, never to mention how we fought up til then."
While the Crimson Revenge lost all momentum in the tack and started drifting straight abaft the second merchant, Exeter, also fired a broadside again raking the severely wounded pirate ship. The pirates had had enough and struck their colours. There were going to be hangings as soon as these pirates were brought home.

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The ships logs:

HMS Castor

Earl Camden and Exeter

The Crimson Revenge

Commander Peter Harrington (P) / Returned to Port / Victory, technically the merchants captured 1 ship
The Crimson Pirate (AI) / Captured / Lost

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  1. Mabinogian's Avatar
    VERY cool. Rousingly exciting.... makes me pace an even bigger hole in the wooden floor boards waiting for my stuff to arrive in the post.

    How en earth did you make that really cool pirate skull and crossbones flag.... I wants it, I needs it, my precious *Gollum*