Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island
(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Chapter Five – Shiver Me Timbers!
Ocean spray and the occasional wave from choppy seas washed over the low, wooden hull of the rowboat, as the eight pirates strained against the oars while constantly bailing water from the stern with a wooden bucket. Seven small casks of Jamaican Rum were wedged into the bottom of the rowboat between the pirates as they rowed – their prized cargo stowed safely aboard. Michael had been thrown in the bow of the boat atop coils of rope, and quickly found himself soaked to the bone by sloshing sea water churning at the bottom of the boat, as well as the spray and waves washing over the bow and gunwales. The rowboat was perilously overloaded and sitting very low in the water, and Michael could only think of what would happen to him if the boat capsized while he was tied up like a sack of potatoes – it wouldn’t be a pleasant end!
Despite his seasickness at the bottom of the hull, Michael managed to raise his head and take a look at the eight pirates rowing the boat behind him. They sat two-abreast on crude benches, with each rowing an oar for all they were worth. Their backs were turned to him at the bow of the boat and the pirate who was closest to him wore a cutlass that was hanging back over the bench and almost poking into his back. Just then, Michael thought of a plan! He placed his bound wrists up against the blade so it slid between his palms and let the rocking motion of the pirate’s rowing cause the blade to rub against the rope binding his hands together!
Eventually, Michael felt his hands freed after the rope was cut through by the cutlass and quickly repositioned them in front of him where they weren’t as uncomfortable. The rest of the rope was still wrapped around him, so he loosely wound a few coils around his wrists and tucked the ends between his arms and his waist in order to make it look like he was still tied up. Michael was counting on the pirates forgetting that his hands were originally tied behind his back and not in front of him. The idea of jumping overboard and swimming for shore was out of the question – as the rowboat would make it too easy for the pirates to pluck him out of the waves. As Michael thought about other options for escape, the pirates slowed their rowing and when Michael lifted his head again, he had the shock of his life!
Not far in front of them was a pirate ship with a crew of pirates looking over the railing down at their approach, with the unmistakable black and white, skull and crossbones flag flying high above the crow’s nest on the tallest mast! At the sight of the seven casks of rum in the bottom of the rowboat, the crew aboard ship let out a cheer filled with whistles, cries of joy, and unmentionable phrases that only pirates find fitting for such circumstances. Soon enough they saw Michael in the bow of the boat from the deck of the pirate ship and began quizzically pointing down at him with looks of astonishment.
As the rowboat came alongside the pirate ship, the crew let down a heavy netting for the pirates in the rowboat to climb aboard with. A heavy wooden beam swung over the side of the ship, and let down a line with a heavy rope net that looked to Michael like an upside down parachute. The pirates placed one cask of rum at a time into the net, watching as it was winched aboard deck, until all seven casks had been raised in like manner. Then, two pirates seized Michael at the shoulders and ankles, and threw him into the net as well. He felt himself being winched higher and higher until he was swung over the gunwale and dropped to the deck with a thump. It was all he could do to keep the ropes wrapped around his wrists from coming loose and revealing that he was no longer securely tied.
The netting was removed from the winch and allowed to drop to the deck, revealing Michael lying there like a catch from the sea – cold, wet, tired, aching and as uncomfortable as he had ever been in his life. At the same time, he was now aboard a real pirate ship – something he had always dreamed of while reading books about pirates back at home! Michael rolled over onto his back, and looked up as the entire crew of some 25 of the nastiest looking pirates formed a circle around him and stared at what the net had brought aboard. Just then, the lead pirate from the rowboat came aboard over the gunwale, having climbed up the rope netting that had been lowered from the deck alongside the ship’s hull, and addressed his fellow pirates concerning his prize catch:
“Oye! H’nds off ‘m, e’s my priz’ ya sc’rvy dogs – only fur Capt’n Graygh’st! B’ck off, me Mat’ys ‘n let me claim me catch! Arrghh!”
Michael was helpless as the original pirate leader wearing the flowing white shirt, black pants and boots, and a red bandana over his scraggly black hair, leaned over him and grabbed him by the shoulders and lifted him roughly to his feet. The other pirates closed in around them, clearly upsetting the pirate who was holding Michael by the collar with one hand and drawing his cutlass with the other. “Ba’k off ‘u sc’m bags ‘n slim’y bilge rats! Giv’ ‘m som’ ro’m ‘ere! H’nds off, I say – that me’ns ‘u, ya bucko! Ba’k off or I’ll skew’r ya! Arrghh!”
The pirate closest to Michael reached out to grab him by the shoulder, and the pirate in charge ran him through the middle with his cutlass and kicked him backwards with his boot to retrieve his blade! Michael watched in total fear as the pirate fell to the deck only feet from where he was standing. “Pi’k ‘m up ‘nd thr’w ’em overbo’rd, we ‘ave no use for ’em ‘ere! Send ’em to Davy Jones’ Lock’r, ya sc’rvy dogs! Arrghh!”
Four other pirates immediately picked up the dying pirate by the hands and feet and promptly threw him overboard, with a muffled splash heard moments later below them! Michael stood wide-eyed, not doubting for a minute the nastiness of these vile pirates. The pirates, as if reciting a ritual as old as the sea, then began chanting a verse called Ode to Davy Jones – with each one chiming in:
Ode to Davy Jones
“Arrghh! Davy Jones’ Lock’r, at th’ bot’om of th’ sea…
Bet’er off ‘m goin’ th’re, th’n me…
Myst’ries abound ‘n th’ depths of th’ sea…
Take ‘m far, far away ‘nd let ‘m b’…
For dark are th’ ghosts at th’ bot’om of th’ sea…
In Davy Jones’ Lock’r, better ‘m th’n me! Arrghh!”
A booming voice startled the gathered ranks of pirates, causing them to turn in mass and part ranks to make way for the owner of the voice to enter their circle. A tall man with long, gray hair pulled back behind him, a gray Captain’s jacket with gold buttons and epaulets, white pants, black boots and a triangular, red hat with gold edging and long red and gray feathers in it entered the circle of pirates and stood looking down at Michael – it was Captain Grayghost himself!
“Aye! Shiv’r me timb’rs! What ‘ave we ‘ere? A scallywag, rapscallion, or a scoundrel? A bucko, picaroon, or a knave? A pirat’, buccane’r, or a private’r? A sc’rvy sea dog, scum bag, or a slimy bilge rat? A traitor, carouser or a thief? No, blimey – it’s a lad – with seven casks of Kingston’s best Jamaican Rum beside ‘m! Grab your tank’rds, men – for tonight we drink!”
The pirate who had led the shore patrol that captured Michael, addressed Captain Grayghost saying, “Th’ lad’s yer prize, Capt’n – we ca’ght ‘m steal’n Span’sh Reals from y’r cave! Had one ‘n ‘is pock’t, ‘e did!”
“He did now, did ‘e? Sounds like he’ll make a good pirat’ – don’t ya think, Salty Bones? What’s ‘es name?”
Salty Bones was still holding Michael by the collar and pushed him towards Captain Grayghost and muttered, “Tell ‘m yer name, lad – be qui’k ’bout it, me mat’y – if ‘u kn’w what’s good fer ya!”
“Michael, Sir, what?”
“Michael, Sir, Captain…”
“Bet’er, lad – let me introduce myself to you. I’m Captain Graygh’st ‘n this proud ship’s th’ Pieces of Eight – th’ finest corvette ‘n sloop-of-war this side of th’ Canary Islands. She’s got ‘er original 16 guns ‘n I’ve commandeer’d 12 more, fer a total of 28. She’ll outrun ‘n outgun any ship ‘n these waters – no mat’er what flag she flies! We’re Pirat’s, Buccane’rs, Private’rs all, we pil’age ‘n plunder, ‘n live life on th’ run! Sailin’ th’ sev’n seas, ‘n drinkin’ ‘r rum! Yo, ho, ho! ‘n a tank’rd of rum!”
With that, Captain Grayghost reached out with his cutlass and used it to move Michael’s hands apart, revealing the cut ropes that were pretending to be binding them together. “Lo’k ‘ere, Salty Bones – he cut e’s ropes! The lad has th’ makin’s of a pirat’ in ‘m, yet! You’re either with us or against us, laddy. Join us ‘n ‘ur new name is Mad Dog Jack! If you’re against us you’ll walk th’ plank! Your choice – you decide – what’s your pleasur’, me mat’y?”
Michael realized it wasn’t much of a choice and answered, “Mad Dog Jack at your service, Captain Grayghost!”
Captain Grayghost smiled and turned to Salty Bones saying, “Mad Dog Jack’s my new cabin boy – see that th’ crew leaves ‘m alone. He ‘as the run of th’ ship ‘nd answers to me. We’re going to train ‘m up to b’ a mighty fine pirat’ one day! Come with me, Mad Dog Jack – you’ve got a lot to learn.” Turning to his crew, Captain Grayghost shouted, “Drink, men! For tomorrow we fight for th’ Pieces of Eight – Doubloons, Reals ‘n gems galore – it’s treasure we plunder ‘n go back for more! Arrghh!”
The crew let out a wild “Arrghh” with a roar – for pirates like nothing better than drinking and fighting when they’re out to sea!