The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat ~ 3 Audio Books for Children (Free Downloads)

I’ve completed the audio podcasts of my 3 children’s books about ‘The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat’ ~ and I’m including each playlist here for your convenience.  Sam the Tugboat is a very dedicated little tugboat in the idyllic coastal community of Beach Harbor, where he not only escorts container ships in and out of the Port of Beach Harbor, but also takes care of all his many friends and anyone who needs help or rescued at sea.

Sam’s many adventures stem from the original stories I told our son each night when he was little for bedtime, making them up spontaneously out of thin air for each telling.  Today Sam’s adventures live on again for children everywhere, as he works very hard to keep everyone safe – especially children!  Toot!, Toot!, Toot!

The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat and Sam the Tugboat and the Island Kingdom of Beauty, Dreams and Imagination:

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island:

Enjoy! ☼ 🙂


My Original Artwork: Sam the Tugboat & Friends (2016)

This is my finished acrylic portrait of ‘Sam the Tugboat & Friends’ (11″ x 14″) 2016, the principle characters in my original stories called ‘The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat.’  I never previously thought I had the talent to bring my cartoon characters to life, but now that I’ve finished Sam’s portrait along with his many friends, I think I’ve come close to capturing the essence of my stories! 🙂

Sam’s expressions, posture, hat and smokestack are his signature elements for future illustrations – with his sea captain’s hats changing with the weather, his smokestack sporting a different design each time, and his sense of urgency while rescuing his friends at sea painting a true portrait of who Sam really is!

Sam lives and works in the idyllic coastal community of Beach Harbor, and along with his right hand man Fred who manages the marina and takes care of Sam – they help keep ships moving in and out of The Port of Beach Harbor, while at the same time ensuring the safety of Sam’s many friends out on the ocean!  Here’s the link to my original artwork on my blog ‘Organizational Aerodynamics’

Art Gallery of Original Artwork by Mark D. Jones

Cheers! ☼ 🙂 Mark

‘Sam the Tugboat & Friends’ (2016)

(Copyright 2016, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Sam the Tugboat & Friends (2016) by Mark D. Jones (Copyright 2016, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Sam the Tugboat & Friends (2016) by Mark D. Jones (Copyright 2016, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Twelve – The Search For Treasure!

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Twelve – The Search For Treasure!


The next morning arrived early, as Fred readied Sam for the trip to Shipwreck Island before dawn.  Fred briefed Sam on all the details of the expedition, provided him with the paperwork and permits to enter the Shipwreck Island Marine Sanctuary, stowed radios and supplies aboard for Michael and his parents, and made sure Sam was refueled and ready to go.  Michael and his parents arrived at the marina just before dawn, and after spending a few minutes with Fred on the dock, they boarded Sam for the voyage and hunt for Captain Grayghost’s treasure!  Fred wished them all bon voyage, untied Sam’s lines to the dock and wished them all good luck and fair weather!

It was a foggy start to the day in Beach Harbor, and as Sam motored out through the marina into the Port of Beach Harbor, he initiated a radio check to Ghostrider, the code name for the research vessel and search party that would accompany them to Shipwreck Island:

“Ghostrider, Ghostrider, Sam here leaving port now.”

“Sam the Tugboat, Ghostrider – loud and clear – approaching Point Alpha.”

“Copy, Ghostrider, we’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

Michael was thrilled to finally be going out to Shipwreck Island to search for Captain Grayghost’s treasure trove!  He never forgot Capt’n Grayghost’s directions, “Ther’ ‘r thre’ large bould’rs ‘n a row on Shipwr’ck I’lan’ acros’ th’ oth’r side fr’m Hidd’n Cove in a straig’t line. Ten fathoms fr’m th’ th’rd bould’r’s a large, flat rock that cov’rs th’ entr’nce to a cave, that’s wher’ th’ treas’re’s k’pt – no one wil’ ev’r find it hid’en und’rground! Arrghh!”  This adventure was a dream come true for Michael, fueling his desire to become a professional treasure hunter when he grew up.

They rendezvoused with Ghostrider at Point Alpha, and then Sam set course directly for the shipping channel alongside Shipwreck Island, where the pirates had also long ago carved a shallow way through the coral reef for access into Hidden Cove.  Ghostrider was a slightly larger vessel than Sam was, but its draft in the water, or distance from the waterline to the keel, was the same depth.  The search vessel carried a crew of six men and two women, and all the research equipment and tools necessary aboard to conduct the hunt for Captain Grayghost’s treasure.

Once they arrived at the shipping channel, Sam led Ghostrider through the tricky shallow passage into Hidden Cove, and let the search vessel tie up first to the single dock available.  Sam then pulled alongside and was tied up to Ghostrider’s starboard side.  Michael and his parents climbed aboard Ghostrider and then onto the dock, and went with the search party up the narrow stairs carved into the cliff side until reaching the top.

Following Michael’s directions, they traversed the island to the far side, and easily found the three large boulders in a row they were looking for.  From there they measured 10 fathoms or 60 feet out in the same direction from the last boulder.  At precisely that spot, just as Captain Grayghost had said to Michael, was a large, flat rock about five feet across and only four inches thick.

The team examined the flat stone and determined that it wasn’t nearly as heavy as it looked, as it was a slab of coral, and managed to slide it off to one side.  The rock had hidden a natural cave opening about four feet across.  The entrance led down into the cave at a 45 degree angle, and stairs had been carved into the coral and bedrock that Shipwreck Island was mostly made of.

The lead search party donned harnesses, along with hard hats with built-in lamps, carried flashlights, flood lights, cameras, scientific equipment, coils of ropes and radios, and carefully descended the staircase – not knowing what they would find in the cave below.  Michael and his parents, along with the rest of the search team, stayed above ground to be able to communicate with the lead search party below, as well as the authorities in Beach Harbor as necessary via radio.

The radio crackled to life with a call from the lead team below ground:

“Lead team to base camp, we’ve found gold!  The way into the cave is clear.  We’re photographing and documenting the treasure at the moment, and then we’ll begin bringing it up topside – it will take all day to retrieve it.  Notify the authorities that we’ll need helicopter support!”

“Copy that, lead – we’re standing by to receive it – we’ll contact Beach Harbor.”

Michael couldn’t believe how the team carried up load after load of priceless artifacts, gold coins and bars, silver reales and ingots, bags of gemstones of every variety, uniforms, helmets, swords and cutlasses, pistols and muskets, goblets, fine china and silver cutlery, sculptures and paintings, and everything imaginable of priceless value from hundreds of years ago!

Each piece was first laid out and photographed on tarps the team spread out on the ground.  Once the photographs were taken, the treasure was carefully wrapped and bundled together for the trip back to Beach Harbor via helicopter.  The underground cave was as large as a two-story house and the entire floor of the cave was covered with treasure!

There was no way for the team to bring even a portion of the treasure trove back aboard Ghostrider, so they called in for helicopter support.  Two helicopters had been on standby in Beach Harbor for emergency assistance if needed, but were now called in to ferry load after load of bundled treasure back to Beach Harbor throughout the day. As evening approached and the last helicopter load of the day departed Shipwreck Island, the team set up camp with tents and sleeping bags to spend the night.

The next day the team completed the process of photographing and documenting the treasure before lunchtime, and it was all flown back to Beach Harbor.  The treasure was being stored in a secure warehouse, where it was all cataloged, cleaned and studied by a team of scientists and historians.  Once that process was completed, the treasure trove was to be put on display for the public to see.

Once the team’s equipment was all packed up and taken back to Ghostrider, Sam led the way out of Hidden Cove and back through the shallow passage to the shipping channel. From there they proceeded to The Port of Beach Harbor where Ghostrider docked, and then Sam brought Michael and his parents back to the marina.

“Your dream has come true, Michael,” said Sam as they entered the marina on their return.  “You discovered Captain Grayghost’s treasure trove, and it will be shared with everyone in the new ‘Captain Grayghost Museum’ the city is planning to build downtown.”

“That’s only part of the story, Sam,” replied Michael thoughtfully.  “I also finished everything on my Wish List: 10.  Go camping,  9.  Learn how to sail,  8.  Make a discovery,  7.  Go on a journey,  6. Go on an adventure,  5.  Learn how to sword fight, 4.  Learn all there is to know about Shipwreck Island,  3.  Learn all there is to know about Captain Grayghost,  2.  Solve the Legend of Shipwreck Island,  1.  Find Captain Grayghost’s Treasure!”

“Well done, Michael, well done!  Now it’s time for you to dream new dreams!” and with that Sam let out his characteristic ‘Toot!, Toot!, Toot!’ as they approached the dock where Fred was standing by to tie up Sam’s lines.  Fred knew exactly what Sam’s toots meant, and smiled knowing it had been a job well done!

(The End of Book Three…)

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Eleven – Welcome Home!

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eleven – Welcome Home!


As Sam maneuvered his way through the Port of Beach Harbor into the marina, both he and Michael could see there was a great amount of commotion awaiting them at the dock!  In fact, Sam couldn’t remember the last time there was so much activity happening at the Beach Harbor Marina.  They could see emergency lights flashing on the fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances that were all crowded around Sam’s very own dock!  ‘What happened?’ Sam thought to himself, so he decided to check-in with Fred on the radio.

“Fred, Sam here.  We’re entering the marina now from the port, what happened?  Why are all the emergency lights flashing?”

“You can’t imagine how worried the entire City of Beach Harbor has been over Michael’s disappearance, Sam.  All the first responders are here to make sure he’s going to be okay.”

“Michael seems to be perfectly fine, Fred – he’s just now finishing his third hot chocolate.  I don’t think anyone needs to worry, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Are Michael’s parents there waiting for him?”

“They are, Sam – they came straight to my office after I called to tell them that you’ve rescued Michael.  I also notified the Mayor and all the first responders as well, and they’re standing by in case they’re needed.  Lots of folks came down to see Michael’s homecoming as well, Sam – half of Beach Harbor must be here waiting for you!”

“Roger that, Fred, we won’t keep them waiting long.  We’ll be there in five minutes.”

Michael was very glad to see his parents waiting for him when Sam pulled up to the dock, and called out to them as Fred secured Sam’s lines.

“I was on an adventure, Mom and Dad!  You wouldn’t believe what happened!” Michael said excitedly as his parents stepped onto Sam’s deck to hug and kiss him, and welcome him home.

“There’s plenty of time for stories later, Michael – we’re just so happy Sam found you and has brought you back home to us!” replied Michael’s mother as she continued hugging Michael close to her.

“Thank you so much for rescuing Michael, Sam – you’re a real hero!  Michael’s mother and I are so grateful to you!” said Michael’s father as he patted Sam on the bridge. “Beach Harbor is very fortunate to have you, Sam – you saved Michael and brought him home to us!”

Sam blushed from all the attention he was receiving, and looked out at all the flashing lights and crowds that filled the marina’s parking lot and grounds saying, “Michael was a very brave boy and I didn’t need to do much, really.  I had lot’s of help…”

Michael quickly added enthusiastically, “Sam’s friends all helped rescue me, Dad! Gulliver, Gabby and Wally helped, too!”

Meanwhile, a Beach Harbor Times reporter standing on the dock loudly asked over the commotion, “Is it true that Michael was kidnapped by Captain Grayghost?” A photographer was also there taking pictures of Michael’s entire welcome home for the newspaper.

The Mayor asked everyone to please step away from the docks, and a number of police officers began moving the crowd of onlookers back.  The Mayor then asked Michael and his parents, as well as the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, and Fred to meet privately with him aboard Sam’s bridge.

Michael told them all while gathered on Sam’s bridge the entire story of how he was captured by Captain Grayghost’s pirates, and how Sam and his friends had rescued him!  Sam also confirmed all the details of the story he had taken part in.  Michael then told them all about his plan to find the treasure trove!  He insisted that everyone promise it would be displayed in a museum in Beach Harbor, and they all promised him.  After all, the treasure was for everyone to see!  Michael wanted everyone to learn about the history of Captain Grayghost, his pirates and the Pieces of Eight.  Sam and Fred were the only ones who truly seemed to believe Michael’s pirate story, but they all agreed to assemble a search party in the morning to hunt for the treasure.

The next morning a team of volunteer policemen and firemen in coveralls showed up at Michael’s house to begin the hunt for treasure.  Michael led the team down to the beach where he told them he had originally been kidnapped by pirates.  He pointed to the area at the base of the sandy bluff where the pirates had disguised the opening to a cave.  It was exactly where the casks of Jamaican rum had been hidden away.  As the team cleared away the debris and planks leaning up against the embankment, they revealed a small opening to a cave – just as Michael had described it to them!

The searchers entered the cave with their flashlights, and those standing outside heard muffled shouts from inside that they had made a discovery!  The cave’s small entrance opened up into an entire chamber that had been carved out of ancient sea coral. Inside they found dozens of small casks and larger barrels of rum, jugs of whiskey, mounds of cannon balls, wooden boxes of musket balls, kegs of gunpowder, bags of Spanish doubloons and reales, as well as a number of wooden creates filled with swords, cutlasses, armor breastplates and helmets!  It was an entire warehouse of supplies enough to equip and resupply the Pieces of Eight!

The search party quickly called in for a larger team to cordon off the entire beach and area around the bluffs, until the gunpowder could be safely disposed of and the artifacts properly removed for inventorying and safekeeping.  A team of archaeologists was also called in to examine and excavate the cave for more clues and evidence of Captain Grayghost’s activities for the museum as well.  Michael could tell that everyone now believed his story about Captain Grayghost, and didn’t just think he made up a fantastic tale to tell everyone – they could see it was true!

Meanwhile, Sam spent his day escorting ships in and out of the Port of Beach Harbor just as he always did.  When he returned to the marina at the end of the day, Fred was there as always waiting to secure his lines.  “Sam, we have a scheduling change for tomorrow,” said Fred.  “You’ll have Michael and his parents aboard, while also escorting a search team aboard another boat to Shipwreck Island at dawn tomorrow,” remarked Fred, as if it was just another day on the schedule.  “I have the permits in hand to enter the Shipwreck Island Marine Sanctuary tomorrow, as well as all the details for you to review in the morning.  Today Michael showed the search party a cave on the beach filled with supplies for the Pieces of Eight, and tomorrow he’s going to show them the location of Captain Grayghost’s treasure trove on Shipwreck Island!”

Sam could only marvel at how Michael was now fulfilling his dream of finding Captain Grayghost’s treasure!  As the sun set and the night sky slowly darkened, filling up with a million stars overhead, Sam knew why little tugboats had no need for treasure. After all, no diamonds or treasure could sparkle as nicely as the stars at night!  Sam then smiled a little smile knowing Michael was doing the right thing.  Instead of letting the treasure consume him, like it did to Captain Grayghost, Michael had decided to share it with everyone in a museum.  Tomorrow would indeed be a big day for Michael, as well as for Beach Harbor.  Michael clearly understood that the best treasure in life is freely given away!

With that pleasant thought in mind, Sam let out his signature ‘Toot!, Toot!, Toot!’ knowing full well that the marina was quiet now, and no one was there to hear it – except for the marvelous gathering of beautiful stars twinkling overhead…

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Ten – Doing the Right Thing

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Ten – Doing the Right Thing   


Waves crashed over Michael and water rushed across the blue whale’s slippery skin in sheets, as he tried desperately to hold onto its dorsal fin – clinging with frozen fingers that could hardly bend, let alone grip anything tightly.  Just as he was sure he’d have to let go and slide under the water’s surface, Michael saw Sam the Tugboat speeding towards them!  The whale was making a beeline directly to Sam, while the little tugboat was powering at full speed to reach them.  As they approached each other, Sam throttled back his diesel engines to idle and allowed the massive blue whale to come alongside him – delivering Michael directly to the waiting ladder Sam had positioned for him.

Michael let go of the whale’s dorsal fin with one hand and grabbed the ladder’s side, pulling himself up onto the bottom rung to climb up while letting go of his rescuer. Turning around on the ladder to see the blue whale in its entirety, Michael said thank you and good bye to his new found friend just as the whale blew a huge spout of water high into the air!  Sam let out his favorite ‘Toot!, Toot!, Toot!’ and the massive whale slid gently and gracefully under the waves – waving good bye with his huge tail fluke as it flashed out of the water and into the air momentarily before vanishing below the surface.

With a final wave of his hand to his humongous friend, Michael stared at the waves where the whale had been only moments before, and then climbed the ladder onto Sam’s deck.  Sam had blankets, towels, crackers and hot chocolate waiting for him in the bridge as he greeted his little friend with, “Welcome aboard, Michael!  We’ve all been worried about you ever since you went missing on the beach, and I’m glad to have been able to find you – thanks to Gabby, Gulliver and Wally the great blue whale! Friends in need, are friends indeed, Michael, and I’m so happy they were able to rescue you from Captain Grayghost!”

Michael had begun drying off with towels and wrapped himself a large, warm blanket like a hooded bathrobe to warm up, while Sam turned for Beach Harbor.  With a mug of hot chocolate in his hands, Michael exclaimed, “I knew you were coming to rescue me, Sam, when I saw you in the distance from the crow’s nest through the spy glass – but how did you know where to look for me – and how did you know it was Captain Grayghost that took me?”

Sam smiled a knowing little smile and replied, “Oh, I had a hunch, Michael – after all, I was once a young tugboat many years ago myself, and everyone in Beach Harbor knows about the Legend of Captain Grayghost.  I connected a few dots and realized that the legend of buried treasure was probably too attractive to a young boy looking for adventure.  I may be just a little tugboat, but I’ve been around the harbor enough times to know how inquisitive children think – especially when it comes to legends and dreams of treasure!”

“But it’s true, Sam!  Honest!  I know where the treasure is – he told me – Capt’n Grayghost told me where it’s hidden!”

“He did?  What are you going to do now?”

“Well, first I have to ask a question – what’s a fathom, Sam?”

“A fathom is a unit of measure that mariners use at sea, Michael.  A fathom is six feet long – two yardsticks – and is used to measure how deep water is so ships won’t get stuck in the shallows.  If the water is 60 feet deep, we would call that 10 fathoms.”

“Ten fathoms – that’s the number Capt’n Grayghost used – ten fathoms from the three boulders in a row across from Hidden Cove. That’s where the treasure is buried under a flat rock, Sam!”

“If the treasure is buried there, what will you do with it, Michael?  If the legend is only partially true, there must be millions and millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, gems and priceless artifacts in Captain Grayghost’s treasure trove.  It could actually be worth so much more – that’s a lot of money for a ten year old boy!”

“Well, I’ve thought long and hard about what to do with the treasure if I ever found it, Sam.  I’d want to do the right thing.”

“What would the right thing be, Michael?  Treasure can make men and ghosts go mad over it, you know – I hope that doesn’t happen to you someday.  Tugboats don’t have any use for treasure you see – we can’t spend it or use it – it might as well be sand on a beach to me.  I imagine it would be nice to look at though.”

“That’s what Capt’n Grayghost did with it, Sam.  He hoarded it all and could never get enough!  He told me that all the world’s treasure wasn’t enough for him and he always wanted more, and more, and more!”

“So what are you going to do with it, Michael?  You know everyone will want some of it – or all of it.  You might have a fight on your hands. Treasure is often more trouble than what it’s worth, you know.”

“I know what to do with it, Sam.  Before I take anyone to find it, I want to make sure it will go in a museum in Beach Harbor.  I want everyone to see it, because it really belongs to everyone in Beach Harbor – it’s our legend after all!  I don’t want to keep it for myself. If I did, I’d turn into Capt’n Grayghost, because it would never be enough.”

Sam smiled to himself at the wisdom of this young boy, knowing how people would marvel at his wanting to share his discovery with everyone in Beach Harbor.  Perhaps Michael’s way of thinking might even rub off on others, and cause them to pause and think about their own treasure they were hoarding for themselves, never having enough.  What a breath of fresh air it would be if people decided to share what they had with others who had very little or nothing…

As Michael refilled his mug of hot chocolate, munched on a few crackers and warmed himself under two tightly wrapped blankets, Sam keyed the mic and radioed Fred back at the Beach Harbor Marina, “Sam the Tugboat reporting in, Fred.  All’s well that ends well, my hunch was correct.  Call Michael’s parents and the authorities and have them meet us at the dock, I have our young Michael aboard. He’s fine and having a hot chocolate.  We’ll be there in two hours with more news.”

“That’s the best news I’ve ever heard, Sam!  Job well done!  Michael’s parents are here with me in my office – they’ve been worried sick. Can they say hi to their son?”

“Sure enough, Fred.”  Push this mic button to talk to your parents, Michael.

“Hi, Mom!  Hi, Dad!  Sam rescued me!  It’s a long story, but Gulliver, Gabby and Wally helped free me, too!”

“Oh, Michael – we’re so happy to hear your voice again, dear!  We’ve been so worried about you!” replied Michael’s mother.  “Hurry home, we can’t wait to see you honey, and we love you so much!”

“Oh, Mom, don’t worry – I’m fine.  Capt’n Grayghost took me – but I know where the treasure is…”

“Okay, dear – we’ll talk when you get here…love you!”

“Bye, Mom, see you soon!”

“Hurry home, dear!”

Sam whistled a happy little tune before celebrating Michael’s rescue as he always liked to celebrate, by letting out a very proud ‘Toot!, Toot!, Toot!’ on his foghorn, and then set his course towards Point Alpha…

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Nine – A Rescue At Sea

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Nine – A Rescue At Sea   


As Gulliver and Gabby flew off to spend the night on Shipwreck Island, Sam wondered aloud to himself whether his plan would work or not – there was no way he could really know for sure.  All he could do was rely on his years of experience, as a little tugboat rescuing anyone who needed his help on and around the water, and if anyone needed rescuing, it was Michael!  Sam knew that the second part of his plan was the most critical portion, and hoped his gut instinct would serve him well in this situation. Every rescue is different and presents a new set of challenges, thought Sam, and there was no way of knowing the outcome in advance.  It will either work or it won’t – but Sam never wanted to have to tell someone that a rescue failed. He’d always saved the day with the help of his friends before, and he was bound and determined for this rescue to be successful as well!

Even Sam knew this was a special case, though.  In fact, it was a very sticky wicket indeed and a tough nut to crack!  After all, who had ever rescued a young boy from ghost pirates on a ghost pirate ship?  It had never been done before!  That’s not to say it was impossible, but the challenge was so much greater when far out at sea – and when you’re dealing with ghosts.  Not just any ghosts, mind you – but the notorious Captain Grayghost himself, and his motley crew of the most vile and uncouth pirates ever to sail the seven seas!

Meanwhile, Michael was roused from his dreams in the dark of the night by Captain Grayghost who shouted, “Git re’dy me mateys, f’r t’day’s th’ day we fi’l ‘r ship wit’ tre’sur!  It’s ‘n hour b’fore s’nrise an’ we at’ack at dawn! Man y’ur stations, lo’d th’ cann’ns, draw ‘ur cutlas’es ‘nd lo’d ‘ur pist’ls. T’day’s th’ day we fight f’r th’ Piec’s of Eight!”

The crew immediately burst into the song they always sang before battle, singing:

Might Makes Right!


W’re pirat’s, buccan’ers, privat’ers, scum!

“W’re sail’in th’ seas, ‘n drink’n ‘r rum!”

“Fight, fight f’r we kno’ w’re right!”

 “We take what’s ‘rs f’r might makes right!”


 “With cann’ns ‘nd sword we pil’age & plund’r,”

“We wre’k ships & leav’ ’em torn asund’r!”

“We captur’ their crews ‘n drink the’r rum,”

“‘nd make ’em walk th’ plank, one by one!”


W’re pirat’s, buccan’ers, privat’ers, scum!

“W’re sail’in th’ seas, ‘n drink’n ‘r rum!”


“Don’t think f’r a minut’ to run ‘nd hide,”

“We stand & fight for th’ Piec’s of Eight’s pride!”

“Cann’ns, cutlas’es ‘n pist’ls galor’,”

“We tak’ what we’r due ‘n hide it ashor’!”


W’re pirat’s, buccan’ers, privat’ers, scum!

“W’re sail’in th’ seas, ‘n drink’n ‘r rum!”

“Fight, fight for we kno’ w’re right!”

 “We tak’ what’s ‘rs f’r might makes right!”


As Michael stood his position with cutlass in hand on the poop deck while Captain Grayghost steered the ship, he managed to get in a question, “Why do you need more gold, Capt’n?  Don’t you already have enough?”

At that Captain Grayghost burst into laughter saying, “Befor’ th’s day’s ov’r we’l ‘ave a load of treas’re ad’ed to th’ bel’y of this ship that’ll make ‘ur head swo’n, Mad Dog Jack! En’ugh treas’re?  Nev’r! You’l se’ when we go ashor’ to ad’ it to th’ ho’rd that’s alre’dy ther’ ‘n you’l nev’r ask that questi’n ag’in – a pirat’ can nev’r plund’r eno’gh treas’re!  I’l nev’r rest ’til I ‘ave al’ th’ treas’re ‘n th’ w’rld!”

“But what if someone finds it and steals it from you, Capt’n?”

“They’l nev’r find it me matey – you’l soon se’ f’r yo’rself aft’r we plund’r this ship t’day. Ther’ ‘r thre’ large bould’rs ‘n a row on Shipwr’ck I’lan’ acros’ th’ oth’r side fr’m Hidd’n Cove in a straig’t line. Ten fathoms fr’m th’ th’rd bould’r’s a large, flat rock that cov’rs th’ entr’nce to a cave, that’s wher’ th’ treas’re’s k’pt – no one wil’ ev’r find it hid’en und’rground! Arrghh!  Now man yo’r stati’n ‘n git re’dy to fight!  You ne’d to earn th’ title of pirat’ ‘n th’ only way you can do that is in bat’le, Mad Dog Jack!”

Captain Grayghost peered through the darkness at the tall sailing ship just a short distance in front of, and abeam, the Pieces of Eight – and set a course to angle out just in front of it to cut it off.  He planned to blast it with a broadside attack once the Pieces of Eight came alongside it, and then board the ship and overpower its crew.  All he was waiting for now was the first light of dawn to initiate his attack.  As the first rays of dawn cracked the horizon, Captain Grayghost gave the order to attack!  The cannons were loaded and his crew was standing by to fire and board the ship.  As the sun broke the line of the horizon, Michael stepped back against the far railing of the poop deck to avoid getting hit from a stay cannon blast or musket shell.

It was then that a flutter of wings caught his attention as Gulliver and Gabby hovered in front of him, before landing on the railing beside him.  In their beaks were the notes Sam had written, and they hastily bobbed their heads up and down and back and forth for Michael to take them. As soon as he did, they took off in a swoosh of wings and feathers, because being aboard a pirate ship entering a battle was the last place they wanted to be!  Gulliver and Gabby were far too small to rescue Michael themselves, otherwise they would have lifted him off the poop deck to safety!

Michael quickly unfolded the notes and the first one read, ‘Sam to the rescue!’  He hastily unfolded the second note and read the words, ‘Jump overboard!’  Michael took a quick look over the railing at the great distance it was down to the cold and rough sea, and shuttered at the thought!  Just then, Captain Grayghost ordered, “Fire!” – and all the cannons on the starboard side of the ship went off at once in the direction of the tall sailing ship, causing the Pieces of Eight to recoil to its port side from the tremendous blast.  Captain Grayghost then ordered, “Reload!” and his crew prepared for a second broadside volley to follow. The tall ship was heavily damaged by the first attack, and a fire had begun on the aft section of the ship that its crew was desperately trying to put out.

Michael knew in his heart that sometimes you have to believe in things unseen – something greater than yourself.  If there was ever a time to believe in something, Michael knew it was now!  Everyone knew that Sam the Tugboat always saved the day in Beach Harbor and this wasn’t the time to ask why, or how, but to act – so he vaulted over the railing of the poop deck on the port side of the Pieces of Eight, away from where the  battle was being waged!  It seemed to Michael that he fell for the longest time before hitting the ice cold water and plunging down into the depths, thinking that he was on his way down to Davy Jones’ Locker for sure!  He struggled to fight to the surface in the pitch darkness of the water and dim light of the early dawn, when suddenly he was lifted completely out of the water again!  Just then, Captain Grayghost ordered, “Fire!” for the second time.

A great surface suddenly lifted Michael clear out of the water, and as he took in a lungful of air he felt himself sliding helplessly along the surface and slipping back towards the waves.  Just then he ran into the dorsal fin of the great blue whale that Sam had sent to rescue Michael from the sea!  The huge whale’s motion underwater alongside the pirate ship, along with the recoil of the Pieces of Eight’s second cannon volley, caused the ship to continue to roll away from the tall ship it had just fired upon! The pirate ship rolled completely over on its side, just as Michael was whisked away by the great blue whale! The Pieces of Eight then rolled upside down in the waves, and sank to Davy Jones’ Locker in two blinks of an eye!  The tall ship was now listing to starboard, before sinking as well – both ships sending their ghosts down with them to return to their slumber where they belonged!

The blue whale turned back towards Shipwreck Island and swam along the surface of the sea, bringing Michael directly to Sam.  Even the whale knew his passenger needed to get out of the water as quickly as possible to keep from freezing!  Michael hung on to the geat whale’s dorsal fin for all he was worth, mesmerized by the great tail fluke behind him that propelled them through the rough seas, and the spout of water that blew into the air above him each time the blue whale exhaled a breath!  All the time Michael kept saying to himself, ‘…Ten fathoms from the third boulder in a row across from Hidden Cove…’

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Eight – A Plan Emerges

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Eight – A Plan Emerges   


As the Northern Star approached Point Alpha and idled its engines to rendezvous with Sam, the little tugboat maneuvered out in front of the huge container ship to lead it into the Port of Beach Harbor.  Sam let out his characteristic, ‘Toot! Toot! Toot!’ to welcome Captain Antero on his arrival from Helsinki, Finland, and radioed a short, “Welcome, back to Beach Harbor, Captain Antero!”

“Always a pleasure, Sam the Tugboat!” was the radio reply from Captain Antero, who then added, “It’s a beautiful day to be filming a movie, Sam!”

A movie?  That was an odd remark for Captain Antero to mention, thought Sam.  Sam didn’t know of any movie crews in the area or documentaries that were being filmed today.  Occasionally, a film crew will make a nature and wildlife documentary about the Shipwreck Island Marine Sanctuary, but nothing was scheduled in the area until autumn. Sam replied, “Where are they filming, Captain Antero?  I’m not aware of any filming in the area this week.”

“Oh, I must have been mistaken then, Sam.  I saw a majestic, tall sailing ship on the far side of Shipwreck Island as I approached the channel through the marine sanctuary, and it was so beautiful I thought it must be part of a film being made about pirates once I saw the pirate ship following it – flying the scull and crossbones flag from its tallest mast. That’s not something you see every day around here, or anywhere, Sam.”

“Thank you for the sighting, Captain Antero – I’ll check it out. Perhaps it wasn’t noted on my weekly schedule.  Follow me into port and I’ll get you docked safely to begin unloading your cargo.  Again, welcome back to Beach Harbor!”

“Thank you, I’m following your lead, Sam!”

The pieces to this puzzle started falling into place for Sam, but a few questions remained.  How could Captain Antero have seen not only the Pieces of Eight, but also another tall sailing ship?  Could it also be a ghost ship?  Such ships haven’t been seen in these waters for nearly 150 years or longer, except on special occasions.  The last visit of a tall ship to Beach Harbor was five years ago, and everyone came to see it from far and wide while it was docked at the port.  These types of visits are always announced in advance – so where did it come from and how did Captain Antero see it?

Sam was also perplexed that Captain Antero was able to see the Pieces of Eight with his own eyes, when he himself was only able to detect it by its shadow on the radar scope.  Sam put his thinking cap on and pondered the thought, while helping to dock the Northern Star at its pier. Once he completed his escort duty, Sam let out a farewell, ‘Toot! Toot! Toot!’ and radioed, “May the winds always be at your back, Captain Antero!”

“And may your seas always be sunny and calm, Sam!”

Sam smiled and made a short, ‘click, click’ sound with his microphone button as a way of saying ‘thank you,’ and then began making his way back to Point Alpha and out to sea.  It was then that the answer came to Sam, and he realized why Captain Antero was able to see the two ghost ships with his own eyes.  Captain Antero was an Old Salt, a seasoned veteran of the high seas and one of the longest serving and most experienced sea captains anywhere in the world.  Sam, himself, had seen and witnessed many unusual and unexplainable sightings during his life on the sea, but his experience didn’t even hold a candle to Captain Antero’s. It must be that his nautical experience, feeling, sense, and depth of awareness for the sea, has given Captain Antero a deeper connection and perception for such happenings – or is it even possible – could Captain Antero be a ghost, too?  Sam didn’t even want to think about that possibility, and returned his focus back to his escort duties, in order to erase the thought from his mind.

Sam noted that he had one more ship to escort on his afternoon’s schedule and called Fred back at the marina to check in, “The Northern Star has docked at the pier, and I’m awaiting the Nautical Dreams from Singapore to escort her into port, Fred.”

“I’ve got an update for you, Sam.  The Nautical Dreams has slipped it’s arrival time until noon tomorrow – she took longer to load and depart from her previous port, and then had to navigate around storms en route to Beach Harbor.  She’s your only ship scheduled for tomorrow.  Your schedule is completed for today – good job, Sam!”

“In that case, Fred, I’ll stay at sea tonight instead of returning to the marina.  My diesel fuel tanks are nearly three quarters full, enough to easily operate for three more days at sea.  I have some new information and I’m going to try to rescue Michael.  I’ll pass through the Shipwreck Island Marine Sanctuary via the shipping channel, and head out to sea on the far side.  My GPS beacon is on and set, so you can track my position overnight.  I’ll return to duty at Point Alpha by 11:30 a.m. tomorrow to escort the Nautical Dreams into port.”

“Be careful, Sam!  I’ll be standing by here at the marina if you need anything.  The 48 hour weather forecast looks good for the area, but a storm is moving in soon, so be extra cautious.  Good luck and Godspeed, Sam!  All of Beach Harbor wants Michael to be found and rescued safe and sound – especially his parents – so do be careful!”

“Copy that – will do, Fred.  This will be a tricky wicket and a tough nut to crack, but I have an idea that just might work.  Thanks for backing me up!”

Sam ran his red flag up the short flagpole above his bridge, and started preparing two small notes reading, ‘Sam to the Rescue!’ and ‘Jump Overboard!’  It didn’t take long before his two gray and white seagull friends, Gulliver and Gabby, noted the red flag flying overhead, and landed on the front railing of Sam’s gunwale.  They were both very inquisitive birds and sharp cookies – and familiar with Sam’s system of flags to notify them of his needing their assistance.  Sam had a flag for every occasion, but didn’t have a scull and crossbones pirate’s flag available to use, as he hadn’t ever needed one before now!

Sam was very fond of all his friends and had his own ways of communicating with them.  They all understood him just as well as he understood them.  Sam’s red flag was his way of letting them know that something urgent was happening, without being specific. “Greetings, Gulliver and Gabby!  I need your help!  Take these two notes in your beaks and fly them to Michael aboard the pirate ship on the far side of Shipwreck Island.  Make sure to give both notes to him at precisely sunrise tomorrow.  Be careful not to lose them and don’t deliver them while it’s still dark!  I’ll be heading that direction and will remain in the area overnight with my running lights on if you need anything!”

Gulliver and Gabby each squawked in understanding, and flew through the open door of Sam’s bridge and picked up the notes. Then they flew towards Shipwreck Island where they would spend the night, before flying out to find the pirate ship before dawn. Hopefully, Michael would be somewhere where they could find him and give him the notes, but even they had questions in their minds about having Michael jump overboard – especially if Sam wasn’t alongside the pirate ship to recover him at that moment.  How would that work?  Even seagulls know that pirate ships have mean and unsavory pirates aboard – they wouldn’t let Sam approach within a mile without turning their cannons on him!

Meanwhile, Sam made five loud knocking sounds underwater on his hull from down in his engine room, where his two diesel engines were humming along. He then set course for Shipwreck Island and entered the route into his GPS and navigation radar. He changed modes on his weather radar to long range, and switched his running lights over to nighttime operations just as the sun was beginning to set.  Sam had a plan and it was now set in motion – not knowing if it would work or not. There was no turning back now!  All Sam knew was that this was his only hope of freeing Michael from Captain Grayghost – and hoped nothing would go wrong…

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Seven – Pirate Training

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Seven – Pirate Training 


“You’re never too young to become a pirate, Laddie.  I, myself, was just twelve at the time, so I have a soft spot for your situation – otherwise, you’d be walking the plank! Now what did you say your name was, me matey?”

“Michael, Sir, I mean Captain Grayghost, Sir…I’m ten years old.”

“Well, you’re Mad Dog Jack now and my personal cabin boy, which means you do what I tell you – do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir, Captain Grayghost…”

Now, Captain Grayghost could be as elegant with his words as he was with his cutlass, no doubt the result of his posh upbringing in Liverpool as a lad.  His wealthy parents didn’t let him frequent the wharf when he was growing up, and instead sent him off to boarding school in London to learn the finer things in life.  One fateful day, while home to visit his parents during a break from boarding school, twelve year old George Withersby ran away from home and stowed away on the first merchant ship he saw. Thus began the saga of a young lad who thirsted for adventure on the high seas, only to became one of history’s most notorious pirates – Captain Grayghost – who even now was sizing up Michael to see if he was up to the job of becoming a pirate.

“Now, ‘ya ‘ave ful’ run of th’ Pieces o’ Eight, but stay away fr’m th’ crew if ‘ya know what’s good ‘fer ‘ya.  They’d just as soon use ‘ya fer shark bait…or wors’, me matey. ‘Ya ‘ave to prove y’urself as a pirat’ who can ‘andle a cutlas’ ‘n def’nd th’ ship, o’ they ‘ave no use for ‘ya – do ‘ya understand?”

“Yes, Captain…”

“It’s, aye, aye, Capt’n fr’m now on.  We need to t’ach ‘ya to be a pirat’ – no mor’ usin’ th’ K’ng’s E’glish or that fun’y a’cent of yers. Fr’m now on you’re a pirat’ – underst’nd?”

“Aye, aye, Sir, Capt’n.”

“‘Yer f’rst job’s to clim’ th’ riggin’ to th’ crow’s nest ‘n be a lo’kout fer ships to plund’r. Use this spyglas’ to keep ‘n eye on th’ horiz’n fer any sailin’ ships – got that, Mad Dog Jack?”

“Aye, aye, Capt’n.”

Captain Grayghost pointed to the crow’s nest and said, “Climb th’ rig’n, Mad Dog Jack, ‘n tel’ me wha’ ‘ya se’.”

Michael looked up to the top of the mizzenmast and almost lost his balance in the swaying and rolling motion of the ship.  There at the very top of the mast, the crow’s nest looked like a bucket just under the skull and crossbones flying in the breeze.  He had to climb the thick ropes that made up the ship’s rigging very carefully, so as not to drop the spyglass, or loose his balance and fall to the deck. Climbing the rigging was a lot harder than it looked, because it loosely swayed fore and aft, while the ship swayed from starboard to port at the same time.  In addition, whenever Michael looked down at the deck below he felt completely disoriented – seasick actually – and had to look out to the horizon to steady his nerves.  It was his first indication since his training had begun, that being a pirate might not be so wonderful, after all.

Once Michael made it up to the crow’s nest at the top of the mizzenmast, he saw there was a small, hinged trapdoor that opened upwards with which to climb into it.  Once inside, he placed the trapdoor down and realized that he could stand on it – feeling like he was in the coolest tree fort ever.  The sides of the crow’s nest came up to his chest and he felt secure in the confined space, despite the fact that the swaying motion of the ship was much worse at the top of the mast than it was down on deck.

“Wha’ ‘d ‘ya se’, Mad Dog Jack?” called out Captain Grayghost from far below on deck.

Michael used both hands to hold the spyglass to his right eye and leaned against the edge of the crow’s nest to scan the horizon up ahead.  After a minute or two, he switched to the other side and scanned the horizon behind the ship.  “I can only see a tugboat in the distance behind us, Capt’n, but it seems to be turning away.”

“We only care ’bout tal’ sailin’ ships, Mad Dog Jack – mod’rn day ships don’t car’y tre’sure ‘n they can’t se’ us, even fr’m close range,” replied Captain Grayghost.  “Clim’ ba’k down ‘ere ‘n I’ll send up Scarface Tommy to st’nd watch.”

Michael climbed down the rigging and passed Scarface Tommy on the way up, who snarled at Michael and said, “Giv’ it to me, ‘r you’ll pay th’ price, matey,” which meant to hand over the spyglass, which Michael promptly did and quickly finished climbing down.

“Fol’ow me, Mad Dog Jack – you’ll b’ scrubbin’ th’ poop deck next,” said Captain Grayghost as he turned to climb the stairs to the highest deck at the aft end of the ship.  “Low’r that pail wit’ th’ line to fil’ it wit’ water ‘n ‘aul it back up – th’ brush sits beside it.  I want this entir’ area scrub’ed lick’ty split – ‘n when yer finished you’ll rep’rt to me ‘n clean my cabin.”

“Capt’n, may I ask a question, Sir?”

“Wha’ is it, Mad Dog Jack?”

“Why can’t the other ships see us?”

With that, Captain Grayghost said, “Ha!  Don’t ‘ya kno’, me matey? Arrghh!  We’re all ghosts!  Arrghh!  Ha, ha, ha…” his voice trailing off in a maddeningly, haunting laughter that at once sent shivers up and down Michael’s spine.  “Th’ Pieces o’ Eight’s a ghost ship!  Arrghh! Ha, ha, ha…”

“Then, why…can…I see you, Capt’n?” asked Michael very tentatively, his voice shaking from the sudden realization of just where he was.

“Don’t ya kno’ anythin’ ’bout ghosts, Mad Dog Jack?  Ghosts com’ ‘n go as they choose, ‘n ap’ear wher’ they want to ‘n disap’ear at will. We show ourselv’s to you, ’cause you’re one of us now…but th’ day will come when you’re a ghost, too!  Arrghh!  Ha, ha, ha…”  Throwing his head back like a madman, Captain Grayghost’s hauntingly icy laughter echoed around the ship as he turned and walked away – quite pleased with himself and this sudden turn of events.

Shaking in his tennis shoes, Michael did as he was told – quickly realizing how heavy it was to lift a pail of water up from the sea to the top of the poop deck.  He began scrubbing the deck with the brush as best he could, and realized that being a pirate wasn’t the life he had been looking for at all.  The crew scowled at him whenever they passed by, and Michael realized that they’d rather toss him overboard than look at him. It was then that he understood – to the crew he was extra baggage – another mouth to feed and to split the treasure with, without even being able to defend the ship or raid and plunder another.

As Michael scrubbed the poop deck, he was glad he kept the secret to himself.  He recognized the tugboat he saw trailing behind them through the spyglass before it turned away.  Everyone in Beach Harbor knew that tugboat – it was Sam the Tugboat! Despite his fears of being surrounded by ghosts, Michael knew there was still hope, because Sam had a reputation for saving the day – and if anyone needed the day saved – it was Michael…and soon!

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Six – Where, Oh Where?

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island

(Copyright 2013, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter Six – Where, Oh Where? 


Hunches are like wild goose chases, never guaranteed to produce results, but every now and then they hit the bulls-eye.  Now all Sam had to do was translate his hunch into finding Michael, but it was certainly a long shot by any measure.  Sam was convinced that Michael had been captured by pirates – ghost pirates in fact – and eventually taken to their pirate ship, the Pieces of Eight.  He had to keep his theory under wraps for now, except for sharing his thoughts with Fred, of course.  After all, no one would believe a child could be held captive by ghosts – let alone by ghost pirates!

Sam examined his long-range radar screen and saw Shipwreck Island straight ahead, along with portions of the barrier reef where the coral formed small islands.  Vertical objects were displayed as bright returns on Sam’s radar with dark shadows directly behind them – just like the sun’s shadows – because radar can’t see behind objects. Sam studied the radar returns and tried to see a pattern, hoping beyond hope that his hunch was correct.

Between Sam and Shipwreck Island’s radar return, was a much smaller shadow that was actually moving!  In fact, it was moving in the same direction that Sam was – towards Shipwreck Island!  Could it be the Pieces of Eight?  If it was the Pieces of Eight, a shadow on his radar screen indicated that the ghost ship was solid, because the radar energy couldn’t pass through it.  Yet, for some reason it wasn’t creating a bright return on his radar like Shipwreck Island – only a shadow – but why? Sam had never come across a ghost pirate ship before, let alone tracked one on his radar – so he had to quickly come up with a working theory if he was to rescue Michael from Captain Grayghost!

If Captain Grayghost had indeed captured Michael, then the ship had to have physical properties, otherwise Michael would fall through it into the sea.  If the pirates had taken Michael, then they must be physical, too, in order to grab a hold of him.  Sam put on his thinking cap and concentrated very hard on this dilemma.  A physical object that creates a radar shadow, yet doesn’t reflect radar energy…must somehow absorb the energy within it!  Is that what ghosts do?  By absorbing the radar’s energy they prevent their detection, but because they are physical objects, the radar can’t see behind them – thus the shadow.  Eureka! That’s it!  Sam was tracking the Pieces of Eight directly towards Shipwreck Island and Hidden Cove!  His hunch was correct – Captain Grayghost did capture Michael and was bringing him to his hideout at Hidden Cove!

“Fred, Sam here.  I’ve broken the code, but no one will believe us without proof – Captain Grayghost captured Michael and is taking him to Hidden Cove!  I’ll fill you in on all the details when I return to the marina. We have to keep this to ourselves until I can figure out a way to rescue Michael.”

“Copy that, Sam – I knew you could solve this mystery!  Your first escort vessel arrives at Point Alpha 30 minutes from now.”

“Roger that, Fred – I’m on my way.  Keep the Authorization Code in effect for tomorrow as well.  I’ll return to Shipwreck Island at dawn to try and rescue Michael.”

“You’ve got the authorization for the entire week, Sam.  I hope it doesn’t take that long to rescue Michael – we have to hurry!”

“Understood.  This pirate situation is a tough nut to crack, Fred.  I’ll come up with a plan by tomorrow morning, even if it means I’ll have to work on it all night long!”

“Here’s an idea, Sam – your diesel engines are stronger than a sailing ship when the seas are calm.  Couldn’t you just push the ship to Beach Harbor?  That way the police could deal with Captain Grayghost here at the port.”

“The Pieces of Eight might capsize if I pushed it in rough seas, Fred, and everyone would be lost – including Michael.  That’s too risky.  I could tow the ship using my winch though, but I’d have to think of a way to keep the pirates from climbing aboard and disabling me, Fred. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  I’ll have to call on my friends – they can keep that from happening!”

“Let me know your idea when you’re back at the marina tonight, Sam. Your ship to escort is the Northern Star, out if its home port of Helsinki, Finland.”

“Yes, the skipper of the Northern Star is Antero – he comes to Beach Harbor every chance he gets.  He delivers large rolls of paper for commercial printing here and picks up a cargo of electronics and aircraft parts for Finland.  I’m looking forward to chatting with him today – I’ll be at Point Alpha in 15 minutes, Fred.”

“Copy, Sam.  We’ll discuss your plan back at the marina once you’ve completed your schedule today.”

“Roger that, Fred.  It’ll be our biggest sea rescue ever!”

“Understood, Sam – we have to be careful though – Michael has to be kept safe…”

“Copy that, Fred – we’ll make sure of that.  Tally ho, I have the Northern Star in sight!”

“Cheers, Sam – tomorrow will be a big day – let’s hope your plan works!”

Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island – Chapter Five – Shiver Me Timbers!

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…”

“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!