Slowly the boat weaved its way through tight packed bay, and finally they came alongside Tropic Star. Happy greetings were exchanged between the crews, and congratulations to the Caribes for sinking the pirates and bringing their ship in safely. A cargo net dropped down to the boat to hoist their belongings, and one by one the Caribes climbed up Tropic Star’s side, Jack and Linda bade to go first in a place of honor. Tropic Star’s captain, a tall, wiry man with sandy hair and a deeply tanned, crinkled face held out his hand and greeted them warmly. “Thornbush’s the name, mate, Billy Thornbush” he said in his Australian accent.
“Jack” he replied. “We haven’t been much for exchanging last names amongst our little band. Maybe the less we know, the better?”
“Right you ah” said Billy. “They cahn’t wrestle from yoo what yoo don’t know! Right then… I’ll see yoo to yoh quotahs and then we’ll bring yoo up to dayte.”
The captain led Jack and Linda to a stateroom, followed by a crewman carrying their bags. He left them to get settled, and invited them to join him in the wheelhouse as soon as they were comfortable. The door had hardly latched before Linda jumped into Jack’s arms, kissing him deeply, almost violently…
An hour later they strode into the wheelhouse. The small Asian crewman who had been consulting with his captain on quartering the Caribes turned, gave a slight smile and a bow, then left.
“Jack, Linda, I trust yoh accommodations ah satisfact'ry?”
“Yes, very cozy” Jack said, letting a wry glance at Linda slip.
“Good, good” said Billy. “Let’s get right to it then. The fact is, we cahn’t stay. The playce is crawleeng weeth people, the hahbah is jam packed, and the goven’ment says they want us away. No room. So sorry.”
“That answers my first question; no point in going ashore then” said Jack. “Captain, have you-“
“Billy, mate. Cawl me Billy. Professional cuhtesy.”
“Billy- have you seen my boat? Has First Watch made it here?”
“Krikey, it escaped my mind, mate. She’s tied up alongside! Everyone sayfe and sound. In fact, Willie and Peggy will be up foh dinnah this evening.”
“I’m relieved to hear that!” Jack exclaimed. “So, Billy… Do you have anything in mind? What to do next?”
“No, mate. Oi’m just a navigatah. The crew elected me captain, aftah the other officahs weh… Relocayted…”
“I’m sure Willie will have some intel for us, and his insight as well this evening. Thank you Billy, for your hospitality.”
“No worries, mate. See you bowth at seex ohn the mess deck.”
Jack walked out of the wheelhouse with Linda on his arm, and he spotted First Watch’s mast just barely poking up above a life boat hanging on its davits on the starboard side. They broke into a run across the deck to the starboard rail, and hailed the boat.
“Jack! Damn I’m glad to see you! The pirates?”
“Sunk their asses.”
Willie’s eyes twinkled, but he asked no more. “We’ll see you later at dinner. Y’all run along and… rest up.”
Back in the stateroom, Jack could barely contain himself. “It seems we’ve a few hours to kill.” He shut and bolted the door, pulled Linda’s body against his, and began tearing her clothes off the second their lips met. She was equally aroused, and wasted no time undressing him as well. Their bodies writhed and undulated against each other as hands caressed those parts which most want to be caressed, and lips kissed that which is begging to be kissed. He pressed her up against the door, and she slid her soft, small foot up his leg and wrapped hers around him. Jack pulled her other leg up and around, carried her across the cabin, then laid her on the bed and climbed atop her. Linda quickly threw him over on his back and mounted him. Their quivering, sweating bodies moved in time with the gentle rocking of the ship, and they both had to suppress their moans of absolute pleasure which would be heard through the thin door or the open portholes. A short pause, much filled with kissing and stroking of one another; then followed by another, longer, even more passionate bout…
Panting and spent, Jack looked at the watch on his wrist. He looked at Linda, smiled, and said “An hour left ‘til dinner.”
They walked onto the mess deck with five minutes to spare. The Captain, Willie, and Peggy stood up, beckoning them over to their table. Jack and Linda exchanged happy greetings, then everyone took their seats just as the cook and his mate brought several covered dishes to their table. The first was a wonderfully aromatic plate of grilled wahoo steaks, fresh and spiced to perfection, the fish having been caught earlier in the day from one of the ship’s boats out by the deep drop off just outside the bay. This was followed by steamed langosta, spiny lobsters which were fished up from beneath the ship’s keel by two Jamaican crew members who have dived for them since they were young. Next came a steaming bowl of local vegetables, tossed with steamed shrimp. Local bread and cheese followed, along with several bottles of wine from the ship’s provisions (which had been kept under lock and key these many months).
Leaning back in his chair and patting his stomach- which had not been so satisfactorily filled in so long as he could not remember- Jack’s mouth broke out into a wide grin, and he thanked his host heartily. As the plates were removed and another bottle of wine made its appearance, Captain Billy leaned across the table and queried “So, what’s next do yeh reckon?” to no one in particular, but casting an inquisitory glance toward towards Jack.
Much to Jack’s relief, Willie piped up with his take. “The way I see it, our best course of action is to man this ship as fully as we can from the folks here in the harbor who value their skin, take a few boats in tow, and sail south. Much as I hate to say it, we’re gonna have to sail around Cape Horn. Forget the Panama Canal, that’ll be sewn up tighter than a nun’s ass on Sunday. ‘Round the Horn, then into the South Pacific. I think that’s the only place we’ll be able to get the hell away from the government bastards, and this locust plague of humanity that has found its way here. Jack, your opinion?”
There was a long pause as Jack’s mind contemplated the journey southward. The equatorial doldrums they would surely encounter, perhaps leaving them adrift on the current for weeks. The horrendous accounts he’d read of sailing ships in the far southern latitudes, beating against westerly gales and mountainous seas to round the Horn and reach the rich whaling grounds off Chile and Peru. Of the treacherous conditions encountered near the Tierra del Fuego (a misnomer if ever there was one), where wintery storms are the norm, and the great Brazil and Antarctic Circumpolar currents meet in tumultuous confluence. His total lack of practical experience in those waters, and his ignorance of seasonal variations in the local conditions down there caused him to waver. Being put on the spot, even though he expected it, still took him aback. But he composed his thoughts, and after drawing a deep breath, he began to speak.
“We will need to top off anything that will hold water or fuel. Caribe still has some of each, but not a lot. Maybe we can barter her for supplies from the locals? Either way, she isn’t seaworthy. Her foremast and most of her bowsprit are gone and her steering is jury rigged. We will need as much food as we can cram aboard. When we reach the teens in latitude, we’ll be at the mercy of the Brazilian inshore breezes and the current to cross the equator, and the same until the southern latitude teens. Give or take. And then we will enter the ‘roaring 40s’” Jack’s fingers held up in quotes, “where we will likely encounter monstrous seas and gale force, if not hurricane winds from the west which we’ll have to tack against to round Cape Horn. Then, if we survive, we’ll have thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean to cross. There are islands where we can take on water and some provisions, but they’re a long sail from the Horn. It will not be a pleasant passage.”
His companions were quiet for some time, digesting this information, and weighing it against their own desire to be free. After several minutes’ pause, having taken several sips from his wine glass, Captain Billy spoke up. “I’m game, mate.” Slowly the others around the table nodded their approval.
“We’ll have to put this to the crew” Jack solemnly stated. “They should know the hardship they are about to face, and decide for themselves whether or not they are willing to face death.”