“The Tempest and the Pirates”
Pages 22 - 23
As the day wore on the darkness of the clouds increased, and the wind picked up steadily. The rain went from a drizzle, to a downpour, to coming down in torrents. All hands were called to take in the topsails and to shorten the main and jib sails.
“Mr. Willingham,” the captain called, “I must go to my cabin and see where we are. We may have to make a run for the islands and a sheltered harbor from this storm.”
“Aye, Captain,” Willingham replied as he made a concerned look about the ship and her rigging.
The seas were now up and as the Shannon made her way through them, her bow dug deep into the swells sending spray after spray along her deck. The wind was now blowing hard out of the south and east. The Shannon needed to change course.
As the captain returned from his cabin below deck, he took the wheel from Millar, turning it hard to the left, causing the Shannon to turn a hard ninety degrees in the wind to a south-west course, heading straight for the islands.
The Shannon was now being buffeted by strong winds, high seas and torrential rain. Yelling at the top of his lungs, the captain called all hands to the stern of the boat.
Continuing to yell at the top of his lungs to be heard, the captain addressed the crew. “I fear, men, that we have sailed into the path of a tempest,” he began, “it appears to be a bad storm and I fear we are too far out to sea to make for Charles Town. Our only option is to make for the islands to our south and west hoping to make a safe harbor there. We’ve a hard day or two sail ahead of us. God willing we’ll make it. All hands will be on call until further notice. Mr. Willingham, you have the ship. Keep us on this south-west course until further notice. I must go below to complete some navigation calculations,” the captain concluded.
Taking the wheel, Willingham looked about the ship, the rigging and sails, as the captain made his way below deck. The wind was now blowing hard from the port beam and the Shannon was keeled hard to starboard as she sailed on her new south-west course heading toward the islands. Thomas made his way to Willingham as he maintained his place at the wheel.
As Thomas approached Mr. Willingham, he had to hold onto the rigging to maintain his footing as he yelled, “What is a tempest, what does this mean?”
Willingham, for his part, never took his eyes off the ship’s sails or rigging as he yelled to Thomas, “A tempest is the worst storm possible at sea. They can last for days or a week or more and have taken more ships to the bottom than can be counted. We have to run for the nearest safe harbor and pray we make it!”
“Are we in that much danger, then?” Thomas yelled.
“I fear so!” was all Willingham replied.
For the next day and night the winds, seas and rain buffeted the ship. She was a well-built craft and it appeared that she was holding her own against the monster storm that now had her in its grips. The weary crew neither slept, nor ate, as all were engaged in keeping the ship afloat by working the pumps to keep the water out of her, or constantly checking and adjusting the rigging and sails.
The night of the fifth day of the storm was the worst yet seen by the crew of the Shannon. The night was black with the wind howling as the seas and rain buffeted the ship endlessly. No one on board the ship had slept in days. The strain and desperation were wearing on everyone. All hands had been called by the captain who had not left the deck in over forty-eight hours, to further reef the only remaining sails, the jib and the main sail.
Suddenly, and without warning, a tremendous explosion of wind and water crashed upon the boat, washing her entire crew overboard and into the turbulent waters and stormy seas as the Shannon capsized in an instant, sending her to the bottom of the ocean.