The Spanish Main

Reluctant to pay the primage to a Spaniard, wearing long clothes no less, the Captain held the coins in his hand for longer than necessary. Even though he was a pirate, there were some things that you just couldn’t plunder. The Devil’s Daughter had docked at Portobelo in the Isthmus of Darién for three days now, repairing the bulwark that had been damaged in the last fray and acquiring supplies. The Captain eyed the new bulwark and was pleased with the results. “She’s worth the pieces of eight,” he said, trying to convince himself as he reluctantly handed the tinkling, gold coins to the Spanish sutler. He would have paid nearly any price to fix his sloop or killed the Spaniard for her, but the price wasn’t steep, especially since they had just raided a vessel bound from Portobelo on their way to port, so he paid. He thought of killing the Spaniard anyway, but let it be.

As the Spaniard alighted the ship, still weighing the coins in his hand, he said,”Godspeed to you, Captain,” but Captain Pollock had already turned his attention to his crew. “Bosun, bring a spring upon her cable; we make to cast off this very night. Batten the holds and tell these scurvy hands to do it handsomely. Fair winds are upon us.” A flurry of activity commenced on the ship’s shrouds and ratlines.

The Devil’s Daughter wasn’t the biggest ship on the sea, but the Captain was awfully fond of her. She had a shapely sheer and a shallow draft even when loaded. She had served him many a year and made a fine chase to loot cargo meant for the Spanish mainland. What she lacked in size, she more than made up for in speed, allowing her to run circles around her prey.

Captain Pollock had once been a Lieutenant on an English warship, but he had never much liked following orders and he and the Royal Navy didn’t get along. He set out on his own with The Devil’s Daughter nigh on eight years ago and had done fairly well for himself. He had a crew of seventy men who could be trusted. Well, they could be trusted as far as any corsairs, which wasn’t very far, but they were loyal to him, or more likely, to the riches he brought them. As fond as he was of his ship, he was fonder still of his crew, which he had assembled in various ports of call. Most of them had been with him for years.They were all privateers who had gone on account with similar stories to his own.

Pollock had carved out for himself one of the richest territories on the Spanish Main near the Darién Gap. The Spaniards had lucked into gold, silver, and precious gems in the region. It all had to be moved somehow, and when it did, that’s when The Devil’s Daughter would politely greet them on the sea. Pollock had worked hard for this territory and there were always other freebooters looking to move in on his domain. He had to be wary, especially when his holds were full. Although it took its toll on captain, crew and ship, he couldn’t imagine any other life for himself and neither could his crew.

“Captain, we be seaworthy,” said the bosun. They made their way from the afterdeck to the wheelhouse. Pollock delicately patted the vessel and said, “Cast off the painter from the bollard, windlass the cable and scull the ship to sea.” “Aye, Cap’n.”

It was a bright night with a mid-moon and no clouds. Pollock surveyed the maps and compass, but he had no need as he could dead reckon his way through his territory even in the roughest gale. He wondered how long it would be before they encountered The Isabella. She had set to the previous morning, but she was slow and heavy. It wouldn’t take long to catch her up. The Isabella was four times as big as The Devil’s Daughter and loaded to bear with gold. With a sprightly wind, they could reach the chase by the morrow. Pollack took the helm from the coxswain, “I’ll take the dogwatch tonight.” He breathed deeply of the crisp night air and was glad of the motion under his feet after three days in port. He jibed the prow to starboard and set steerage for the northeast.

The story continues with The Viper’s Bite.

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