The crew of both the Revenge and the Privateer, minus four, were poised and ready for attack. On each ship every cannon was manned by three men, a further two man stood at the ready awaiting their orders to replenish the supplies of cannonballs when they were needed. Between the gunners decks and the upper decks where mobile cannons had been wheeled into place there was more than sixty cannons all aimed at the north western cove awaiting first sighting of the black sails.
The mooring ropes of the two large ships had been let loose and the ships were pushed from the jetty. They only needed twenty feet clearance from the large wooden structure to ensure the recoil from the cannon fire did not damage either the ships or the jetty by having them come together.
The good captain knew, as any good captain should, that his ships were sitting on the dead of the tide, At the southern end of his bay, where the jetty was, the good captain and his crew knew that dead of the tide lasted no more than an hour but that was more than enough time to place the large ships where they needed to be without their movement being detected. By the time the tide turned with two mooring ropes on each ship, front and back, the outgoing tide would then hold the ships in place and clear of the jetty.
While his ships would be moored to the jetty, pulled against their tethers by a tide that ran fast for the first two hours of its turn, the black sailed ship in the cove would not have the same luxury. There would be no mooring and only a fool of a captain would order their ship in foreign waters be anchored before initiating a cannon battle, for no ship could flee while anchored to the ocean floor. Instead the ship would be under whatever power it could harness from the gentle breeze, but most of all and it was something the Good Captain was hoping for, the black sailed ship controlled by the out going tide.
The four pirates missing from the Good Captain’s ships, Skullbagger, Murphey, Pockmark and Swaggers, where getting themselves into position by the time the two ships were being moved from the jetty. From where they hiding in the trees they could see the outline of the black sailed ship but no other details. They could also see the water and knew the tide was already beginning it’s outward flow which meant it was time for the to initiate the attack.
The four pirates knew everything they did had to happen within a very short succession, they also knew that once their position was revealed to the black sailed ship and they began to retaliate they would have little choice but to flee for their lives. Each pirate knew his job as they set up their weapons and they worked in silence as they did it.
Three matches sparked in the darkness, from any distance they’d have appeared as one. As Pockmark lay behind a log with his double barrelled rifle aimed at the ship the three pirates with matches wasted no time in lighting the rum soaked rags draped from the bottles in their hands. Seconds after the rags were lit and burning they, together with the bottles and their contents of flammable rum were in flight. As the three flaming flagons of rum flew in the direction of the black sailed ship Pockmark opened fire with his rifle.
Pockmark had barely let off two rounds of ammunition, ammunition which had to be reloaded between shots, when the second batch of three flaming flagons took flight. He knew even with the black sailed ship being so close to shore, that his weapon would be doing little more than leaving his namesake in the dark timbers of the hull. The likelihood of damage, or better still actually hitting and fatally wounding one of the crew were slim, but he knew that was not his goal.
The four pirates had taken the ship by surprise and it was slow to react, but react it did and when the four pirates saw the first fiery blast, which revealed the ship’s location to both them and their crew mates aboard the Privateer and Revenge they bolted.
Whether the crew of the black sailed ship aimed their shot or just fired blindly at the flash of light from Pockmark’s rifle was unknown but their aim was true and had the four pirates not moved they’ve have been taken out by the first cannon fired. Instead by sheer luck, although Swaggers would later suggest it was through prefect aiming, one of the last flaming flagons struck the front sail of big ship. Almost instantly as the flammable rum spread down the sail flames took over and within seconds a thirty foot section of black sail was lighting up the sky.
The crews aboard the Privateer and Revenge had fired their first rounds from the cannons seconds after they saw the blast of the dark ship’s cannon light up the north western cove. But it was the accidental flaming sail which provided them the constant target they needed.
The black sailed ship could not hide and it could not run, with the sail alight and the flames licking other sails on the mast the Good Pirate’s crew could see the ship at all times. Cannonball after cannonball left the two ships, the pirates manning the cannons loading and firing so quickly they could not be counted.
It only took a few seconds for the black sailed ship to realise its mistake and almost instantly it turned on the two ship and began firing. The crew of the black ship were too busy aiming and firing their weapons, weapons which we not ready to be fired due to them being take by surprise, to extinguish the fire of the sails and before long the fire was spreading.
As burning pieces of sail fell to the deck and into the water cannonballs blasted into the side of the ship. Flames quickly took over the decks, sheeted flames burning across the decks as if they were damp with rum and not sea water. But it wasn’t until one cannonball, which was not aimed, took out the centre mast of the black sailed ship that the Good Captain knew the ship was dead in the water. Despite being dead in the water the captain did not call his crews off he kept them firing, as long as the enemy fired at him his crew would fire at them.
Twenty minutes later the cannon fire stopped. The acrid smell of burnt gun powder filled the air that the burning black ship was no longer firing. Although both the Revenge and the Privateer were still floating they would require repairs, but that did not matter, they’d beaten the crew of the black sailed ship and no longer would any pirate have to fear the Black Sails At Midnight.
Previous Pirate Story here.