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(TFT) SOLO III, 036
Gail watches, Ada at her side. Some crewmen grab long poles with hooks
on the end. They snag the boat still hanging outside the ship and pull it
in over deck. It just barely fits between rigging and rope ladders that go
up from the rail to the forward and aft masts. The four mates who hauled it
up reach down and unloop the lines from cleats on one side of the cargo
hatch. They let out line slowly as the boat is pulled further in board.
The boat is settled down on its keel and rolls over a little settling
against the ships rail.
The two mates with the boat hooks stow them away and come back,
unhooking the boat from it's four block and tackles. The other four mates
quickly pull out the slack in the blocks and tie off the ropes with pegs on
the rail. Then all six crewmen roll the boat over and carry it over to the
cargo hatch. The boat is about as wide as the cargo hatch but longer. The
settle it centered over the hatch. A coil of rope is taken off a hook on
the aft mast and tossed to another mate.
Four of them take up positions by the cleats at each corner of the
cargo hatch with the boat between them. They pass the rope back and forth.
Looping it over the upside down boat, around a cleat, then back again. When
done the boat is very secure and fixed in the middle of the deck.
Most of the crew is standing around on the fore deck. They pull open a
hatch and all of them go down a steep stair to a sub deck. Gail sends her
astral dragon in to watch.
The room under the fore deck has two tall narrow windows on each side
of the bow. Large chains come from the window and lay in huge boxes fixed
to the deck. They form up and grab the chain in teams. One man in the
front of each team goes forward to the windows and grabs hold of large iron
poles going through links in the chain. The iron poles keep anymore chain
from sliding out the windows. Like pins. The teams pull against the
chains, leaning back. It takes a while but soon they get some slack, the
ship must have slid forward a bit, and the two metal pins are pulled out.
The two mates set the pins in slots in the floor and rejoin the teams.
With a lot of 'hup, hup, heave' the teams start pulling in the anchor
chains. They feed them into the huge crates. The links of chain coil up
and slowly fill the crates. Fairly quickly the anchors appear in the
windows. Each anchor is about the size of a man. Four men break off the
front of each team, move forward, and grab it by its post. They lift it up,
level the shaft, and pull the anchors snug against the outside of the
windows. The flukes of the anchor are flat and cover the windows entirely.
One mate breaks off of each, pulls the pins back out of the deck and slides
them through slots at the base of the anchor shafts. The anchors are now
raised and secure.
The crew moves back on deck. A quarter of them start up the rope
ladders to the aft mast, and another quarter up the fore mast. The other
half move to the rails standing by lines and to the base of the masts,
standing by lines there. The crews up on the rigging reach the ladder on
the masts and climb up to the crossbeams. Some break off and crawl out on
the crossbeams while the rest continue up. Once spread out there are four
men, two on each side of the mast, for each crossbeam. There are four
crossbeams on the aft mast, and three on the front. Once in position they
are all laying down on the top of the crossbeams. Legs wrapped around and
one arm passed underneath. The free arm of each is holding the end of a
knot of rope that ties the sails back.
Down on deck the first mate looks around. He checks the men at the
rails, the group at the aftmast, and looks behind him at the group at the
fore mast. Satisfied everyone is in possition on deck he looks up at the
men on the crossbeams. Gail and Ada can see the mate pointing to each with
one hand and counting fingers on the other. When he gets to the last one he
looks down at the deck and closes his eyes. He calls out "On the Ready!"
He has a booming voice, and it looks like he is trying to bounce it off the
wooden planks below him. Maintaining a cadence like he's chanting he calls
out "All hands steady!" and he holds his arms out in front of himself palms
together. "Go go go go!" He opens his hands bringing his arms straight out
to his sides.
Every man on a crossbeam pulls their knot loose and the sails unfurl,
dropping down to the beam below them. The men on deck start pulling ropes
fast, hand over hand, taking in the slack. In one fast moment every sail on
the ship snaps open and is pulled taught. The air fills them instantly, and
with a pop, pop, popping of the sails; the ship leans under everyone's feet.
It begins to slide forward. "Secure all stations!" The first mate calls.
Then he turns around, cups his hands around his mouth and hollers up at
one of the mates on the forward mast. "You busted thumb, bucket head!" On
the top crossbeam of the forward mast on the left hand side, the mate
closest to the mast is still fighting with his knot. His part of the sail
is still hung up. "You got swab duty! Again! Now fix that sail you
pollywog, and get down here!"
Most of the mates have tied off and pegged their lines. Two mates are
still standing by the forward mast holding a line and waiting. The Mate
further out on the crossbeam from the pollywog has to wait to crawl back in.
One of the mates walks up to gail and offers an unrequested
explanation. "Guzzler can hear every sail pop individually." He hooks a
thumb over his shoulder toward the first mate.
David Michael Grouchy II
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