Part the One Hundred Forty Second: Coming Ashore
The dawn light would have brought Hope something new to worry about, had she not been so sore from rowing.
By the time Mesnil returned the rammer to her, Sanders ordered the crew to row the vessel at half speed, just as the sun broke the horizon and the sounds of waves breaking ashore could be heard. After a slow ascent to the quarterdeck, her muscles screaming the whole way up steps made wobbly from the Casa’s shots, she caught sight of the hard rocks along the shoreline. Between two rough outcropping of jutting stone was a bare sliver of calm blue, wearing the crowns of breaking waves to either side like a lace collar.
She caught a glimpse of the determination on Sanders’ face and said plainly, “So that’s the inlet.”
“Aye,” she replied.
“Looks small from here.”
“She’s as wide as the Gale is long. We’ll take her slowly under oars and we should beach smartly.”
Hope only sighed in response, resigned to potentially breaking up on the rocks with no more panic than finding herself caught in a brief shower.
“Ye didn’t have to take his place, you know,” Abigail said without prompting.
“I thought I did.”
“A noble gesture, but unnecessary.”
Hope said nothing as the Gale rowed her way towards the inlet.
Not even the sudden pitch by the Gale as her bow rose quickly, then slapped the surf, made Hope cry out. Even with the horrible groaning the timbers made as the hull hit the water, she showed no more reaction than a masthead would have to the spatters of salty foam that lapped her face as the ship yawed through the channel between the stones. The closest she came to crying out was when a sudden roll made her grab the rail around the quarterdeck to keep from falling; the aches running from her shoulders down her back as she did that felt like her ribs were bursting through her chest.
By the time the waves of pain subsided, the ship was righted and being rowed towards shore like an oversized launch. Much like she found herself in the Cay, the Gale was surrounded by land, although here the surf was active as it came ashore.
“Let it run port!” Sanders commanded when the ship was in the center of the inlet, putting her weight into the tiller bar as only the starboard oars dipped into the water, slowly making the turn. Hope watched the water around the Gale go from turquoise to teal as her bow edged closer to shore.
“Easy ashore!” the captain called, and oars to both sides slowly drew the ship in. With no more than a nudge, Hope felt the keel drag, then settle into the sand five fathoms from the beach.
“And here’s where we start unpacking and careen her,” said Hope to Abigail with resignation.
“Nay, we dare not spend so much time here in Spanish lands. A quick survey, a few good guesses to what we need to affect repairs, and we be off these sands with the first tide. Now pretty yourself up smart.”
“For what, pray tell?”
“It’ll help make bargaining with the Encomendero go that much easier,” Abigail responded.
Hope sighed with tired resignation, too tired to ask why.
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