48 Hours a Day
Chapter 141 - A New Beginning
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“What?! That… that… ship over there is yours?!” Anne’s jaw nearly fell to the ground. “Don’t tell me that you’ve really found Kidd’s treasure? But that can’t be right. Even if you had money, you still wouldn’t be able to afford an entire frigate, right?”
“That’s a long story. I’ll explain to you some other time. Right now, tell me, how did the cannoneer recruitment go?”
Although the Jackdaw was a rather spacious vessel, Zhang Heng did not plan to recruit too many crew for their first voyage. Including Anne, he now had a core team of eighteen members. He planned to recruit another fifteen at the beach, including skilled seafarers such as cooks and carpenters. Then he would have Anne recommend seven to eight more people, mainly gunners, so the organizational structure would be relatively stable.
After several trips, and only after the wheels had been oiled, would they hire more. Even though doing it this way meant that it would take a longer time to complete the full complement of crew, it also meant that he did not worry about other small-time groups muddling along. Besides, time wasn’t of the essence for Zhang Heng.
As for the appointment of Anne as their boatswain, Zhang Heng had already approached Billy and the others about it. Women were considered to bring bad luck to a vessel. Unsurprisingly, female pirates, in the 18th century, was still somewhat of an anomaly. Generally, everyone had their concerns but Zhang Heng was resolute about this matter.
Since it was the captain’s first order, no one refused, nor did they ask for a vote.
In the end, after a lengthy discussion, Billy and the others decided to accept the appointment, but only on one condition–Anne’s fighting skills had to be tested first.
The reason behind this request was well-grounded. After all, in addition to managing and assigning tasks to the crew, the boatswain must also lead by example during a battle. If the boatswain was taken down by the enemy in a fight, forget about the crew having the morale to fight after that.
Zhang Heng had no objection to this requirement. He could instantly designate Anne as the boatswain of the Jackdaw, but to convince everyone on the ship would have to be of her own effort. Fortunately for her, although Zhang Heng might be worried about many things, he wasn’t concerned about her fighting abilities.
Looking up the two opponents who were easily a head taller than her, the redhead did not even flinch, nor did she show any signs of fear. On the contrary, she seemed excited.
The rest of the pirates started to gather instinctively to watch the battle unfold. The acting referee, Billy, said to Anne, “This is just a test. You’re not allowed to be heavy-handed. You are also allowed to surrender at any given time. So, there’s nothing to worry about. Next, you can choose one opponent from these two. As long as you can defeat any one of them, we will accept you as our fellow…”
Before he could even finish his sentence, the girl cut him off by picking up the saber on the sand. She swung it around to get a feel of it and flashed Billy a smile. “Let’s not complicate things. The both of you can fight me together. Otherwise, it would be meaningless if the fight ends too soon.”
When the other pirates heard this arrogant declaration, a massive uproar broke out among them.
Zhang Heng did not have to see the fight, already knowing how it would end. Besides, there were more important matters that needed his attention.
Since becoming a captain, he had a constant nudging at the back of his mind that there were always more things to do. Back on the Sea Lion, his main focus was to learn, observe more, and to speak less. To avoid alarming Orff, he was rarely involved in the affairs onboard. Instead, all he had to do was manage his own time every day. Now, however, he was responsible for an entire ship, and there were a million things bogging his mind down.
The first thing he did was to instruct Dufresne to buy a batch of green lemons before setting out to sea.
During the age of the great sailboats, there was danger lurking at every corner. Among them, scurvy was one of the many things that couldn’t be overlooked.
Due to technical restrictions, most of the fresh produce could not be kept on the ship for the long-term. Whether navy or pirate, their staple consisted mainly of biscuits and dried meat, supplemented by a small portion of seafood. In the short term, this was not a problem. But in the long run, if they were unable to get on land, the lack of essential vitamins would lead to a series of health problems.
The least severe of consequences would be fatigue, agomphiasis, aching bones. In more severe cases, however, it often lead to death. When Columbus explored the New World, most of his crew died of scurvy, and during Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe, two-thirds of the crew also died of the same condition.
The later generations would come to learn that this was caused by vitamin deficiency, specifically the lack of vitamin-C. Still, in the era that Zhang Heng was in right now, effective remedies weren’t discovered yet. Except for prayer, of course.
When he was on the Sea Lion, Zhang Heng had seen people suffering from scurvy. They were weak and sapped, and could only exert half of their strength during battles. That was a strong reminder to him that when it was his turn to lead the crew, the first thing he needed to do was to prepare lemons.
Since the fruit was easy to store–still good for consumption even after a month under normal temperature, it was one of the best sources for vitamin-C. On top of that, Zhang Heng also instructed the new cook to prepare a batch of dried vegetables and fruits to double down on preventing scurvy.
The only lament was that soybeans from China only entered European waters a few decades later. It would have become the easiest source of fresh vegetables that they could find on the ship. Bean sprouts did not need soil to grow. All it needed was a splash of fresh water, and the little plant would sprout like mad. Not only that, but soybean sprouts were also rich in protein and vitamins. Having that in mind, Zhang Heng entrusted several businessmen on the island with a connection to the East India Company to help him acquire it, but it would take, even at the very least, a year.
With the food problem taken care of, Zhang Heng proceeded to the black-market merchants on the island to discuss matters regarding the splitting of the sales of loot. Generally. The larger pirate gangs on the island would have exclusive partnerships with certain black-market merchants as partners, an established mutually beneficial, win-win relationship.
When the pirates come back with loot, they would hand them over to their respective black-market partners, and the latter would offer them a higher-than-market price. Zhang Heng thought that once he had the Jackdaw, he would earn the favor of many of the black-market merchants. Unfortunately, the actual situation was far from what he’d envisioned.
He visited some of the larger merchants on the island, and although they didn’t seem too polite on the surface, it was actually more of an act of courtesy. In fact, the prices they quoted were less than favorable. According to Dufresne, the offers given were only slightly little better than the average newcomer who had only just ventured out to the sea and paled in comparison to the original Sea Lion.
The merchants’ answers were basically the same, all sharing the same opinion of the excellent condition of the Jackdaw herself, but expressed concerns over Captain Zhang Heng’s young age. Some of them heard about the incident on the beach and felt that hiring a woman to be the boatswain was both immature and sacrilegious on his part, which only confirmed their previous concern.
So, across the board, the consensus was that they wished first to see Zhang Heng and his Jackdaw prove their ability at sea, hoping that he could come back for a renegotiation only after several successful plunders.
Once they were out the door, Dufresne frowned. “Something is not right. In the past, these guys showed great enthusiasm whenever potential pirate gangs showed up on the island. It looks like the rumors might be true.”
“Because selling stolen goods is such a lucrative business, there are many black-market merchants on the island. That means fierce competition would be rife among them. Sometimes, they would have malicious fallout. To win over the competitors’ pirate ships, some of them would go as far as to secretly contribute funds to support wildcard ships with hidden agendas, inciting them to mutiny. If they succeed, they will choose their sponsors as new partners in return. But recently, I heard that the island’s black market merchants are negotiating to end this chaotic situation, and they intend to form an alliance.”