48 Hours a Day
Chapter 225 - Coral Island
Jackdaw no longer suffered the lack of staff after all the pirates sobered up. The ship’s cannons could finally be put to good use. As for its condition, most of the cracks and holes had been hastily patched up, and she could move normally again. Although not the best option, restoring it to its mint state would take ages, not to mention needing a dry dock. Right now, there weren’t any materials left to fix it. Any further repairs would have to wait until they returned to Nassau.
In the jerry-rigged state that the Jackdaw was in, they would certainly meet their end if they engaged in another battle. This time around, Harry was asked to attend the pre-battle meeting. Back then, when discussing the attack on the Spanish treasure ship back, Ramsay and Harry were asked to stay out of it. Later, it was discovered that Harry became very upset due to this. So he was pleasantly surprised when Zhang Heng allowed him to be a part of the coveted discussion, a closed-door meeting typically attended by the higher ranking staff of the ship. Naturally, this got Harry really excited, and though the captain forbode him from talking during the meeting, he was so happy that a silly grin couldn’t leave his face.
On the other spectrum of emotions, Billy was deeply guilty about what happened last night. He had gotten so drunk that he couldn’t help protect the ship and was genuinely disappointed in himself. Feeling dishonored, he insisted on giving up his helmsman post. However, after some persuasion, Zhang Heng and the rest of the crew managed to talk him out of it.
No doubt, Billy was the best candidate to be the helmsman on the whole of Jackdaw. Dufresne, although no slouch, preferred to work as quartermaster of the ship. Before last night’s incident, Billy had been always been a trustworthy crewman, taking his duties very seriously.
The crew wouldn’t simply deny all his contributions because of one accidental lapse of judgment. Of course, he would be punished accordingly for overindulging to the point where the ship’s security was compromised. For the next three voyages, his regular portion of loot would be cut in half. However, he was still allowed his bonus. Fortunately, after all the deductions and subtractions, he would still receive the same amount as the others, more or less. Even as they were talking, Billy was already well into his tasks again.
“Are you sure they will come after us?” asked Billy.
“I’m bloody sure they will. Previously, they sent two ships because they wanted to defeat us in one go. We only managed to shake them off because of the sudden storm. I have every reason to believe that the navy sank all pirate ships on Parrot Island last night. In other words, they would only need a ship or two to keep an eye on the remaining pirates there. This leaves the rest of them free to pursue us. After all, we have suffered a considerable amount of damage, and we are only half a day from Parrot Island. They can easily catch up to us if they depart now.”
“What if they decide to come after us all of their ships? If that’s the case, we would be willingly walking into their trap,” said Dufresne.
“The possibility of it happening is extremely tiny. After crossing paths with the enemy, I see that their commander is extremely good at what he does. I think he should figure out that we would take the longer route back to Nassau if we wish to avoid them. So, the best option for them would be splitting up to cover more water. Our hull is severely damaged. We won’t last long if we engage in battle with them again. They know that one ship of theirs is enough to defeat us even if they all split up. I believe that the commander is willing to risk it to finish us off.”
“Coral Island is two hundred nautical miles east of Parrot Island. It is in the same direction as Nassau. However, it is slightly to the north. We should stop here and wait a day. If my deductions are wrong and our enemies choose to stick together instead, they would head straight to Nassau. If that’s the case, they will pass by without noticing us, and our threat would be nullified. If I’m right, then one of their ships would definitely cross paths with us. By that time, we could take to take their ship and solve our water problem.”
“What should we do? The hull is in real bad shape. I don’t think we will survive another high-intensity battle,” said Billy.
“This is why we need a small island. It’s similar to the strategy we used for the Spanish treasure ship. First, we dismount the cannons and move them to the island. After that, Jackdaw will lure the ship into the firing range of the on-shore cannons. We will attack them with everything that we’ve got! By luck, we can prevent our ship from taking further damage.”
Zhang Heng had so much faith in his strategy only because he heard the game’s notification earlier. He leveled up his sailing skills from two to three, but in the heat of battle, he was so focused that he completely ignored it. Once the storm was over, he noticed that his level on his character panel had changed.
When he rammed his ship into the navy’s defensive line, the tremendous amount of pressure he was put under inadvertently awakened his potential. Thanks to that, his sailing skills received a massive boost. After he realized that it had been upgraded to Lv3, he found that maneuvering the Jackdaw was as easy as a swing of the arm. He was confident about using his ship to lure the enemy into his trap without receiving any damage.
The key to success for this plan was to make sure that Jackdaw could lure its target within their shooting range. Then, the cannoneers had to make sure that it was eliminated. It had to be done there and then. Once the enemy was out of range, it would be impossible for the crew to move the cannons back to the ship and continue pursuing them.
“Let survey the terrain first. We should figure out a way to solve this problem,” said Zhang Heng.
The nautical charts of the 18th century weren’t as accurate as their modern counterparts. Without the existence of the Global Positioning System, it would be an arduous task to accurately map out the entire terrain of the island. Everything was drawn by hand, and other than its name and a roughly estimated size, they got nothing useful out of it. Luckily, Jackdaw was very close to the island, and after half a day, they finally arrived. Zhang Heng, Anne, and the ship’s senior crew proceeded to explore the place.
“I finally know why they called this place Coral Island,” said Anne.
“The reef made up most of the island, more than its landmass,” Billy continued.
While on their way here, they noticed the most diverse coral reef they had ever laid eyes on under the water. With brilliant and kaleidoscopic colors, they blanketed the ocean floor. However, there were shallow reefs hidden around the area as well. This had Zhang Heng interested.
“Perhaps we have a way to make the target stay within our firing range after all,” Zhang Heng muttered.
“Are you planning to use the shallow reefs to force them into a particular spot? Sounds like it could work. That said, if we do that, our ship will be in danger as well. I don’t think we have the time to locate every shallow point.”
“For that, we will have to rely on the draft of both ships. Our ship and our enemy’s ship are similar in size. However, once we dismount the cannons, our ship will be significantly lighter. But no. I want it even lighter! We will move all our food, drinking water, and anything heavy to the island. With that, Jackdaw will run well above the shoals, and we will cross safely!”