The wind was howling through the yardarms high above the decks of the HMS Courage which was sailing in a rough gale outside of the Bay of Biscay. A strong nor-eastern was whipping her ‘round and her crew was working frantically to keep her on course; as they pursued a French warship during the Napoleonic Wars of early 1800’s. Sails were being reefed in, yet not before some of the highest in the top-sails had already torn; a later job for the sailmaker. Rain pelted the seaman has they carried out their high wire, tight rope circus acts high in the dark storm. Fear was overcome by their sense of duty.
The ship began to list less now that all the sails were in. The masts, however, caused the ship to lean to port, then to starboard as the strong hands of winds pushed them to and fro as a mechanic pushing a lever. Below decks, sick seamen were purging the contents of their last supper as above decks, men ached to control the ship. The ship groaned and creaked under the stress of wind and waves as men began to wonder when this will end. Relief, however, seemed to be coming soon as the seamen in the tops’ls came down the rope ladders.
George Henry, the ship’s sailmaker, arrived below decks chased by a wave of sea after him down the stairs. On the landing he was met by Jimmy, a young freckled faced powder monkey.
“How’s it out there Mr. H’nry?” asked Jimmy in a high pitched British accent.
“Aye, a bit wet to be sure, matey,” replied Henry in quick snappy accent. “A wee bit wet. Lost a spar; a roy’l an’ topgall’nt tore, yet not lost. Thanks be to God, no sea anchors.”
Soon, the storm had past; the HMS Courage had braved yet another gale. Jacobson, the ship’s carpenter, was busy repairing the yardarms and Henry was mending the sails. Sewing up patch works to plug up the holes. He was very familiar with this, as he had patched many holes from cannon shots during skirmishes with the French.
The French schooner was still in sight, just a couple of leagues off her port bow. They were keeping pace with her, but not catching up, even though the Courage should be able to. With the lost of the mizzen royal and topgallant, the Courage has slowed down.
Seas were rolling slightly, yet the sun shone brightly. The Courage’s crew was at their battle stations as Jacobson and Henry applied their skills. Henry sat on his bench, threading the triangular needle and waxed thread through the sail cloth to attach a patch. He was showing Jimmy how to mend the sails. Henry was wearing a leather stitching palm on his right hand which acted as a thimble. Jimmy was learning how to sew the sails.
“Press hard on the seam rubber here me boy,” Henry would instruct in careful tones. “That way when we fold it, it will stay on that shape.”
“I’m do’n me best sir,” replied Jimmy as he pressed with a groan, half way biting his tongue.
“You’ll do ok’y, just keep it up.”
In a few hours, Jacobson and Henry had completed their tasks. The new yardarm was up, the repaired sails were now bellowing full of nature’s wind. The French schooner was getting closer over the blue rolling swells.
“Fire!” yelled Captain O’Brien. One cannon shot flew over the schooner’s starboard bow. It was hopeless for the schooner, to outrun a British Ship of the Line. The Courage was faster, had more guns, and a well trained crew. The schooner in response struck her colors and drew in her sails; surrender was her only safe option. She was a prize enjoyed by all the crew of the HMS Courage.
On deck, Jimmy looked up at the mizzen mast. He marveled at how the Courage was wounded by a storm, an act of nature. He also remembered previous wounds which were from the enemy as well. She had been a wounded lady, trying to make it in the sea of life. But like good doctors, Jacobson and Henry, skills of a carpenter and the sewing skills of a sailmaker, healed her and she was able to bounce back, full of life. She was no longer a wounded lady of the sea, but a beauty as her Creator meant her to be, capable of performing the tasks her Master had for her.
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