- Lost At Seaby Douglas Goff
This work has reached the exceptional level
One man's journey.
Lost At Sea by Douglas Goff
Alone Writing Contest contest entry

The sounds of the broadside were tremendous. All ten cannon blasted into the fleeing ship, Whirlpool; tearing beams, planks, and flesh asunder. Captain Juan Carlos Sanchez signaled his five starboard cannon to return fire, which shook his smaller vessel.

The pirate captain couldn’t help but wonder how things had gone so badly. They had set sail from the island of Corsica just two months before. He and his crew spent the previous spring raiding several fat European merchant ships. He had used his ill-gotten gains to trade in his sloop for the Whirlpool.

The sleek ship was a 150-ton, 80-foot brigantine. She had two masts, ten cannon, and could comfortably house a crew of a hundred men. More important, the Whirlpool had twice the storage space of the sloop, meaning she could haul twice the booty.

After recruiting several more crew members, they had headed south, looking for unsuspecting prey. They had taken two small Dutch merchant ships. One was hauling colognes, while the second had a hold full of coffee--not the type of treasure the glory hunting pirates were seeking, although it would bring a decent price on the black market. Then they saw her.

A fat Spanish merchant ship, large as any on the high seas. She caught sight of the approaching Whirlpool flying the Jolly Roger, and attempted to flee towards a series of small islands to the south. Her captain had ordered up the square sails for a quartering wind.

Juan Carlos’ old sloop had been built for speed and “hit and run” tactics, while the new brigantine was much heavier and was made for battle. Still, they caught up to the big Spanish vessel as she reached the northernmost island in the chain. Now, they had her!

Then the captain of the merchant ship did something odd. He swung about and came straight back at them, where they were now exchanging broadsides. The Spanish vessel was not a merchant ship, but was a 450-ton, three mast, twenty-gun frigate bearing the name Andrea Dora.

Juan Carlos knew the Andrea Dora all too well. They had been sailing the same waters for the past twenty years. It was commanded by the feared pirate Paco Ladron, who would steal anything, including coffee and colognes from a smaller pirate vessel such as the Whirlpool.

Ladron was the Spanish word for thief, and the name fit the enemy captain all too well. The Andrea Dora was an older ship, but she had more than enough guns to handle the much smaller Whirlpool. She had been running disguised as a merchant ship, to attract other merchant ships to her. She’s a sneaky liar! Captain Juan had immediately thought.

Regardless of how they got here, the flamboyant young pirate, Juan Carlos Sanchez, wasn’t beaten yet. Captain Juan ordered his smaller ship to come about immediately and fired his port side cannon into the wide aft of the enemy frigate, ripping three large holes along her rear waterline.

Juan Carlos Sanchez ordered his faster ship to swing about again, and fired his reloaded starboard cannon, tearing into the starboard side of the Andrea Dora. Captain Paco Ladron panicked, and ordered his ten cannon to fire, a bit early, because the Whirlpool had slowed. This caused most of the frigate’s cannon to miss. Juan Carlos was getting the better of Paco Ladron.  

Another shot from his starboard cannon brought about an explosion from the munitions locker that rattled the teeth of everyone on the Whirlpool. Now the Andrea Dora was a burning mess, her masts lying sideways, hanging off the ship half in the water.

The Whirlpool came up beside her and the boarding party crossed over to the Andrea Dora rather quickly. A wounded and bloodied Paco Ladron was brought before Juan Carlos and put on his knees. Juan noticed the two men who brought Paco over had very poor dental hygiene.

One bore a gold tooth in the front, with his remaining teeth so yellow that they nearly matched the bright gold tooth’s color. The man’s mouth resembled a corncob. The second pirate had several missing teeth, the black holes screaming for dental implants.

Meanwhile, the rest of the boarding party was dispatching a few remaining resisters and was starting to haul up large treasure chests from the hold. One was brought over to Juan Carlos and laid open, revealing a huge pile of gold Spanish doubloons. The victorious captain picked up three of the coins and rolled them between his fingers. 

“Was it worth dying for?” Juan Carlos asked Ladron, bearing a wicked grin.

“Yes, I’ve been riding Andrea Dora for a long time,” Paco answered, the odd reply and conversation feeling vaguely familiar to the victorious pirate.

Juan Carlos Sanchez pulled out his flintlock pistol and blew a hole through Paco Ladron. “Then go down with her.”

“Ship ahoy!” someone shouted from the main mast of the Whirlpool.

A pirate’s greatest fear could be seen coming up from the south in the form of an English warship. She was the type of vessel no pirate ever wanted to see, and the few who did, rarely lived to talk about it.

The new arrival was a first-rate ship of the line, called the HMS PPD. She was built for hunting pirates. The HMS PPD was an 80-gun, triple decker, that weighed in at 1229 tons. Those 1229 tons were bearing down on them with a full tailwind.

Once they returned to their own ship, Captain Juan Carlos Sanchez’s first mate stared over at him with a worried look when his captain ordered the Whirlpool to head straight for the south end of the big island.

Good Lord, my first mate has bad teeth! Juan couldn’t help but notice the man’s teeth were yellow and black in various areas. Gingivitis had come for a visit, and had decided to move in! No time to worry about that now.

The bold captain intended to pass right through the shallows between the two northernmost islands. He knew what his first mate was thinking. Their old sloop may have made it, but the new brigantine had a much larger draft.

The captain ignored his second-in-command’s concerned look. If anyone could make it through the gap, it was him. Afterall, he was Juan Carlos Sanchez, wasn't he? Once they were on the other side of the island chain they could escape while the larger English vessel would have to go around the big island if they wished to engage in a high-speed pursuit.

The Whirlpool glided over the waves, leaving the smoking and floundering Andrea Dora behind, as she disappeared beneath the sea. A couple of final large bubbles signaled her demise. Good riddance to the filthy wench! Juan Carlos smirked.

The Whirlpool approached the 100-yard gap between the two islands. They could see whitecaps breaking in the shallows to their port and starboard. When they passed smoothly into the small channel and sailed even with both islands, Juan Carlos looked over at his first mate and winked.

A second later grinding noises could be heard when the hull of the Whirlpool began scraping along the rocky bottom, then she was clear and they shot through the gap, racing hard north with a strong tailwind aiding them in their flight. They had done it!

The excitement must have been too much for the young flamboyant captain. One moment Juan Carlos had been standing on deck near the helm, feeling the cool November wind blowing through his long black hair, and the next he felt dizzy and faint. For a moment, the feeling seemed as if it were going to pass, then came the darkness . . .

When he came to, Juan Carlos was sitting in a chair. He shook off the grogginess, and tried to move his arms, but realized they were restrained against his body. Once his eyes fluttered open, he saw he was in a small, padded room. There was a petite, older man sitting in a chair directly in front of him. The man wore a white jacket, gold-rimmed spectacles that were barely clinging to his nose, and held a clipboard.

“It’s me, John. Doctor Grimes. If I take off the straitjacket, will you behave today?” the man questioned, staring at him intently through the spectacles.

“Yes,” the befuddled man across from him said, the haze starting to clear. An orderly removed the restraining vest and went over to stand by the only door in the room.

“There is no John here,” the now-freed man volunteered as he began to fiddle with the buttons on his hospital gown, saying, “I’m the famous pirate, Juan Carlos Sanchez.”

“No, you're John Charles Sanders, a dentist from Philly,” the spectacled-eyed doctor told him.

“No, I’m a pirate.”

The old doctor frowned, and holding up a hand mirror, said, “No John, you’re a dentist. You’re not even Hispanic.”

The famed pirate stared in the mirror and shirked back from his own reflection. Staring at him was a pudgy white Jewish face with thinning brownish-grey hair. What the hell? What’s going on here? I was just on the deck of the Whirlpool, moments ago. Maybe, this is some kinda sorcery? The south seas are full of dark magic after all.

“You’re mistaken. I’m a heroic swashbuckler. I just defeated Paco Ladron, the famed blackheart who’d raped and pillaged European galleys up and down the horn of South Africa,” the muddled man protested.

“No, John.” The doctor hesitated. “Paco Sanchez was the man who was sleeping with your wife of twenty years, Andrea Dora. She was Hispanic.”

“Was?” he gulped hard as he struggled to get the word out.

“Yes, John. Five years ago, you came home and found the two of them in bed together. You shot and killed them both. After a long high-speed pursuit, the PPD arrested you and eventually you ended up here. You told me in our last session Paco was drinking your coffee and wearing your cologne and admitted it enraged you. Don’t you remember any of this?” Doctor Grimes pushed his gold rimmed spectacles farther up on his nose.

“Coffee? Cologne? The HMS PPD?”

“No John, the PPD. Philadelphia Police Department.” The doctor shook his head, causing the glasses to slide back to the tip of his pointed nose.

“I’m a famous pirate,” the confused man whispered in a much weaker protest, looking across the room at the air conditioner as it kicked off and went silent. “I’m . . . Juan Carlos Sanchez.”

“No, John.” The doctor shifted in his chair, unsure of how hard he should push. “You took on the persona of Sanchez, because you wish you were him . . . the man your wife actually loved. You’ve been completely alone in this room for the past five years.”

The air conditioner kicked on again, sending a cool breeze blowing through the confused man’s thinning hair. It was a Whirlpool brand, just like . . . just like his ship. John’s mind was jumbled. He looked down at his hands, realizing one of them was squeezed tightly shut, holding onto some round objects. He slowly opened his hand, taking a peek inside. Three shiny gold doubloons peeked back at him!

“Sorcery! Sorcery!! Sorcery!!!” Juan Carlos shouted at the top of his lungs, knowing now this foul warlock was trying hard to befuddle him. He knew he’d just been on the high seas. It had all been too real.

The pungent smell of the salty ocean, the body odor of his filthy bad teethed companions, the billowing smoke from the burning enemy ship. Heck, he could still smell the smoke in his nostrils. The foul wizard had nearly tricked him!

Dr. Grimes waved the orderly over, who quickly shoved a long hypodermic needle into the screaming man’s arm. The sedative burned as it went in, but seconds later John slumped down in his chair, completely subdued.

When the orderly started to replace the straitjacket, the sedated man’s clenched hand fell open, releasing three buttons John had pulled loose from his hospital gown. They fell to the padded floor, and rolled off, flittering away from the dentist who was once again utterly and completely lost and alone in the sea of his delusional mind.  


Author Notes
I had flirted with this concept before and was advised by some of you to pursue and develop the idea, so here it is!

(Read it to the end)


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