13 Oct Pirates of the Deep – Journey Begins (Part 1)
Pirates of the Deep – Journey Begins (Part 1)
I think I was born at sea. Honestly, I feel more comfortable when submerged by 10 feet of water than trying to walk on flat ground. Speaking to women is more foreign to me than hoisting the anchor. The peace and serenity of the water calms me and makes me feel free. I feel like a belong here on the Swift Eagle. Not just for myself, but for everyone. On the Swift Eagle, we aren’t just surviving, we are creating and changing history. The ship was a beaut’, crafted perfectly to glide over the water like skates on ice. No ship in the seas was both as majestic or worn down as she. The Swift Eagle was not heavily armed like a Galleon as it was built in a Clipper style, but was agile as a hummingbird and captained by the ever passionate Captain Brock.
Captain Brock was a former English naval officer that had served 5 terms all over the world. It was on his deployment around the Ivory Coast that he had decided to set off on his own. Nobody knows his last name. Captain Brock says, ‘any crew member that doesn’t know their commanding officer’s first name can’t be trusted.’ It’s hard to imagine that he was once a clean-cut, well-groomed naval officer. He now has a salt and pepper beard shrouding his chin, cheeks, and neck. Sea salt is embedded into his facial hair and the hard wrinkles etched into his skin. His long, tangled mane of grey hair curls past his ears and rests by his shoulders.
He first approached me when I was 23. When I was growing up, it was always just my Dad and I. My father was a leatherworker and while he worked, I spent time fishing to help feed us. I was born in the small town of Kymi, off the coast of the Aegean Sea. I dreamed of being a warrior, a fierce hero that everyone praised and followed. However, in reality, I was a young man messing around and fishing with my friends. In retrospect, those were some of the most formative, best years of my life. My best friends Agatha and Fabrizio were always there with me. Fishing every day after school became our job and our hobby. Even after I became older, we worked together on a small fishing vessel together. I had just turned 23 when I first saw the Swift Eagle. Fabrizio had pointed out the old, glorious ship to me and I gazed out across the sea, amazed to see such a wonderful boat. Most ships coming in and out of Kymi were small, fishing vessels and seeing something of this magnitude and power was miraculous. The ship docked at the pier where we were fishing and he emerged.
Captain Brock immediately locked eyes with me and made his way towards me. I was on edge, not quite sure what would happen. He spoke up, “Hiya there, young’ns! I’ll give you each 5 silver dollars to keep watch of my baby for a couple o’ hours.”
“I’m sorry… who are you?” I replied.
“Captain Brock, the infamous liberator, hero, idol, and pirate. And you are?” he shouted exuberantly.
“I’m Tacitus, and these are my friends Fabrizio and Agatha,” I said confused. How infamous could he be if I had never heard of him?
“Well Tacitus, are you a smart young man, or another maroon that will pass up an easy 15 silver dollars?”
“Umm… are you s-” I stammered.
“Good! It is agreed then. I will be back in a jif,” interrupted Captain Brock.
He walked down the pier and we all stared after him. However, my friends stared at the man with a sense of oddity where I stared with awe. I had never met someone so outgoing within the first thirty seconds of knowing them. Captain Brock’s aura and sense of adventure shone out of him in a way that excited me.
“Well that was… strange,” said Fabrizio. “But I can’t complain about the money.”
The friends laughed and continued to fish. A couple of hours passed and as Agatha was pulling in a whopping White Grouper, Captain Brock returned to the pier.
“Well, hello friends. Glad to see my baby isn’t on fire,” he stated.
“It was an easy task sir,” responded Agatha while lugging her fish onto the pier.
“It’s good to know I can still trust some people. How would you fellas feel about comin’ aboard the Swift Eagle?” asked Captain Brock.
“I’m sorry, we can’t go wit-” began Fabrizio.
Before I knew what I was doing, I interrupted Fabrizio, “I’ll go.”
I don’t know what I was thinking, I just acted. My instincts told me this is something I had always wanted. The sea had always called to me and the spirit of doing something bigger was flourishing.
“What are you doing? You don’t even know this man. This man is a pirate. You do understand that, right? What about your Dad?” whispered Agatha rapidly into my ear.
“Look, I know this is unusual. But I feel it in my bones; this is what I was meant to do. I have to grab my belongings anyway and I’m sure I’ll able to say goodbye,” I replied quietly.
Before anyone else could say anything, Captain Brock thoughtfully and seriously spoke, “I will give you time to grab your things and say goodbye. I honestly can’t tell you where we are going next but I promise this experience is worth it.” His silver-gray eyes stared into mine and he pulled me in for a firm handshake, “I knew you were smart, Tacitus. We are going to help so many people.” He dropped the 15 silver dollars into my hand and stepped up onto his ship.
I returned home with my friends after distributing the coins amongst us. I had accumulated very little in my life and I had finished packing all of my belongings within 30 minutes. My friends waited silently for me. I’m sure they didn’t agree with my decision, but I had to love them for their support.
“Well, I guess I’m off. Just have to stop by my Dad’s shop and say bye,” I said awkwardly.
Agatha immediately ran to me and squeezed me in a tight embrace. “We’ll miss you Tacitus. Please don’t forget about us,” she said.
“You know that won’t happen, I promise I’ll come back and see you.” Agatha let go and I pulled Fabrizio into a hug. “I’ll be back before you know it my friend,” I said.
“Have fun,” replied Fabrizio with a wink, as they pulled apart.
I set off for my Dad’s leather working shop. When I arrived, he was stitching together a pair of brand new leather gloves.
“Hey Dad, how’s it going?”
“Ohh Tacitus, good to see yah boy,” he greeted merrily. “I’m just finishing up these gloves, look at how beautiful they are,” he said as he held them up so I could admire them.
“Those are great, you truly are the best,” I replied with a smile. “So I’ve actually got some big news,” I said a little uncomfortably.
“Oh yeah? What’s goin’ on son?”
“I took a job today. I’m going sailing on the Swift Eagle with Captain Brock,” I answered, anxious about my father’s reaction.
There was a slight pause as my Dad let the news hit him. Unexpectedly, he looked up from the table he was working on with a smile. He said, “Tacitus, I always knew you’d go out on your own and do something like this. You’re such a free spirit, you’ll have the time of your life.” My father got up from his seat, grabbed me, and continued to say, “You know, you and I are a lot alike. I never told you how I ended up in Kymi did I?”
“You were born here weren’t you?” I asked.
He laughed and lightly put his hand on my shoulder, “That’s what your mother had me say,” he chuckled. “I actually traveled quite a bit when I was young. I was born in Athens. I learned my leather working craft in the large marketplaces there. One day I decided to set off on my own and see the rest of the country. My travels taught me more about life, love, and happiness than I ever could have imagined. I learned new leather working tips from all kinds of strangers from all different parts of Greece and integrated them into my own work. Until I finally found Kymi, I instantly fell in love. And not just for the beautiful landscape and people, but for your mother,” he said with a pause, reflecting upon his journey and my mother who we had lost many years before. “It was all I’d ever wanted. Your mother alone was worth the journey and everything else was just icing on the cake,” he said with a thoughtful grin. “Long story short, I’m so proud of you. And happy that you are setting off on your own journey; it isn’t always the safest or easiest decision, but it will all be worth it. I love you son.”
“Well that was not the reaction I expected,” I chuckled. “I love you too Dad, I’ll take full advantage of this adventure and I’ll be back to visit you as soon as I can.”
When I arrived at the pier, it was a very bittersweet feeling. Everything had happened so quickly and honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision. My gut told me this was the right thing, but I was leaving behind everything I had ever known. I walked across the plank onto the Swift Eagle and took in the magnificent ship from up close. Masts and sails stretched 30 feet in the air billowing like clouds in the sky. Worn Elm made up the deck and had been perfectly stained and cleaned while the ship was docked. The Swift Eagle was not the largest vessel ever created, but it was sizable and had a crew of 25 people including me.
That first day out at sea was hard, really hard. I was put to work until every bone in my body ached and felt brittle as a twig. Captain Brock had me man the crow’s nest, maneuver and hoist the sales, scrub the decks, and help prepare meals in the kitchen. It was fun to experience a little bit of everything on the ship. But, boy oh boy, was I exhausted at the end of the day. Sleeping on a rock hard cot didn’t do anything to help nullify my pain. The constant swaying made a few of the other crewmembers sick to their stomachs. Sounds of vomiting, snoring, groaning, and whispering echoed through the quarters keeping me awake at night. Needless to say, a long day’s work and 3 total hours of uninterrupted sleep made the next day that much harder.
As the days passed, everything got easier. After a couple weeks had passed, I developed a routine and stuck to it. Capt. Brock learned that I was a fisherman and that gave me a more defined role within the crew. I spent the first half of each day setting up nets, emptying them, developing traps, and then preparing the fish for meal time. Essentially I became a fisherman by morning and chef by night. In my honest opinion, I’ve become a pretty darn good cook. I work directly with three very different kinds of men named Lefty, Hefty, and Cheffy. Pirates are not the most creative bunch; these guys’ nicknames perfectly described them. Hefty was a very fat man, sweat was constantly dripping down his chubby cheeks and making his short black hair glisten. Lefty was obviously left-handed and he earned this nickname by ladling soup into the crew’s bowls. Lefty was a little bit goofy; he was short and thin with black eyes that never seemed to look the same direction. Cheffy was the opposite. As the head cook of the ship, Cheffy was a tall, stern man. He was older and wiser than anyone on the ship and liked to lecture the crew at meal times. His jaw was always clenched and his bright yellow eyes were always scanning a book while he waited for his food to finish cooking. Nobody other than me had any fishing experience but I had taken Lefty under my wing, teaching him the trade, and so we spent a lot of time together.
It was fun getting to know the Swift Eagle and its eccentric crew but after three weeks of sailing with no land in sight and no word on our intentions, I started to wonder where we were going exactly. Something about the crew never seemed 100% normal. Everyone spoke with different accents and slangs; a couple of deck hands even spoke some sort of foreign language I had never heard before. It was a very eclectic crew, filled with many multi-talented people. Until one day, the strange feelings I had about this ship finally became clear.
“Aye! You boys ready to go?” hollered Captain Brock across the deck. He stood at the helm with a compass in one hand and a map in the other.
The crew called back in unison, “Aye, aye, Captain!”
Everyone jumped instantly into action. I stood awestruck on the deck, trying to understand what was happening. We were surrounded by deep blue ocean, nothing in site. What was everyone doing? I spotted Lefty on the port side of the ship, helping close the sails with a couple of other crewmembers I didn’t know. I had just started towards them when I felt a hand grip my shoulder.
“Just watch, you’re gonna like this,” whispered Captain Brock. “This is my favorite part.”
I never imagined I would witness what I saw next. The sails had been taken down and weapons were drawn back into the hull of the ship. Captain Brock walked back up to the helm and opened up a secret compartment, just underneath the steering wheel.
“Well fellas, let’s do it again. Fishy, get up here,” said Captain Brock. He had started to call me Fishy recently; I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that nickname. I walked up to the helm and peeked inside the secret compartment Captain Brock had just opened. It was a button.
“What does it do?” I asked.
“Why don’t we find out, eh?” riddled Captain Brock with a mysterious grin.
“Yes sir,” and I pushed the button.
Suddenly the water beneath us started to shift. The crew had moved to the bow and thrown 5 anchors into the water at the same time. The Swift Eagle lurched forward onto its nose with a huge pull from the anchors. My eyes shifted away from the front of the boat as we took a nosedive into the water. The ship had shifted to a 60-degree angle but oddly enough, I was having no trouble standing on the deck. The boat was shaking furiously and we continued to dive straight down into the water. When I glanced off of the boat, I thought I saw that the water was no longer touching the hull of the boat. ‘What is happening?’ I thought fearfully.
The boat was sinking into the water but nobody else was worried. My hands clutched the helm so hard that it hurt. I started to get nauseous and my head started to spin, I was panicking more than ever. I closed my eyes, waiting for the water to cover us all up. After only 30 seconds, but what felt like a lifetime, Captain Brock said, “Look up.”
I slowly opened my eyes and looked up to the sky. But what I saw above me was not the light blue sky; it was the dark blue ocean. Somehow, the boat was completely surrounded by water and we continued to dive deeper into the ocean. Yet we were standing there as normally as if we were on top of the calmest waters. Fish and eels swam around us as if we were a large whale amongst them. The normalcy with which everyone acted and the calm sea made it even more nerve-racking. I felt like the world was closing in on me and there was nothing I could do.
“What the hell is this? Where are we going? How did we get here?” I asked aggressively.
“Calm down Fishy, this is normal,” responded Captain Brock. “This is what we do, that button you pressed puts up some sort of invisible field that lets us go underwater. Honestly, I’m not even sure how it works.”
“How is this normal? What is going on?” I continued to plead.
Captain Brock sat quietly and looked pensively at me before replying, “The Swift Eagle is meant for more than piracy and hidden treasure. There are things we do that you won’t understand right now, but you will. We help people; we fight for freedom, peace, and happiness for everyone. We go to many places and meet many different people from the past, present, and the future.”
“Future? What do you me-” I started to ask. Then suddenly the ship rocked. In front of the boat, deeper into the ocean’s abyss was an enormous whirlpool, and the Swift Eagle was heading straight for it. “Captain! We have to avoid that whirlpool!”
As the Swift Eagle was sucked into the whirlpool, Captain Brock replied with a grin, “Actually son, we’re right on course,” and everything disappeared.