The boys lay in the bunks, falling asleep to the gentle rocking motion of the ship caused by the waves. Life at sea had been gentle to them thus far, but on this night, things would change.
Outside, the sky turned darker than before, clouds blocking out the moon and stars. The grey became black and what little light had existed was gone in a matter of minutes. The lookout could see nothing and came down from his perch.
“Looks like it’s gunna be a big one, Cap’n,” Ricky said as he watched the lookout, Bobby, come down. “Probably should wake them youngins here soon.”
“let ‘em sleep til they can’t no more; no sense in wakin’ ‘em up when they’ll be cleanin’ all day tomorrow,” Captain Kruger told Ricky. “Sides, if somethin’ happens, I’d rather they not know ‘bout it til after.”
“Ye think we migh’ lose one er two?” Ricky grew more concerned. The captain had been at sea for many years. If he said something bad was going to happen, you could trust that it would.
“It’s a strong possibility, matey. I’d like fer it te not be one ‘o them boys down below. They ain’t lined no life yet,” the Captain answered before heading over to Bobby.
“Them sails needa be pulled down. The less wind in ‘em, the better it’ll be fer us,” Kruger instructed Bobby. The lookout began pulling the sails down immediately, knowing the captain was right.
The winds began to pick up and the rain fell harder as Captain Kruger took the ship’s helm in hand. He would handle steering during this storm. He wanted to make sure everyone had a decent shot at surviving this. He was not only the best at steering the ship, but the best navigator they had. They would need him to take full charge on a night like this.
The boys woke to a violent shutter and tilt of the ship. The waves had become rather brutal very quickly. The Captain’s plan to let the boys sleep through the storm was not going to happen. It was a lot more than Kruger had assumed it was going to be, though he always planned for things like this to happen.
“What’s going on out there!” One of the boys was already almost hysterical.
“Just a storm. the waves are choppy. I’m sure we’ll be fine,” another answered.
“Should we go up there, in case we start te sinkin’?” A third boy was not part of the conversation.
“We should stay down ‘here til we’re told te do somethin’ else,” the oldest boy, James, fifteen, answered.
“What if we flip over before they can tell us te come up there?” Stephen inquired.
“we’ll know if the ship flips,” James answered. “We can trust the Cap’n to let us know if he thinks we need to be up there.” He was right. The Captain would indeed let them know if they were needed above deck. Kruger planned to not need them, though, in order to keep them as far from the dangers of the angry sea as possible.
The ship rocked more violently by the second and even James became unsure of himself. He was the boy all the others went to when they had questions about what was going on. He seemed to be the wisest and to know the most. He knew this was what the younger boys thought of him and he did his best to be a good role model for them. He tried to keep them calm when needed, even if he himself felt as if he were going to lose his dinner.
They slid here and there; back and forth as the ship rocked. They heard voices over the sound of rain hitting the deck above them. The yelling was getting louder by the minute, but so was the rain. The combination was deafening to their young ears. They felt as if their hearts were going to beat out of their chests.
The rain beat the men on deck heavy and hard. It was merciless. There seemed to be no end in sight for the crew as the storm grew worse by the second. They had not had a storm like this in years. For a few of them, this was the first of its kind. They were not ready. They knew that. But, they were glad to have their captain to help them through this.
The ship tilted to and fro, dragging them men from one side to the other. The ship crested a wave of more than fifty feet in height. The bow dipped downa dn came back up with enough force to knock a few of them men off their feet. They slid to the edge, catching themselves on the railing just in time to save their lives.
Another massive wave came upon the ship from the side. Captain Kruger turned the ship just in time to keep it from flipping. It was a miracle even for him. Kruger began to think of the boys below deck, about to die so young because of his own selfish desires. He steeled himself against his thoughts and the storm.
Captain Kruger’s momentary lapse in attention would not go without consequences.
The boys were busy below deck avoiding anything and everything that was not bolted to a wall or floor. The mattresses slid from the bunks and flew at them as the ship tilted and rocked. They were dodging everything they could in order to remain unharmed while they waited to hear from those above deck.
Their anxiety grew by the minute.
The violence of the storm was worse now than it had been before and the men feared for their lives. They knew not all of them were going to make it out. They worried none of them would as the cannons slid around on the soaked deck. Hardly missing them, two men got out of the way of a cannon which was about to go overboard. They went to grab it.
“No! Le’ ‘er go! We can ge’ another,” Kruger was yelling but it was too late. Two of the crew had gone over with the unloaded cannon that weighed more than both of them combined. There was nothing else to be done as the sea swallowed them whole.
There were no bubbles to show where the men had gone under and there was no sign they had ever lived. They had been with Kruger since their seventeenth summers, which were only a year or so apart. They were young still, though. Only in their early twenties.
Kruger was saddened by their loss but there would be time to mourn once he got the rest of his people through this disaster.
Kruger ducked fast as the beams for the sails turned his ways and whipped around the ship in a circle. He was fast for an older man. He’d had many years of practice, but he had always been a little quicker on his feet than most others.
The storm took hours to pass and when it was done they were all exhausted. There was time to rest in the early hours of the morning before the sun came up. Though the rest would be short-lived, it was more than welcome. When morning came, Kruger would hold a service for the men they had lost.
“We los’ two good men las’ nigh’. An’ all b’cause they didn’ wanna believe they were more important than the damn cannons. I’ll tell ye a thing or two, all ‘o ya,” Kruger spoke to the crew. They were gathered on the deck of the ship in the bright sunlight. It looked as though the terrifying night before had not happened.
“Ye mean more te me than anythin’ on this damned boa’. I would rather lose the cannons and the jewels, the rum and the gold, before I would wan’ te lose ye. All ‘o ye. Stay with me, use ye heads, an’ think before ye act b’cause I don’ wanna have te do this again,” Captain Kruger continued. “I done said enough goodbyes in my time an’ I ain’t plannin’ on sayin’ no more.”