About time I posted this. And yes, I am clueless about technical details.
It was not until nearly two weeks later that McNeal’s came across a prize he considered worthy to be captured by him. Pointing it out to Maturin after the lookout had informed him of its presence, he said “Now feast your eyes on that little ship, mate. By the stone of Saint Patrick, there ain’t a finer ship on the water, save my own! We shall capture her!” Turning away from the rail on the quarterdeck where he had been standing, he called out “Hard to port! Set the stunsails! We’ll have that ship if we must chase it until up is down!”
Several hours later, they had come no closer to the elusive ship. It was then that the wind changed, and allowed the Centaur the weather-gage. “All sail she’ll bear!” cried McNeal, delighted with this sudden turn. “Before you can say ‘belay’, we shall cross her bows and rake her!”
“Belay.” Said Maturin quietly. He had been silent until now, staring out at the prize he would soon call his own. Hearing what he said, McNeal only laughed again, so exhilarated was he by the speed of his ship.
“Heave the log!” he called. “I have never yet stretched this ship to it’s utmost speed, and this as good a time as any!”
A few moments later, after the log had been heaved, he heard the cry. “Ten knots, and we ain’t set our royals nor is the mizzen completely unfurled!”
“Well then unfurl it, me hearties! We’ve got a prize to catch!” By this time, they were within one thousand yards of the enemy, nearly within the range of true aim.
Looking through his glass again, McNeal was startled. “They’ve hauled their wind and stopped, mate! They mean to fight with us!”
Just then, a ball came whistling over his head. “They must have some chasers, testing their aim. Another hundred yards and I’m sure we’ll smash them! Cowards! They’re turning and running again!”
Now, the chase was tacking, apparently attempting to come up under McNeal’s stern and shoot away his steering. He immediately called out “Leave the Main, Fore, and Mizzen sails, but bring all others down! Unship the larboard guns and bring her about!” Turning to Maturin, he added “If they want close action, they shall have close action! We shall blow them out of the water!”
“You are not to damage it. It shall be my ship.”
“Did I say it would be your ship? I did not. I said I would sink it. You are going on to Richontor, or dying where you stand the next time you dislike my orders!”
When he turned back to the working of the ship, McNeal was startled again. His ship was not in the position he had ordered; the enemy ship had come up so fast that it had cut across the Centaur’s wind from behind. The Centaur had missed it’s stay with the sudden slackening of the sails. A moment later, he heard the thundering broadside of the opposing ship.
But Captain McNeal was not done yet. Even though his steering would no longer answer, he was still dangerous. “Run out all the guns! Give ‘em both decks when they turn to cut across our bow! William McNeal strikes his colors to no man!”
The order had not come a moment to soon. In the next minute, the other ship was tacking, gaining steerage way to come across the centaur’s side and fire once more. But McNeal was ready for them this time. As the enemy began his maneuver, waiting till he was alongside the center of the pirate before firing, McNeal passed the order that the guns were to fire in succession, aiming at masts and spars.
Within moments, the firing had begun. It was over only two mines later. When the smoke had cleared, McNeal could see that his gunners had shot away the jib boom, and the enemy’s fore- and mizzen-masts had sustained heavy damage. The foremast especially. It hung over the side at an odd angle, and the enemy crew was busy chopping it away as fast as they could manage.
“They will not get away.” McNeal remarked to Maturin. “I have all the time I could wish to send my men over their side and finish them.”
“They will yet be manning their guns. They will sink your men before they get halfway there.”
“True. I had not thought of that.” Turning to a man standing nearby, McNeal added “Go below and tell them to load grape this time. Sweep the deck. Full broadside.”
Five minutes later, after three or four broadsides of grape had swept the deck, McNeal spoke again. “We will meet no resistance this time, my friend. We had best go aboard our prize, to see about repairs to both of my vessels.”