Hood's Swashbucklin' Ship's Log
Reflections on Times Past
Captain Samuel Hood
Chapter Three - Lt. Hardy Comes Aboard
I’ve had to give Miss Potter the ol’ heave ho. Yes, the woman was pilfering pints of my rum when my back was turned. I thought she looked a little dazed and moved all too slowly in the afternoon. When she fell down the stairs last week, I thought that maybe she just misjudged her step. But when I caught her at the wharf showing her knickers to the sailors leaving port, well, then I knew something was array. Because she always showed her best knickers to the boys arriving to homeport. Such a patriotic soul. But I do believe she had other reasons for this display of spirit. She does so love the sailors of the Royal Navy. But, now it was apparent that she didn’t know her bow from her stern or if she was coming or going. A little memory loss is acceptable but drinking my rum was the wrong tack! She had to go!
Well, I’m but an old retired Captain of the sea, with my only source of excitement being the bringing of pen to paper and sharing my experiences at sea with ye. Oh, every once in a while, I do like to put on the long trench coat and give the local tarts a thrill.. Normally, I’ll wait outside the Dog and Pony Pub and , and , and Arrrgghhh…think I’ll do that right now!
Now that was fun! Let’s see, I was about to write the sequence of events that brought me into contact with one Lt. Thomas Masterman Hardy.
As the Raisonnable dropped anchor in a harbor known only as Frigate Bay, located on the leeward side of the Isle of St. Kitts, the fast frigate HMS Arethusa was but 100 yards to our starboard. The Arethusa was under the command of one Vice Admiral Augustus Keppel, and, as we would find out later, was destined to have placed under his command a First Rater like one had never seen before. That command ship would be known as the HMS Victory.
Hold on, I’m having heart palpitations. Hmmm, one good stiff drink-o-rum and ….yes that’ll do it for now. No, I think one more is in order. Ahhhhh…yes.
As I was saying, Lt. Hardy was a different one. He had joined the navy when he was only 12 years of age and had moved his way up the ranks with sure confidence. His first comments when coming aboard were “Been to St. Kitts and I’m here to tell you that the pubs and women are not to my liking. They are both dirty and dangerous”. Now, After my experience at the Lama Ranch in the Faulkland Islands, I could tell that this officer spoke with the knowledge of the world, a gentleman who had frequented many a pub and knew a fine wench when he saw one. Yes sir.
Lt. Hardy was placed in the Officers Cabin that included Lt. Blackwood and one newly promoted officer by the name of Lt. Berry. Their cabin was adjacent to the ship’s commander, Captain Maurice Suckling. And speaking of Captain Suckling, I soon found out that he was the uncle to a lad by the name of Horatio Nelson. Nelson, like Hardy, had come to the Royal Navy by way of volunteering for service at the tender age of twelve years. Little did I realize that this young man would command the fiercest fighting fleet the world had ever seen and be written as the greatest Admiral that ever lived.
Getting back to that Officers Cabin. The group of officers that now billeted there were a raucous group indeed. They would drink their share of contraband uncut rum and then hit their daily ration of grog. And if that weren’t enough, Surgeon First Class Gould would mistakenly leave the medicine cabinet unlocked, therefore allowing an underling to slink into the Sick Bay and pilfer a rather potent spirit.
I’m here to say that I undertook that assignment many a night, bringing back the drink of the devil to my ranking officers. Lt’s Hardy and Berry even stated that I might be considered for Midshipman if I kept up the good work. So this is how they became officers! Had I finally found the secret to success in this man’s navy? First, Seaman Fremantle introduced me to the Lama Ranch and now Lt’s Hardy and Berry engages me to pilfer the medicine chest. Two keys to success; sex and drink!
Oh, the door. Must be the new housekeeper that I’m to interview for the vacated Miss Potter. Hope she likes to “fool around a little” he, he. And if she is a tea-tottler, so much the better. Need to keep my uncut rum to myself.
“Hello, you must be Miss Higby”. Hmmm…not bad. She looks to be about 30 to 32 years of age. Not flabby at all…in fact, she appears to lift weights! This could be good!
Until next time. Be sure to read the next installment of naval combat and debauchery in Chapter Four “Home Port - Portsmouth”.