The second book in The Culpepper Saga takes place in the mid-1600s. John Culpepper finally got himself the boat he wished for throughout the first book (“I, John Culpepper”) and has fulfilled his dream of sailing to the new colony of Virginia. However, while he was away, civil war broke out at home in England, and John is in an understandable hurry to get back to his wife and family.
Here’s a scene from “John Culpepper the Merchant.”
November 1642, The Doldrums
The Thomas and John sat idle, unmoving in the dim morning light. Her sails hung limp, as they had for the last two days. John ran his hands through his hair and impatiently tapped his foot as he stared across her bow at the unending sea of glass before him. The water blended with the sky, creating a mist as far as the eye could see. There was no horizon, just an endless mirror of foggy steel blue.
He never thought this place existed and had never experienced it on any of his prior journeys, but now, when he most needed to make haste, he found his ship stuck in the middle of it. They called it the doldrums—the place in the ocean where no wind billowed sails, no waves lapped against hulls, and no mighty vessels leapt across the breakers. John had heard tales of ships being stuck in the doldrums for weeks at a time. He prayed this wouldn’t be the case, but on this third morning, he was beginning to wonder if they’d ever break free of it. He’d heard ancient legends of ships carrying horses beneath their decks, and when they found themselves stuck in the doldrums, the crew would build cranes, lower the horses into the water, and allow them to pull the ship. He didn’t know if those stories were true, for he had never witnessed a horse swimming, but in any case, he wasn’t carrying any horses. He was, however, carrying two small rowboats.
“Drop the boats!” he yelled to Benjamin. “We’ll row.”
“Sir?” Benjamin approached. “You want the crew to row us out of the doldrums?”
“Yes, Benjamin. Put them to oar. See to it at once.”
* * *
The men dropped the small boats into the water, tied them to the ship, and began to row. They struggled against the weight of their load, but ever so slowly, the majestic ship began to creep forward.
“How long do you think we’ll have to row?” one of the sailors asked another next to him.
“Until the cap’n gets her back to wind…or until we’re all dead. Whichever comes first.”
“Stop talking and keep rowing!” Benjamin bellowed from the bow.
For the next thirty hours, the sailors took turns rowing. The only movement in the water surrounding them came from the small ripples caused by their oars. After more than a day, the limp sails picked up a small draft and began swaying in the midafternoon sun.
“Sir!” yelled a sailor from one of the boats.
Benjamin turned and saw the sailor pointing up toward the sails. He looked up and saw the sails flutter in the breeze, and an uncommon grin spread across his unshaven face. He jogged to the back of the ship and descended the creaking, wooden steps to the lower deck. He dropped his head below the opening and blinked to adjust to the dim light. “Cap’n, she’s back to wind!”
“Finally!” John jumped from behind his scarred, wooden desk and followed Benjamin up the steps. On deck, he raised his hand to block the sun’s rays as he looked up at the fluttering sails. A cold, Atlantic breeze blew across John’s face, the first he had felt in four days, and he laughed out loud. “Ha! We’ve cleared the doldrums! Benjamin, hoist the sails and get us underway.”
“Aye, sir. Hoist the sails!”
Almost instantly, there was a flurry of activity on the upper deck as weathered sailors began pulling up the small boats, climbing the masts, raising the sails, and shouting commands.
“We have a lot of time to make up,” John said. “I want to be in London within the week.”
John Culpepper the Merchant is now available at Amazon!
For pictures, paintings, and documents of the people and places in the Culpepper Saga, please visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.