Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 1: The Second Mate

August 1797

A small two-masted schooner, the Anne Mary was sailing on a westward course crossing the Caribbean Sea and heading towards the Spanish Main. She was a British merchantman out of Kingston, Jamaica. Her captain had been contracted by the British Commander in Chief in Kingston, Vice Admiral Sir Richard Lambert. They were to visit Porto Bello and to afford Sir Richard’s family transport to Kingston, Jamaica. The post packet carrying Lady Lambert and her children on its way from England to Jamaica had been damaged in a cyclone, and a Spanish merchantman had rendered help and brought the passengers into Porto Bello. The Spanish had sent word to the British admiral that his family was safe and waiting for a passage. Being short of frigates and ship-sloops, Sir Richard Lambert had been forced to hire a merchantman to perform the task, and Captain John Carter had been happy to accept. In this year 1797, the war between revolutionary France with its allies and England had already severely affected the trade in the Caribbean, and freight was hard to find for the master-owner of the Anne Mary.

Captain Carter watched his son Anthony — Tony to all on board — who was supervising the setting of a stay sail. Rating his son as second mate had been a smart move. The lad, barely 18 years of age, was a fine navigator already and a born and bred sailor, having sailed with his father from age 11, with some school thrown in whenever the Anne Mary was in port for some time. This helped to cut costs in these hard times.

“Land ho!”, came a cry from the masthead. On a nod from his father, Tony Carter jumped into the rigging and raced up the ratlines with a large brass telescope. Steadying himself, he directed the telescope towards the horizon where a minute speck of something had appeared. It was the Spanish Main, all right, he thought; the coast line matched his recollection from two years back, during their last visit here. The course he had plotted under his father’s supervision had been spot on. His father would be happy, for the sooner they arrived at Porto Bello, the faster they could get out to sea again. It was not a landfall to which they were looking forward. Porto Bello, in spite of its name, was a hellhole. Epidemics of yellow fever, il vómito negro, were frequent, decimating the local population and the crews of visiting ships. Moreover, entering a Spanish port as a Protestant — a heretic — was a risk in itself, even in peace times. He climbed down and faced his father.

“If the wind holds, we can make port before sunset, Father,” he said. “That is, if the Dons’ll let us enter.”

“They should still know me; I’ve traded with them enough before the war,” his father replied. “Always got along with them. Whatever the Dons are, they’re honourable.”

Indeed, a low-ranked Spanish official came aboard when they approached the harbour proper and accepted Captain Carter’s assurance that the Anne Mary was free of any sicknesses.

With the dying daylight, the Anne Mary crept into her anchorage. Captain Carter hurriedly climbed into his little quarter boat and was rowed across the harbour to the residence of the port admiral. There, he stated his business, whilst Anne Mary’s crew settled down for the night. Captain Carter returned after dark, smiling broadly.

“The Dons are happy,” he told his son. “I guess the good governor doesn’t fancy having to host a family of heretics in his house. He agreed to have them ferried out to us by six bells. We can catch the morning tide to leave this stinking swamp. We’ll use my cabin for our guests. I’ll move in with you.”

With this, Captain Carter turned in and left Tony, who had the evening watch, on deck. Sharing his puny cabin with his father was not a tempting prospect for the young man, but he reasoned that it would only be for a few days. Admiral Lambert had a good reputation in Kingston, and Tony expected some rewards for the crew and himself above the pay his father had accepted.

At four bells in the morning watch, Anthony rolled out of the hammock he’d slung above the single cot in the small cabin. He had turned in after the evening watch and had slept for six undisturbed hours, a rare pleasure. His father must have already got up as the cot below was empty. Tony quickly washed his face with salt water and dragged a comb through his bleached hair, tying it in a neat queue that fell down to between his shoulder blades.

He wanted to make a good impression on their passengers once they came aboard, so he bent over his sea chest and dragged out a fresh pair of cotton breeches and a clean shirt. He slipped on his short blue reefer jacket and climbed on deck to join his father and Joseph Fournier, the first mate, as they were gazing toward the town.

A longboat had just left the quay and was heading towards the Anne Mary. Tony could see red uniforms with gold tresses blinking in the sun. Spanish officers, escorting their guests.

The boat came alongside, and the next problem arose. The Anne Mary, having only five feet of freeboard, did not ship a boatswain’s chair to hoist passengers on deck. However, neither Lady Lambert nor her children had ever climbed up a Jacob’s ladder to board a ship. They did not dare to jump for the ladder to climb up the side, and the Spanish officers were landlubbers and at a loss themselves. It was a funny sort of a stand off. In the end, Tony climbed down into the boat to assist the ladies.

When he looked at them, his mouth almost fell open. Having grown up around Kingston’s harbour, he was accustomed to the creole beauties of the West Indian islands. As the son of a lowly master-owner, the fair haired daughters of planters and senior army and navy officers had always been beyond his reach, even his dreams. Thus, the sight of Lady Lambert and her daughter was a revelation to young Tony.

The mother was a rather tall, slender woman with straw-blonde hair. Her fair complexion contrasted with the dark dress she was wearing. Her even features, and her slender but womanly form made a strong impression on the young second mate.

But the daughter! Anthony could not help but stare at her. She was perhaps sixteen years of age, and she was close in height to her mother and just as slender. Her hair was of an incredible strawberry blond shade, and her emerald green eyes combined with a milk-white skin covered with freckles. He did not notice the son, blond like his mother, who was standing beside the ladies. It was the lad, however, who spoke up first.

“Please, how can we get aboard your ship? My mother and sister are not accustomed to a Jacob’s ladder.”

Anthony tried to get his wits together.

“I shall assist you, m’ladies,” he started. “I am Anthony Carter, second mate, at your service.”

The two women hardly acknowledged him at first, but Anthony managed to coax them up the ladder, one after the other, being treated to the view of slender ankles and trim calves. The young lad climbed up without help or difficulties, and Anthony followed them. Whilst the Spanish boat crew handed the luggage to the Anne Mary’s sailors, a Spanish officer climbed up after Anthony and, with great pomp, bid his farewell to the ladies. After he had left the ship and the barge was on its way back to the shore, Captain Carter stepped forward, greeted his passengers and led them to their accommodations in the puny main cabin. Whilst Lady Lambert and her son, after a short despairing look around, settled into their new surroundings without lament, the girl complained loudly.

“Are we supposed to sleep in this rat hole? Why did we have to leave London, Mother? I hate it here. No man of any consequence is to be found here, either. And this climate is ruining my skin!” She almost stomped her feet in her fury. Obviously, she did not travel to meet her father out of her free will.

“Be quiet, Harriet!” her mother returned sternly. “This is an English ship, and it will bring us to your father; and to say that there is no man of consequence in Jamaica is sheer nonsense! Don’t you know how rich those sugar barons are? Also, many fine gentlemen serve in the Navy. If you won’t find a husband here it will be because of your rotten temper!”

With the skylight of the cabin open, every word could be heard on deck where the crew was preparing to weigh anchor. Captain Carter screwed his eyes upwards and shrugged his shoulders as if to comment on the exchange going on in the cabin.

The voice of the boy could be heard: “I like this ship. She has fore-and-aft rigging and I’ll wager she’s more weatherly than a square rigged ship.”

The girl’s voice cut in: “Cannot you stop your sailor’s talk for one minute, Andrew? I have no interest in it, really.”

“May I go on deck, Mother?” the boy asked in a resigned voice.

“Yes, of course, dear. But ask the Captain first and keep out the crew’s way.”

The boy came on deck and walked aft. He even touched his hat before he addressed Captain Carter and asked him whether he might stay on deck and watch. The captain chuckled and nodded towards Anthony, indicating that the second mate should look after the boy.

“Stand over here at the taffrail, young master. You can watch everything and nobody’ll run you over,” Anthony told the lad who gladly took the position at the taffrail and looked around curiously. Tony guessed him to be no more than 14 years of age, but he seemed to be absorbing the atmosphere with eagerness.

Soon, the Anne Mary was under sail again and heading out to the open sea, and the boy asked Tony questions about everything. Obviously, he worshipped his admiral father and aspired to become a Navy officer himself. Tony did not mind the boy’s questions. It was nice to be in the teaching position for once and the boy was pleasant, much in contrast to his spoilt sister.

Over the next days, the Anne Mary made only slow progress on her eastbound course. The late summer weather was hot and increasingly humid. The wind was weak and unsteady, dying down frequently, and Captain Carter did not like the signs one bit. Five days into their crossing, the weather glass was dropping, adding to his worries. The sweltering heat and the low winds prevailed, and the captain and his mates could not deny anymore that they were likely to run into bad weather.

Another hot morning dawned after an unpleasant night, and the ship was now wallowing in a growing swell.

“The glass dropped even more during the night. We’re in for bad weather,” the captain informed his two mates. “Let’s get her ready. Tony, warn the passengers and have the cabin shuttered.”

A few moments later, Tony Carter knocked on the door of the after cabin. There was a mumble of voices before Lady Lambert’s voice was heard.


When Tony entered the cabin, it was evident that the women had thrown on their clothes in a big hurry. The girl was only wearing a light cape over what Tony thought was her nightshirt. He even saw her lower legs and her bare feet, and it required some willpower to take his eyes away from them. When his look went higher, it met her indignant glare. Tony had seen his share of furious females already, and it troubled him little. It was her own fault if she showed him her goods, and he returned her angry stare with a wink.

This did nothing to soften the girl’s stance. Obviously, she was not used to men who did not grovel. Yet, she looked him over all the same.

Her mother’s voice stopped the interlude.

“What is it that you wanted to tell us, Mr. Porter?”

“It’s Carter, your ladyship. I came to warn you that we expect heavy weather. The glass has been dropping for nigh on twelve hours, and it won’t stop. We are readying the ship for a gale, and we must secure this cabin.”

“Is a hurricane approaching?” the boy asked with gleaming eyes. He had read so much about those murderous cyclones.

“Let’s hope not,” Tony replied. “Not if we want to tell stories about it afterwards. If it gets really bad, I shall have to take you up on deck and secure you to the main mast. Please make sure that you wear sturdy clothes, or the wind may tear them to shreds. My men will be come soon to shutter the windows and to tie down the fittings. We’ll shutter the skylight, too. Please be ready by then.”

With a last encouraging smile to the young people, he left the cabin to join the efforts to ready the tiny Anne Mary for the approaching gale. The cook prepared some hot food for crew and passengers which they took on deck, since all but one hatch had been battened down already. The passengers watched the changing colour of the sky with worried eyes, whilst Joseph Fournier and Tony directed a thorough inspection of the rigging.

They had to wait for another five nerve-racking hours, though, before the first bolt of lightning flashed from the dark grey sky ahead. Ominous clouds darkened the eastern horizon, and Captain Carter asked his passengers to go below, into the after cabin, and to lie down on the cots.

Then, all hell broke loose around them. Within mere minutes, towering waves built up, and the small vessel had problems climbing up the huge rollers. Racing down their backsides was even more dangerous, as there was the constant worry that their bow might undercut in the trough between the waves.

Old Joseph Fournier, the first mate, was the first victim of the raging sea. He was trying to fight his way back to the steering wheel, when a huge wave swept over the main deck and washed him away. His shipmates, if they saw it, could only watch in helpless horror. Then Captain Carter was caught by a wave, too. He had secured himself to the sturdy taffrail, but when he fell, he was knocked unconscious.

Tony saw it but he could not help his father. The ship was rolling madly in the seas, and what little canvas they had carried, had already been torn to shreds. In consequence, the ship was not approaching the waves head on but was turning sideways. The situation was extremely dangerous, and Tony realised he had to do something.

Grabbing an axe and making sure he still had his knife, he made his way forward, using the intervals between the crashing waves. He reached the weather shrouds of the foremast and began hacking away at the tough, tarred cordage until the shrouds gave way and the foremast broke off cleanly, eight feet above the deck. Trailing by the starboard shrouds, the foremast now served as a sea anchor to keep the little ship’s bow to the waves, marginally increasing their slim chances of survival.

Tony made his way back, and he realised that the movements of the ship were heavy. They must have taken water, he realised, and the passengers were still in the after cabin. Carefully choosing a moment when the deck was not completely flooded, he opened the cockpit and make his way to the tiny cabin. It was in surprisingly good order, but the passengers were close to panic, having been thrown about in the dark for more than an hour.

“I have to bring you out on the deck”, he shouted over the howling of the storm. “There’s no way to tell how long the ship can take this. Follow me!”

He managed to bring all three of them on deck. With ropes, he secured them to the sturdy stump of the mainmast. It, too, had succumbed to the power of the hurricane, but there were twenty feet left of it.

The little ship was low in the water now, and the waves washed constantly over its deck. It was clear that she was sinking. Tony made his way over to his father, but one glance told him that the elder Carter was dead. His head had been crushed when the wave smashed him against the taffrail. He would go down with the Anne Mary.

Tony had little time to spare for his grief. His own survival and that of his charges depended on cool headed decisions. He mustered what little was left of the crew: two sailors, the cook and a boy. Luckily, the storm was already weakening. The waves were still going high, but their force was abating. There was a small chance of survival.

Empty kegs were fastened underneath the thwarts of their longboat. Water kegs hopefully not spoiled by sea water were also brought to the boat, as well as some ship’s biscuit in a tin-lined box. Two bottles of brandy from the captain’s stores and a net of coconuts completed what little provisions they could assemble in their hurry.

When they were finished with their preparations, they climbed into the boat and soon, a larger wave swept them off the sinking ship. Fortunately, it was a sturdy longboat that easily accommodated three grown men, two boys and two women. They used the oars sparingly to steer the boat against the high rollers and watched silently as the Anne Mary sank before their eyes. The sailors had tears in their eyes and sympathised with the eighteen-year-old second mate who had just lost his father and his ship.

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