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The Daily Aubrey-Maturin: Master and Commander (Book 1), Chapters 4-6 (pg. 115-193)

Your daily dose of off-topic shenanigans.

A Sloop of War in a Light Breeze, J. Hill, active 19th century, after George Webster, 1797–1864, British, Published by Gaetano Testolini, active 1760–1811, James John Hill, 1811–1882, British, 1811, Aquatint on moderately thick, moderately textured,
‘A Sloop of War in a Light Breeze’
Photo by: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


Jack Aubrey loves the smell of napalm gunpowder in the morning, so to make this boring escort mission a bit more interesting, he decides to “exercise the big guns” despite limited resources (i.e. gunpowder) and the fact that they’re not all that big to begin with (just 4-pound cannons). Not unexpectedly, the exercise goes quite poorly, to say the least, though the hapless crew do manage to fire most of the guns eventually. Unlike Allen Iverson, or Eden Hazard, they definitely need more practice.

Luckily for them, they’re about to get plenty, as during the exercise, another ship, an “Algerian galley” had snuck up on the convoy and launched an attack on one of the stragglers (cue the David Attenborough narration). So the Sophie springs into action, charging the more powerful ship, and eventually chasing it off, though not without suffering a fair bit of damage and a couple casualties as well. One of those injured is saved when Maturin literally saws off his scalp — a story that will soon enter ship folklore. The interrupted exercise turns out to have been quite useful after all, having practically readied all the guns for the battle ahead of time, and thus surprising the privateering galley.

Aubrey decides against chasing the galley, much to the disappointment of his crew (and especially Dillon) who were itching for a fight, but orders are orders and his are to protect the convoy. And so he does, and without losing anyone — not even the crew of the ship that got attacked, for they hid on board instead of getting tossed overboard, as the crew of the Sophie had first thought. (Though that does deprive the Sophie of being able to claim the ship as a “prize”, thus losing out on a handsome payday.)

But soon they can look forward to getting some of that cash money money, as the success of the escort mission prompts Admiral Keith to give Aubrey new orders, to be the harassers instead of the harassed, and go patrol the French and Spanish coasts, looking to disrupt enemy shipping lines (this is set in the year 1800, during the War of the Second Coalition).

We also learn that Aubrey had been a bit of petulant wild child in the Navy, with a bit of a reputation, and had even spent a bit of time demoted to an “ordinary seaman”. Then again, there can only be one David Seaman, right?


Finders: keepers is the name of the game, as the Sophie braves a storm then lands a couple nice prizes, though has to pass up one promising one at the last minute once they deduce that the people onboard had died of the plague. Practicing good social distancing, they turn sail and leave that plague-ship prize alone.

The second ship they capture has its captain’s very pregnant wife onboard as well, and she of course goes into labor right when that all goes down. Maturin helps deliver the baby, then sails with the captured ship, now under the temporary command of Dillon, back to Menorca. During that voyage, the two former Irish rebels have a true heart-to-heart, then drink too much, and talk a bit too earnestly. It happens to the best of us. Dillon reveals that he’s not quite sold on Aubrey as a captain, and also lets it slip that he’s a “crypto-Catholic”, which has got nothing to do with NFTs. (Sorry, JT!)


The Sophie’s back in port, which means that the men can spend all their earnings on their vice(s) of choice, and Aubrey can go to a fancy party where he gets too drunk and crass and has to be whisked away by Maturin before he could get himself into even more trouble with the upper crust of society. Back to the ship we go, where we’re all a lot more comfortable! A couple stragglers are left behind, while rumor has it that Dillon managed to get himself into a duel at some point, too. “Here we go,” said Fabrizio Romano! Fortunately, Dillon emerged victorious and rejoined the crew in time.

Back at sea, things get back to normal, while Maturin takes a man named Cheslin under his wings as his “loblolly boy”, a.k.a. assistant. Cheslin had become an outcast among his own crew after revealing that he was a “sin-eater” before volunteering for duty. The crew tolerate all manner of reprehensible individuals and criminals, but this is apparently over the line. So they denied Cheslin all food and nourishment, and he was slowly wasting away before the good doctor saved him from his sins.

And it’s truly a red letter day for Maturin, as he’s presented with a “remora” (suckerfish) that the maintenance crew plucked off the Sophie’s hull underwater. Boy howdy!



Does he know there are more than 2 clubs in the world?



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