The squadron sets sail from Minorca, with a brand new captain at the helm of the Pomona, which is just one of the reasons many believe they’re cursed with bad luck — even with “Lucky” Jack Aubrey at the helm. Superstitious bunch, them sailors, young and old, and they go to great lengths to restore good luck, which may or may not involve a dog and a mummified hand. It’s a long story.
A few days out, their luck seems to turn already, as they spot sails on the horizon. They turn out to be French ships, who fly the white flag upon seeing them. Aubrey thinks it’s a ruse (takes one to know one), but it turns out to be parlay indeed.
And the man leading said ships is none other than Christy-Pallière, the bestest frenemy. CP’s a Royalist and has had enough with Bonaparte (though he retains great support otherwise among the French Imperialists), and divulges some useful intel as well, including confirming the intelligence service’s expectation that the French allies from Northern Africa will look to cut off the eastern advance of the Russians and Austrians. Maturin and his fellow doctor/agent Dr. Jacob quickly get to work on devising a plan to prevent that.
The squad conduct an effective sweep of all ports, nooks, and crannies up and down the Adriatic, smoking out a couple French frigates, forcing one to surrender by way of a fake fight (smart Royalist captain, there), and generally being badasses. Their exploits are helped by the stellar intelligence from CP and also gathered by the good doctors, with Maturin also paying off some locals to set fire to French shipyards and half-built ships.
Next on the agenda: try to cut off the reinforcements that Napoleon’s counting on coming from Africa (Algeria, specifically).