Title: Weymouth Bound
Author: Paul Weston
Sale Price: £3.99
Publication date: 11 May 2012
Format: 198 x 130 mm
Number of pages: 184
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When I next looked the other ship was so close that I could make out her shape, a rakish cutter of fifty tons or so, built for speed and heavily canvassed. She was heeled over, and I could see the foaming bow waves and her sails straining at the sheets. The lights in the rigging were extinguished as I watched, and on her deck I could make out indistinct figures moving around.
From that moment things happened very quickly. I heard a shouted order and the crash and thunder of the cutter’s sails, and saw her gybe and surge up alongside us, healing wildly. It was an amazing display of seamanship, but not one I could appreciate, for with sudden insight I realised the full horror of what was happening. We were about to be boarded.
This was the moment in 1800 when the life of Jack Stone, a Portland smuggler’s son and apprentice on the merchant ship the Cicely, changed forever. The capture of the Cicely in the English Channel by the brilliant and ruthless Captain Morlaix leads to a desperate struggle, not just for Jack’s survival, but to prevent the French striking a damaging blow to the heart of the British Establishment.
Extract from the book
Chapter 1 Landing
The night was moonlit, and though we were close enough to the shore to hear the waves breaking on the rocks, the drizzle prevented us from seeing anything more than occasional glimpses of the land. I hung over the stern while my father rowed, my hand feeling the tension in the grapnel line dragging astern. We’d been rowing back and forth for three hours, and I was wet through and cold. I felt the line snag.
Father stopped rowing and lay on his oars, wiping the rain from his eyes. We seemed to be in our own small world, everything dripping moisture. I pulled the rope steadily, bringing the first tub of brandy and its stone weight to the surface. Father lifted it over the side, cut the weight free and lowered the barrel into the bottom of the boat. The boat was full of kegs when we heard a faint sound, just a soft hiss above the noise of the swell breaking on the rocks. We both looked up and peered through the drizzle.
‘There,’ father pointed, ‘the Alert.’ I looked and saw the Revenue cutter in the moonlight. She was almost upon us, startlingly close, moving quickly despite the light wind. Despair swept over me. ‘She hasn’t seen us,’ he said, but the edge in his voice betrayed his words, and as he spoke there was a shout from the cutter’s deck and she altered course towards us.
Father’s face was a study in despair. There was too much contraband to hide, no time to throw it overboard, and it would float anyway now that we’d removed the weights. I saw men move on the cutter’s deck, reducing sail.
A voice hailed us, loud and clear. ‘Hold water there, and come alongside us.’ The cutter’s crew had all the sail off her now, except for a scandalised mainsail, and she was almost stopped. She was not towing a boat, but there was one on her deck.
Father spoke urgently through clenched teeth. ‘Get down in the boat, Jack, lie down on the boards!’ and suddenly dug in his oars, pulling with all his strength towards the shore. I looked up at him. The appearance of the Alert had been frightening, but what upset me most that night was the sight of my father as he rowed for his life with his feet braced against the thwart in front of him. There was a wild, frightened look in his eyes, his lips were pulled back from his teeth in a horrible grin and the veins bulged in his neck. He was rowing the boat faster than I had thought possible, heading towards the shore, but it was a large boat and heavily laden. I peeked above the gunwale and saw the cutter making sail again and turning slowly to intercept us. There was another hail ‘Stop in the King’s name!’, but my father did not vary his stroke.
We were about a hundred yards from a large offshore rock perhaps thirty feet high, and I realised that he intended to get close into the shore where the deep-keeled cutter could not go.
There was another shout which I could not make out, and then a series of bangs from the cutter as the men on her discharged their muskets. We were nearly at the big rock when the atmosphere was suffused by a red glow, there was a louder bang, and we heard shot screaming over us through the rain.
‘The swivel,’ father gasped, and then the rock was abeam and he rowed the boat behind it. Though the wind was light, there was quite a swell round the base of the rock, and I could hear the backwash sucking round other unseen dangers nearby. Father rested on his oars, gasping for breath, allowing the boat to drift backwards and forwards on the surge.
‘Water,’ he said between breaths, and I felt around the boat until I found the bottle. He took a great swallow and wiped his brow. ‘We’ll go up the coast well in and strike across the bay when we get to Ringstead. Wind’s against us, so I’ll row. You go up in the bows and look out for rocks. Cutter can’t get in here, it’s a thick night, and she doesn’t know where we’re headed. We’ll be all right, Jack, don’t worry.’ He patted my shoulder and, though his words were reassuring, his voice shook.
As he drank, his face was lit by another flash, followed by the bang of the swivel. Looking over his shoulder he handed me the bottle and with a great heave on the oars got the boat underway. We went along the coast for an hour, creeping through the off-lying dangers. Occasionally, despite our best efforts, the boat bumped on rocks, and once she went aground on the top of a wave and I had to jump overboard into the cold water and push the boat off the slippery surface when the next big wave came.
We saw and heard no more of the cutter, which was just as well for we were all in when we finally got to the high cliffs of Ringstead, set the sail and headed across rainy Weymouth Bay for Portland and home
Born in Swanage, Paul Weston went to sea as an engineer apprentice with the BP Tanker Company. His subsequent seafaring career included spells with European Ferries and P&O. After leaving the sea and graduating from university with a degree in mechanical engineering he worked for the Bermuda Electric Light Company and Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
Paul started and ran Weston Antennas for 20 years, designing and manufacturing large satellite earth station antennas in Piddlehinton, Dorset, and installing them around the world. He left the firm following a dispute with its venture capitalist investors, and now works sedately as a design engineer with Siemens.
Paul has extensive sailing experience, including a trip from New York to Lymington in a home-designed and built 26-ft boat, and currently owns a Mitchell Sea Angler which he keeps at Wareham. He lives in rural Dorset with his wife and two children, and is currently working on two writing projects, one of which develops Jack Stone’s later career, and another more contemporary story
WHAT REVIEWERS HAVE SAID
‘a rip-roaring adventure of the sea set in Napoleonic times - a can’t-put-down yarn by an inspired storyteller whose work is in so many ways a natural successor to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and our own J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet … Paul Weston has written a cracking good book which offers such a brilliant read I have already bought copies for sending to family members in Australia and France.’
Trevor Vacher Deane, Editor of The Society of Dorset Men Yearbook
‘Got this book as a paperback copy not expecting that much but heard from a friend it was very good. I picked it up and was hooked straight away.’
‘The book is very cleverly and well written plus was not predictable at all. Highly recommended.’
‘Praise for Paul Weston who I am hoping will bring out many more books.’
‘The author clearly knows his naval warfare and the scenes on the ship were not only historically fascinating but I could almost taste the salt and feel the roll of the deck as I read. If you are a fan of all things nautical you’ll love this – and even if you’re not it’s a cracking good story.’
The Scribbling Sea Serpent (Amazon)
'I found the book Weymouth Bound a fascinating insight into a 19th
century sailor's life. I am not a sailor but fond the explanation of the day to
day methods of handling the ship, weather, tides and access to port very
interesting and informative. My 18 year old daughter instructs Sea Cadets in
Dorset and uses examples from the book to assist during teaching presentations,
she also enjoyed the book immensely. The story of the young man's early career
and the ability to relate to the locations described made for a very enjoyable
read. I think that the story has not been closed and I for one would
like to see the development of the young man's naval career, the date setting is
a fascinating part of history and a great opportunity for Paul to bring more of
this to life.'
Charles Bridges (Amazon)
'I read Weymouth Bound
and found it very entertaining as well as educational. I have read a few
maritime books but this one used many terms and references to British and
French historical facts that I was not familiar with (being from Texas). It is
an easy and quick read. It has mystery, adventure and excitement that holds
your attention and coaxes you to read on without putting it down. The young boy
Jack Stone has his contentious moments during some battles that include 1800
warships and canons with grape shot. It was sad when the merchant ship The
Cecily was destroyed during a maritime clash to save the British King. The
glossary in the back was really well done. I look forward to the next book to
learn how Jack begins his Merchant Marine career and later becomes wealthy as
well as find out what happens to his mentor Mr. Wellstone. I also suspect Jack
and the young girl will get hooked up.'
'Ladster' (on Amazon.com)
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