Monday, August 21

Strange Fortune

An original Acasta Tale by Tony Gerard

So the old Frenchman what is the Doctor’s mate told a yarn for true, I am not sure that it is so, for he has an endless supply of them, and his being French besides, but they are an amusement.

It seems his wife is a headhuntress from the Spanish Philippines. I know this for a truth because I heard the Doctor speak of it to Lieutenant McLean. It seems that she is now a domesstick for the Doctors wife and Lieutenant McLean said he would like to get an exotic for his wife also. I suppose that is what passes for a prize among the better sorts these days.

Which he had been wrecked while a prisoner of the Spanish on that coast and that is how he come to be among the headhunters. So after he has been with them a number of years he decides he wants to return to Christian folk and his wife comes with him. 

They take a canoe that he has rigged with a sail and make their way from careful from island to island. He wants to hide from the Spanish, see? Whenever they come upon other Indians he shows them a jawbone of a fellow the Headhunters killed and tells them the jawbone is from a Spaniard, and they are welcomed.  No one likes the Spaniards. But they mostly try to keep away from other people. His plan is to try and make the coast of China and find an English ship to work passage on.
So they finally make a long haul across the South China Sea to the coast. That is the part that is the hardest for me to believe, cause he aint much of a sailor now, how could he be better when he was young? Which when they get to the China coast they are going to be even more cautious. They have heard China pirates are worse than Spaniards and they decide to find some desert place and rest up for a bit.

They finds a place that looks right, all jungle and such and they put to in a nice little cove. The Frenchman says he dont know if it were the actual coast or an  island just off it.

He has a headhunter spear, which he goes hunting with and kills a big lizard, which they is glad to have for a change. So his wife goes to boil some in a pot they has – which was her best thing- and she spits the rest to dry over the coals for later. 

Now they is taking their ease as the pot simmers when all at once they her a fellow cough in the forest nearby. Both of them hears it. They figure it for some Indians sneaking up.

So without a word the wife takes the pot and the spits and heads for the canoe and the Frenchman starts backing down with his spear pointed toward the woods.

About the time the wife is in the canoe and the Frenchman is just shoving off something runs out of the jungle and jumps over the Frenchman toward the wife on the stern. Quick as a cat- or quicker in this case- she whollops it on the nose with the pot and jumps over the side.  It then turns on the Frenchman and he does the same. The canoe has outriggers, which is the style in the Pacific, which they both end up hanging onto. The tide was ebbing fast and already they is in deep water.

So they listen to whatever it is eat what was to be their dinner off the spits and what spilled from the pot. Then it realizes that it is afloat and gets frantic, running back and forth on the canoe, then trying to climb the puny little mast, which shredded the sail and it was all they could do, one on each outrigger, to keep it from flipping it. The Frenchman said they was double scared of having it in the water with them.

They stay like that till dawn, when they see it is a leopard they has caught. The Frenchman still has his spear which he thinks maybe he can spear the leopard, but after a few tries he gives it up, as the leopard has the advantage and he is afraid if he provokes it too much it may jump on him.
So, they hang there all day and the next, without a drop to drink. The worst he says was listening to the leopard drink the water from a clay pot they has. A few times they come close enough to swim to an island or ashore, but they discuss it and decide that to be afoot on this wild shore they would just be eat by another leopard or something worse.

Several times sharks come close, but thankfully they offer them no trouble. On the third morning the tide is on the rise and it pulls them shoreward and up a creek. The leopard, which has been asleep on the bow wakes up, and as soon as they gets close jumps two fathoms to shore. The Frenchman and the wife jump back in and paddle frantic against the tide till they get well away.  They had some coconuts in the canoe otherwise they would have died of thirst he says cause they was both to scared to go back ashore for water. He says after that they tried to only stop at small islands which they thought was less likely to be infested with leopards.

He told this for a truth, and I can believe it all but for him sailing across the South China Sea. Mayhaps his headhunteress knew better how to mind a sail.

                  Robert Watson, aboard HMS Acasta, in a letter to his wife July 1810

Friday, August 18

Recent Captures

Jas. Apple waves across at a recently captured schooner.

American schooner Prudence, captured by the Acasta, arrived at Halifax in July.

American sloop Diana, captured by the Acasta
arrived at Halifax same date.

From The London Gazette 
Publication date:14 March 1815 

Thursday, August 17

Acasta in the News

PORTSMOUTH, June 6. This morning the battalion of marines under the command of Major R. Williams, embarked on board the Diadem, supposed for North America.

The outward bound East-India fleet, consisting of the Carmarthen, Apollo, Fairlie, Alexander, Earl Howe, and Marchioness of Ely, dropped down to St.Helen's on Wednesday, and sailed on Thursday, under convoy of the Junon, of 38 guns. Major-General Nightingale, appointed to a command in Bengal, is a passenger on board the Marchioness of Ely; Sir S. Toler[?], appointed to succeed as Advocate-General at Madras, is a passenger on board the Apollo.

The Acasta takes out Vice-Admiral Martin to Lisbon, instead of the Pique.

Lieuts. Banks and Weeks, of the Northumberland, and Growler gun-vessel, are promoted to the rank of Commanders, for their exertions in the recent destruction of the French frigates off L'Orient.

Wednesday, August 16

Acasta in the News

PORTSMOUTH, May 23. The Quebec convoy weighed anchor on Monday, but could get no further than Cowes Road, from whence they sailed on the following day. - The Newfoundland convoy sailed on Monday, the Lisbon convoy on Tuesday.

Sunday- Sailed the Minerva frigate, Comet and Savage sloops, with convoys for Newfoundland and Halifax.

Monday- Arrived the Acasta, of 38 guns, Capt. Kerr, from the Downs; Parthian and Jasper sloops, - Sailed the Warspite, of 74, Capt. Blackwood, off Cherbourg; Nemesis and Mermaid troop ships, for Lisbon.

Tuesday- Sailed the Leyden troop ship for Lisbon; Rinaldo and Tyrian sloops, and Misletoe schooner.

Wednesday- Arrived the Cossack, of 22, Captain Price, from the Downs.- Sailed the Active, of 38, Captain Gordon; North Star sloop, Capt.Coe; and Tortoise storeship, for the Downs. Came into harbour the Minden, of 74.

Friday- Arrived the Spitfire and Buzzard, from a cruize; Carmarthen and Alexander East Indiamen, at the Motherbank, from the Downs.

Tuesday, August 15

From the Naval Chronicle

Copy of a Letter from Captain Oliver, of H.M.S. Valiant, to the Right Hon. Admiral Sir J. B. Warren, Bart, dated at Sea, June 18, 1813, and transmitted by the Admiral to J. W. Croker, Esq.

     I beg leave to acquaint you, that H.M.S. under my command, and the Acasta, yesterday, at daylight, fell in with H.M.'s sloop Wasp, then in pursuit of an enemy's brig, off Cape Sable ; and after a further chase of more than 100 miles, we captured the American letter of marque Porcupine, of 20 guns, and 72 men, from Bayonne to Boston. She is a beautiful vessel, of more than 300 tons, only eight months old, and sails uncommonly fast.
      The Wasp has retaken a prize of the Young Teazer privateer, and is now gone in quest of her.

I have the honour to be, &c.

From the Naval Chronicle Vol XXX. page 248.

Monday, August 14

Of Ship's Boys and Headhunters

An original Acasta Tale by Tony Gerard

Jean Baptiste Girard, Surgeon’s Mate H.M.S. Acasta, pushed aside the hanging canvas that served as a door to the sickbay. He was just returning from sick call, which has been nothing short of miraculous. Not a single soul had showed up at the mainmast for medical treatment. Even the usual few shirkers had abstained from shaming illnesses on this day. The continuous stream of new contusions and hernias had never just ceased before. Was this a good or bad omen?

He fumbled beneath his neckrag for the key to the medicine cabinet. Pulling it out on its string he leaned forward to unlock the cabinet, then stopped short at a nearby snuffling sound. He peered cautiously around the cabinet’s side.

Setting back to the cabinet, knees to his chest and head on his knees was Linden, one of the youngest group of Ship’s boys. He was 8 years old, more or less.

“What are you doing?’ he asked.

Linden jumped, he hadn’t heard the mate enter, “Nutin” he said sullenly.

“I can see dat. Why do you hid here?”

Linden looked up appraisingly. The mate was French, which made him something of an outsider…which made him a potential ally when a fellow was feeling on the outs with his mates. He took the chance.

“I’m getting’ away from those blackards Grove an Coleman”. Coleman and Grove were the two other of the youngest ship’s boys.

“What have dey done?”

He again eyed the Frenchman appraisingly. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“Well…it’s like this. I miss me Mum somthin’ fierce, ‘specially on the night watches. Grove asks me why I’m so glum, so I tells him. Then he goes and tells Coleman. Then the two of ‘em makes a big jest out of it. They say I’ll never make a tar if I ain’t no braver than to miss me Mum so. Easy for them to say- ain’t neither one even got a Mum! And they was supposed to be my friends…”.

The mate sat down companionably. “I would tell you a story. Would you wish to hear it?”

“I suppose” said the ship’s boy with little real enthusiasm.

“You know I lived among de headhunters of de Spanish Philippines when I was a young man?”

“I heard it said. That charm ya wear is part of it”

“Yes. So, when I first come to live among dose people I live in de “agamang”. Is a house where all de boys and unmarried young men of de village live, until dey take a wife and make a home of dere own. A few old mens live dere also, widowers most, to keep order.

So dere was a boy dere. His name was “ Kalpahi”. Some nights he would wait until all was asleep, den sneak out, back to de house of his Mama an den sneak back again before day. When de other boys of his age would catch him at dis dey would make cruel jests of him. Dey had a hateful rhyme about how he wish to make a bird catching net of his Mama’s pubic hair.”


“Yes, is strange, but dat was true. He sneaked out much more dan he was caught. I know because I sleep near de door an I see him. De other dat sleep dere is an old man. An he sleep very sound. Kalpahi knewed I seed him an don’t give him away, so we are friends of a sort

So one night Kalpahi had sneaked out to his Mama’s house and now he come back in de dark before day. He always go all de way around de village, outside the fields even, because the agamang was on de other side of de village from de house of his Mama, an he don’t wish to run across someone going out to take a piss or something.

As he come back almost to de village he stop, because he hear someone whisper- but is in de wrong language.

Now some time before some young men of our village had found a Tuwali alone in de forest. Dey kill him and bring back his head, because dey is anxious to be warriors.

Now our village was at peace with de Tuwali and de elders of de village is upset with des boys. Dey send many pigs to de Tuwali so dat dey don’t start a war.

So now Kalpahi  is just outside de village an he stay still an look close, and as de darkness begin to go he see dere is six men hid at de edge of de fields. An dey are men- not boys. Dey have come so quite not a dog has bark. Dey are de relatives of de Tuwali dat was killed, come to avenge him!
So what is Kalpahi to do? He knows dat dey wait to murder whoever comes to de fields first. If he shout a warning- dey will perhaps kill him first! Kalpahi hears a baby cry, some peoples talk- de village is waking. Soon someone will come to de fields. 

Kalpahi can wait no longer. He shout a warning as loud as he can- all de dogs of de village begin to bark- and he run away-across de rice levee. De two most close of de Tuwali give chase to him, but de others- luck for him- run another way.

Also luck for Kalpahi is a growed man, a warrior, named “Pugong” is going out to piss. He have his spear widt him, because he is a warrior and he feel something is not right dere. He see dese two give Chase to Kapahi and he give chase to dem.

Now de Tuwali most close to Kalpahi is man width much longer legs dan a boy an soon he almost catch Kapahli. He try to spear him, but de spear only hurt Kapahi a little an Kalpahi run more faster. Twice he cut Kalpahi widt his spear. Finally when Kalpahi is almost to de end of de levee de Tuwali trows his spear. It miss Kalpahi, it go under his arm, an stick in de path beyond him. When Kalpali reach de spear he take it an turn to face de Tuwali.  De Tuwali has drawn his bolo- is a long chopping knife- and he jump down at Kalpahi- an Kalpahi spear him right in de chest! It kill him dead right off!
Just den Kalpahi hear a shout “Come quick! Dere is a Tuwali here!” Is Pugong calling to de men of de village.

Kalpahi try to pull de spear from de dead Tuwali, but it don’t come out, so he take de bolo and run back up on de levee. De second Tuwali has turned to face Pugong. He have a spear and shield, but Pugong only have a spear and he has been hurt, but still stands. Quick as he can Kalpahi runs up from behind and chop de Tuwali in de neck widt de bolo- when he does Pugong  spear him.

So now Kalpahi has killed two enemy. An warriors widt tattoos dat say dey have taken heads demselves!  He have earned de right to have warrior tattoos, doe he is only a boy. All de other boys want to be his friend. None ever make jest of him now.

De elders is unhappy, but not widt Kalpahi or Pugong, for dey is heros. Again dey send pigs to de Tuwali, who agree to not have a war. Dey agree dat de family of de killed fellow was wrong to try an avenge him after dere village had accept de first pigs.”

“So whot’s head hunters killing one another got to do with me and Grove and Coleman?”

“Here is de lesson- no one is brave all de time. Kalpahi was brave when it matter. Dat is what is important. When we go to quarters, I am glad to be safe below decks in de cockpit…”

“But you’re a Frenchy, nobody expects you to be brave”. The guileless of youth.

“Perhaps” chuckled the mate “ but as I say no-one is brave all de time. You remember when we take de “Polly”?”

“How could I forget that?!?”

“I hear dat you was taking a message to de Captain an a ball strike de deck right beside you. I hear dat Mr. Calhoon drop to de deck- but you did not”

‘He said t’was the shock knocked him down”

“Perhaps- but was you not afraid?”.

“I dunno. It was an important message from Lieutenant Hamilton. I didn’t think about being afraid cause I had to tell the Captain."

“See- just like Kalpahi- you was brave when it matter. And I tell you another thing- Kalpahi, even after he have tattoos- some nights he still sneak back to de house of his Mama. No one is brave all de time.”

“Hollybrass is”

“I tell you a truth. Before you come aboard, dere was a ship’s boy dat Hollybrass was fond of. Hollybrass teach him his knots, de ropes- all  de tings he must know to be a good tar. He got his foot crush by a gun, an we have to cut de foot off. Hollybrass is dere. As de Doctor begin to saw off de foot- Hollybrass look away. I saw dis myself. So at dat time Hollybrass is a little bit not brave. No one is all brave all de time”

“Nelson was.”

“I’m sure dere were times when even Nelson was a little bit not brave, and times when he miss his Mama”

“Now you’re just talking foolishness” the ship’s boy grinned.

Friday, August 11


I regretfully announce the resignation of Tom Tumbusch and Robert Fryman from HMS Acasta. This is a loss for us but we can only respect their decisions and wish them the best. Both men let us know of their decisions shortly after the Jane Austen Festival this year.

Since his joining, Mr. Tumbusch was a valuable member of our team. His contribution was essential to our success, which we very much appreciate.

As one of the original founders of HMS Acasta, Mr. Fryman has contributed much to the success of this organization. We acknowledge his efforts and thank him for the commitment and dedication throughout the years.

On behalf of everyone with the Acasta, I would like to wish Mr. Tumbusch and Mr. Fryman success in future challenges and endeavors.