Part Two: And then it all went ‘horriblee wronge’.
Shiver mi timbers, a tale of dread I tellest thee now. Black as slime covered hull, as slippery as cold eel pie, as terror filled as Davy Jones stare. Once more I calleth forward men and women brave and sure, matter not thy station of birth or complextion betwixt fair or foul. A tale to nash ones teeth in dispare and rend thy hair from thyst very head. A tale about the doom that befallest man and women when luck turns its back and the fates befuddle the senses.
So our journey in Direct Sail has so far taken me from Port Royale on the island of Jamaica, and now I am at Sao Jorge on La Granada, by way of going to the port of Bridgetown in Barbados. We’ve taken 4-5 hours real time sailing so far. I’ve bought a full cargo of Sailcloth to sell in Bridgetown and now it is too sea.
I leave in early morning, around 8 am. I had to stay over a few extra nights in Sao Jorge as there had been a storm blowing (horizontal rain!), which would have led to a ‘Storm’ encounter at sea as soon as I had tried to leave port (I believe this is correct, it has happened to me during these play-testing sessions), and spinning to the left, no matter what (ah..bugs), is not a lot of fun! So i decide now that the weather on land often determines what you will get at sea(as it should, a good mod feature), and staying in port during bad weather is the right thing to do.
The rain is lighter now, and the wind thankfully is in the right direction to take us out of port and east towards the island of Barbados. A pinkish dawn sky welcomes us to sea and no pirate is in sight. I use the rocks on the north side of the bay to angle off and get what I think will be the correct bearing, roughly east-south-east.
Then as usual with Direct Sailing mode I get on with other day to day things(work/cups of tea etc).
Now I’m not sure when it happened, but thick fog greets me when I next cast an eye over the Pegasus’s progress. The wind has also shifted a bit, but I really can only see out across the sea to a very short distance (distance and perspective in games is always a little difficult to judge), maybe half what is ‘normal’ on a clear day, maybe less? Still it concerned me and the great grey wall of fog that had enveloped my gaming world really started to get under my skin. I think this is what made me make a novice captains mistake, I started to tweak my heading a little bit, which in turn further made me doubt where I should have been going in relation to where I was now heading. With nothing but the cheap compass and wind direction (which I’d get an update on every ‘weather change’) to help me, I really did feel lost at sea. Where the heck was I!?
And this went on, and on. Maybe an hour and a half of real-time sailing went by, in which I never saw another ship (I did get a ‘ship ahoy!’ message, but in that fog never actually saw anyone!) and more worryingly where was the land?
Eventually I got a ‘Land Ho!’ and in the next 30-40 mins thought I could just make out some shoreline, I still couldn’t see anything in the persistent fog, but the reflection of the breakers on the shore did come through the gloom far on the horizon if you panned the camera angle around to the right angle in the '3rd person view'. It probably is a graphical flaw of the game, but I was happy to take it! Then as I got closer to what I was hoping was actual land, and not some bug feature, I got a ‘Sail ho!’ message and was very relieved to find a small flotilla of Dutch merchant ships heading in my rough direction. As I had no idea where I was going, I hoped they did and could lead me to some recognisable land mark.
The land did (Praise Neptune!) come into view, and at about 500 yards away I could see it pretty clear. So I started to try to work out which part of Barbados I was near. It was a pretty long straight bit, as islands go, so I figured I had ended up a bit further south than I had planned and was probably just off the coast just north west of Speightstown! Not the friendliest port for me and the Pegasus currently. The Dutch merchant ships were heading north up the coast, so I figured I’d join their convoy for safety and enjoy the journey around the headland and into Bridgetown to carry on my mission.
Then the land on my starboard did something odd. It fell away, into a deep bay, which I couldn't see the end of due to the fog. Checking my map of Barbados and there was a kind of bay, but that was flanked by two outcrops and it led directly into the port I wanted. Peering through the gloom I just didn’t see any outcrops, but it was foggy so maybe they were there, lost in the gloom? I decided to follow the convoy a little further, as this would shed more light on my location. As we came around another headland I thought I recognised where I was. I was coming into port, just of to starboard, of the Dutch port of Willemstad in Curacao!! That would explain the Dutch ships. But boy had I got really lost! I really don’t understand how I could have got that lost, in effect I had gone north east instead of south east, it still doesn’t make sense, but it does show just how dangerous poor visibility at sea can be(especially with no real navigational tools at hand). A lesson in Direct Sailing learned I feel.
I decide to sell my hold of Sailcloth (apart from 10 that I keep for emergency repairs) in Willemstad, the prices are good and I already missed one crew payment during my lost at sea session! So I need some money to avoid repeating that mistake. Food supplies are still good, but worryingly my Rum supplies are down to about 6 days (2t). Still the run from Curacao to Barbados should be an easy one, virtually due south and pretty close.
So the crew and I set sail, and bump into a pirate battle between some Dutch ships and two decent looking pirate craft. I stay well to the south of them and leave them to it. I had enough of a scare with my last encounter with pirates. Still, a while down the coast, heading south, and I bump into another set of pirates engaged in battle with an unknown enemy, and one of them, the faster one, breaks off to chase me and gets a few shots off in my general direction. My sails take some damage as does my hull, but nothing too serious. I decided to sail as close to the wind as I can, and that proves to be a good move as the faster with the wind pirate slowly slips behind.
I set a heading that is south-east-south, I figure I can afford to hit Barbados anywhere on its north coast, and at this launching off point from Curacao, I’m a little in danger of sailing to the west of Barbados and missing the island all together! We don’t want that, not with fairly short supplies of Rum on board!
The weather gets murky again, not quite as much a ‘pea-souper’ as a few days before, but enough to wear on me and the crew (I suspect!), it’s funny how a wide open sea, with views from horizon to horizon can seem a scary empty place, but also poor visibility and your world shrinks right down and you don’t know where you might be, but the fear is about equal? I decide at this point to upgrade my simple compass at the next available opportunity!
‘Sail Ho!’, and I see three vessels of in the distance on the starboard port side, I’ve been on a tack with the wide blowing at 90 degrees across my sails, and these guys have the same wind a bit behind them. It is evening now, and for the life of me I’d give my right hand for a spyglass that would actually show me more details than ‘just a little better’ from using my naked eye. The three ships, upon reaching parallel to me to starboard, suddenly turn in my direction. I’m not an expert on these ships yet, but they were two slightly dangerous looking large sleek things that I had thought might be a merchant class when first seeing them, and one smaller, and faster craft acting as scout I suspect. The as usual I get a few cannonball and battle music before being able to tell who they might be. It turns out, again, to be the French.
And this is where Davy Jones turned his gaze on me and my crew and the good Lugger Pegasus. My sails had been damaged by the pirates at Curacao, and they are still not repaired (what have you been doing carpenter guy?).
To cut a long story short, the battle goes on through the night (so about an hour in real-time), and I give them the slip twice, only to end up with one mast, sails at 30%, hull at 58%, crew down to about 2/3rds and a number of damaged cannon. I got 'Land Ho!' messages twice, once for Barbados and about 40mins after for Martinique; so focused had i been on trying to survive this encounter, i had gotten lost at sea again! And i never once saw the land, before having to head back west to try to find Barbados..again! What a mess this whole journey since leaving La Grenada had been.
And that should have been the end of me, and then I turned once more as close to the wind as I could, and surprisingly I got just out of range for the ‘world map navigation’ icon to pop onto the screen. I could tell I wouldn’t get another chance, as the three French ships were all in much better shape than me, so I did it. I went into the world map navigation screen and escaped.
For the purposes of this experiment in Direct Sailing my game was over. I would not have survived if I had stayed in that mode of play. So this is the end of this series of features looking into Direct Sail as a credible and widely more interesting method of travelling around the Caribbean courtesy of the amazing Build Mod 14, and PotC off course! You won't find a more realistic Age-of-sail experience out there, just brush up on your navigational skills, aye!