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Old 04-20-2004, 08:51 PM
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Ending of "Master and Commander" (spoiler)


At the end of Master and Commander, Aubrey finds the Acheron's captain had disguised himself as a surgeon during the capture, and is presently on board the captured ship, which is heading to the nearest friendly port; Aubrey therefore decides to turn around and give chase. Knowing little about 19th-century naval matters, I ask: Why would the French captain want to avoid capture as a captain, and why would Aubrey care enough to turn his ship around?

I can think of several reasons, of course. One possible reason is honour: insofar as the battle between the two ships is a battle of wits, somewhat tinged by personal obsession, between their respective captains, the French captain's ploy is just another way to outwit Aubrey. (On the other hand, isn't this kind of weaselly conduct a bit dishonourable? On yet another hand, they sail under false colours all the time in order to catch the enemy by surprise, so it's not like anyone is playing fair.)

I'm also sure that there are military and strategic reasons why you want to capture a captain; the English would likely want to interrogate any captured officers, and would use them for bartering, in exchange for English prisoners-of-war.

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Old 04-20-2004, 08:55 PM
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The reason he disguised himself is that he intends to take back the ship.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:03 PM
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What Wumpus said.

That was my immediate assumption upon first seeing it.

I thought it set things up for a sequel pretty well too.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:11 PM
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The guy is presumably in irons, no? Possibly even behind lock and key? How can he take back the ship?

Not that it's a physical impossibility (I'm pretty sure Hornblower did it once, or had it happen to him once), but neither does it strike me as very likely.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:15 PM
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In another thread on this subject a few months back it was mentioned that it wasn't uncommon in that era to NOT lock up gentlemen who had been taken prisoner. The French captain was pretending to be the ship's surgeon, as such he might very well have been allowed to move about freely once he had been taken prisoner.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:15 PM
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?The "surgeon" certainly wasn't in irons when we saw him.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:37 PM
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After placing a prize crew on board, the officers would be the only persons locked up (if they did not give their parole). The rest of Acheron's men would have been needed to sail the ship safely; it takes many hands to make the ship go.

With Captain Poltroon not under arrest nor having sworn parole, Jack is sure that he will try to rally his men and recapture the ship from the prize crew.
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Old 04-20-2004, 09:42 PM
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As a surgeon, he would likely be free to move about the ship to tend to the wounded, if the prize crew had none of their own (or, as in this case, a very inexperienced one). This would make it very easy for him to attempt to retake his own ship.

If the Surprise had been captured, Stephen would likely have been allowed the same freedom, although Jack would have been taken to the victorious ship and kept under surveillance.

If Jack had been aware of the French captain's ruse, he would have taken the man aboard; if circumstances required the French captain stay on his own ship, he'd have been locked up, probably in his own cabin.
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Old 04-20-2004, 10:03 PM
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Actually, at least in the books, Jack was free to move about the ship himself...once he had given his parole that is.

But I think as far as the movie goes the implication was that the french captain would have freed his crew and retaken the ship. Its probably complete bullshit, as at least in the books the officers and petty officers were ALWAYS taken aboard the capturing ship, so the captain, even if he did free his crew, would have had no officers to help him run it. He'd of been SOL basically.

I also found it amusing that, at least as far as I remember, in the book the movie was based on, the ship was an American Frigate and it was during the 1812 war. Instead they made it a French flagged American Frigate run by a privateer. Kind of funny.

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Old 04-20-2004, 10:38 PM
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"I also found it amusing that, at least as far as I remember, in the book the movie was based on, the ship was an American Frigate and it was during the 1812 war"

As it happens I'm re-reading the novels and just finished revisiting Far Side of the World. It's odd that so many people, myself included, harp on the change from an American to a French enemy when really that's the least of the changes to the story. For example ..... (long list of book and movie spoilers below)

SPOILER:
... The bit about the enemy captain pretending to be someone else isn't in the book (I think it's taken from one of the later books)

... Jack does not in fact fight and defeat the enemy ship they're chasing at all, either at the begining of the story or at the end! This plotline is resolved in a very different way in the book.

... Stephen does not stop in the Galapagos: his request to cross an island while the Surprise sails around it is denied.

... Stephen's medical crisis is different in the book. (His operating on himself is taken from one of the earlier books.)

... The aristocratic midshipman who loses an arm isn't in the book. (Can't remember if he's from one of the later books or whether he was made up for the movie.)

... The "Jonah" story is entirely different. There's still a suicide involved, but there's adultery and murder before the suicide ... and it's not the Jonah who commits suicide!

... Lots of great stuff was cut out, like Jack nearly getting castrated.

... Various material from earlier books was added, e.g. the trepanning, "lesser of two weevils," etc.
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Old 04-20-2004, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
What Wumpus said.

That was my immediate assumption upon first seeing it.

I thought it set things up for a sequel pretty well too.
I thought "sequel" immediately as well. And having read many of the novels in the series, I'd love to see another film.
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Old 04-20-2004, 10:44 PM
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I definitely remember some of the parts in the movie as coming from earlier (or later) books, as Wumpus says. Especially the part where Stephen operates on himself. THe movie was like a mosaic of all the books together. Be interesting if they do another Master and Commander movie to see how they patch it together again.

Personally, I thought Horatio Hornblower, both the books and the series, was much more interesting.

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Old 04-20-2004, 11:56 PM
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I do recall something like that from the books (though later in the series, I believe). Though I don't remember all the details offhand, there was a similar situation involving the capture of a French ship off the Pacific Coast of South America:

SPOILER:
Stephen was on a secret mission to encourage revolution in the South American colonies of Spain, then an ally of France. Stephen was going ashore to meet with the Revolutionaries, when Jack captured a French ship that unbeknownst to him had a French counter-agent. The agent disguised or misrepresented himself and was sent ashore with a prize so that he could interfere with Stephen's mission. Hijinx ensued.
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Old 04-21-2004, 12:02 AM
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Looks like I was beat to it (as usual ). The French captain disguised himself as the surgeon so he could take back the ship later. If he was captured as captain, most likely he would have been taken aboard the Surprise and locked up below. By pretending to be the surgeon, he could wander around on the Acheron and since the crew would continue to remain his (they wouldn't just get a new English crew on the spot), he'd bide his time.
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Old 04-21-2004, 10:16 AM
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Old 04-21-2004, 11:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wumpus
SPOILER:
... Stephen's medical crisis is different in the book. (His operating on himself is taken from one of the earlier books.)
Does anyone happen to know which book this was taken from? I read The Far Side of the World looking for this scene, and was disappointed not to find it. I'd love to read the book in which it takes place.
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Old 04-21-2004, 08:44 PM
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Billdo, I think that was from The Wine-Dark Sea, which also had Stephen doing his naturalist thing in the Andes. Memorable encounters with llamas...
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Old 04-21-2004, 10:44 PM
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Fascinating reading, gentlemen. One day -- in, oh, about twenty O'Brian books' time -- I shall have to read Wumpus' spoiler box.

I didn't realize they didn't lock up their prisoners. Are there any known (by members on this board, at least) incidents where a crew, with or without their officers, recaptured their own ship while in custody?

I enjoyed the Hornblower films immensely. I would love to hear other recommendations in the same vein. (Actually, anything sea-related is my cup of tea; I don't care about the century, as long as it's about life on the ocean.)
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Old 04-22-2004, 07:47 AM
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Does anyone happen to know which book this was taken from? I read The Far Side of the World looking for this scene, and was disappointed not to find it. I'd love to read the book in which it takes place.
H.M.S. Surprise:

You will have to raise the rib, M'Alister,' said Stephen. 'Take a good grip with the square retractor. Up: harder, harder. Snip the cartilage ' The metallic clash of instruments: directions: perpetual quick swabbing: an impression of brutal force, beyond anything he had conceived. It went on and on and on. 'Now, Jack, a steady downward pressure. Good. Keep it so. Give me the davier. Swab, M'Alister. Press, Jack, press
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Old 04-22-2004, 02:22 PM
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H.M.S. Surprise
Thanks! I'm adding it to my list now. I never cease to be amazed at the questions that can be answered on the SDMB.
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Old 03-21-2012, 04:17 PM
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I understand that Aubrey assumes that the French captain is dead, but surely a large number of english sailors and soldiers are aboard the aceron, and most of the French are dead, therefore, how could the French captain stage a take over, with 'Tom' captaining a well defended ship?
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Old 03-21-2012, 04:24 PM
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It's a pretty old thread, and been longer since I've seen the movie or read the books, but it would have been a prize crew on the Aceron, so it's possible that the French captain could have retaken the ship...in theory at least. They would have probably had to parole at least some of the French crew to really man the ship, and they wouldn't have wanted to draw down to heavily from the Surprise, as it was still a warship that was expected to be at fighting trim. IIRC, prize crews were simply expected to get the prize back to English waters, where the crown/RN would have the option of buying the ship into service (thus giving the capturing crew a nice fat reward) and perhaps giving the provisional captain a ship of his own.

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Old 03-21-2012, 04:27 PM
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Fascinating reading, gentlemen. One day -- in, oh, about twenty O'Brian books' time -- I shall have to read Wumpus' spoiler box.
Once you start, twenty books goes by pretty fast. When I read them for the first time, I would leave work at lunch to go sit in the bookstore parking lot to finish a book and then after buying the book, start reading it on the parking lot before going back to work. Nothing annoyed me more than finishing one of them at midnight before the bookstore opened. This was, obviously, in the pre-iPad era.

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Old 03-21-2012, 04:37 PM
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So would the new captain 'Tom' have been on the Aceron, and therefore captured by the old French captain?
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Old 03-21-2012, 05:03 PM
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So would the new captain 'Tom' have been on the Aceron, and therefore captured by the old French captain?
Tom Pu;llings was in command of the prize crew.
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Old 03-21-2012, 05:57 PM
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The movie is mashed up from several books.

The plot of chasing a ship around the horn and into the Pacific is from The Far Side of the World but the ship itself is an amalgamation of several spectacular ship battles from the books, including the Cacafuego, from Master and Commander, and the Waakzaamheid from Desolation Island.

The chase around the horn, though exciting, doesn't match the pitch of the scene in Desolation Island that it is taken from. That is one of the best battles in the entire series -- and the series is loaded with fantastic battles.

Stephen operating on himself is from HMS Surprise, as has been mentioned earlier.
SPOILER:
In the book, he kills a man in a duel but he also takes a bullet.


The midshipman who loses an arm is William Reede, and I believe he loses it
SPOILER:
in a battle against Dyak pirates in The Nutmeg of Consolation.


As far as I can recall, the shenanigans that the French captain tries to pull with pretending to be the ship's surgeon doesn't occur in any of the books.

The movie is very good, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of how great the books are.

Just realized that this is the most zombish (zomboid?) thread I've ever posted in. So it goes.
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Old 03-21-2012, 06:03 PM
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The midshipman who loses an arm is William Reede, and I believe he loses it
SPOILER:
in a battle against Dyak pirates in The Nutmeg of Consolation.

But part of it grows back.
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Old 03-21-2012, 06:40 PM
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Once you start, twenty books goes by pretty fast. When I read them for the first time, I would leave work at lunch to go sit in the bookstore parking lot to finish a book and then after buying the book, start reading it on the parking lot before going back to work. Nothing annoyed me more than finishing one of them at midnight before the bookstore opened. This was, obviously, in the pre-iPad era.
I hear you. I've read the series 8 times now and it was common practice for me to start carrying around the next book with me once I got through 3/4 of the current book.

Sadly, they haven't made the books into digital editions yet so it may be a bit before I go for a 9th go-through...
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Old 03-21-2012, 07:08 PM
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Sadly, they haven't made the books into digital editions yet so it may be a bit before I go for a 9th go-through...
It is rumored that you can download them from news groups.
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Old 03-21-2012, 07:50 PM
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My sister prefers Hornblower, I prefer Jack Aubrey. Hornblower is too angsty for my taste.

Russell Crowe, as Aubrey, was exactly the image I had from reading the books. I've never seen a fictional character matched so well on screen.
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Old 03-21-2012, 08:52 PM
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My sister prefers Hornblower, I prefer Jack Aubrey. Hornblower is too angsty for my taste.

Russell Crowe, as Aubrey, was exactly the image I had from reading the books. I've never seen a fictional character matched so well on screen.
Except he's not large enough. In anything later than the very earliest books, Aubrey is a very large (ie rather overweight) man. Crowe is far too fit.

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Old 03-21-2012, 09:22 PM
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My sister prefers Hornblower, I prefer Jack Aubrey. Hornblower is too angsty for my taste.

Russell Crowe, as Aubrey, was exactly the image I had from reading the books. I've never seen a fictional character matched so well on screen.
Yeah, Horatio would take on the French fleet with a rowboat, seaman Brown and a sharp stick. Aubrey would run like hell. Guess who I want driving my boat?

O'Brien said he thought of Charlton Heston. I'd pick Rutger Hauer.

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Old 03-21-2012, 10:45 PM
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Of if we were doing this 40 years ago, Van Heflin. I don't know Heflin's height, but the face would work.

I liked Crowe, love the movie, have watched it four or five times. It never gets old. I'm glad they stayed at sea and didn't mess around with the romance. Although when reading the books, I was glad for the respite of the time ashore.

ETA: I've watched a few of the old seafaring movies, and they really suffer in comparison.

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Old 03-21-2012, 10:50 PM
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If you read the descriptions of him in the books however, I think you should pick maybe Gerard Depardieu.
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Old 03-22-2012, 12:31 AM
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During the Napoleonic wars, were there exchanges of prisoners? You certainly had them in the American Civil War, at least until the Union started to recruit Blacks, the Confederacy refused to recognize them as soldiers but as escaped slaves and horrors like Andersonville and the Fort Pillow massacre resulted. i thinking the French captain was planning on trying an uprisng and iof that failed, he could be more easily exchanged (the English would ask for less for a sawbones instead of a captain).

I don't know about prize ships being overtaken by the prisoners but certainly there is the famous case of the Amistad by African slaves several decades later. Apparently one reason is that the Amistad didn't have the facilities to keep the slaves chained properly. I doubt if any warship really had facilities to lock up a couple hundred men. You can keep them in the squad bays (barracks) but are those really secure from escapes? And as others have said, you can't spare that many men to man it. Warships have a certain amount of men needed to run it 24/7 and you are probably shorthanded to began with after combat losses, diseases, accidents, etc.
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Old 03-22-2012, 03:31 AM
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I'm four books into the Aubrey–Maturin series. Does it get any better?

Actually I've read four of the books but not the first four: The Surgeon's Mate, The Ionian Mission, Treason's Harbour, and The Letter of Marque. I bought them all at once at a used book store. I'm not planning on buying any more. I really liked the movie and have read plenty of nonfiction about sailing warships but for some reason these books just didn't click with me.

For recapture of a prize ship, the only example I can find isn't a very good one. The Seringapatam was a British whaler captured in 1813 during the famous Pacific cruise of the USS Essex. It was crewed mostly by former British whalers who had joined the U.S. Navy and the following year it mutinied and escaped to Australia under a British flag. But given the spectacular number of whalers the Essex had taken I don't know if any of those men had been aboard when the she was first captured.

Prisoners were routinely exchanged during the Napoleonic wars.
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Old 03-22-2012, 04:10 AM
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I'm four books into the Aubrey–Maturin series. Does it get any better?

Actually I've read four of the books but not the first four...
Unfortunately you haven't given the series a chance to really shine. They may well not be suited to you, but to get the most out of them you have to see the slow development of the relationship between Aubrey and Maturin, and Aubrey's career, and the revealing of Maturin's true character, and Aubrey's home life and so on. Just jumping into the middle isn't going to do it.
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Old 03-22-2012, 07:34 AM
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Except he's not large enough. In anything later than the very earliest books, Aubrey is a very large (ie rather overweight) man. Crowe is far too fit.
He's fat right from M&C:

"You portly men of a sanguine complexion often die suddenly, from unconsidered exertion in the heat. Apoplexy - congestion."

I wish, I wish you would not say things like that, Doctor," said Jack, in a low tone; they all looked at Stephen with some reproach and Jack added, "Besides, I am not portly."

"The captain has an uncommon genteel figgar," said Mr. Marshall.

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If you read the descriptions of him in the books however, I think you should pick maybe Gerard Depardieu.
You're just not taking this seriously, are you?
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Old 03-22-2012, 08:50 AM
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Sadly, they haven't made the books into digital editions yet so it may be a bit before I go for a 9th go-through...
The books were released in digital editions back in December. They're $9-$10 each on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I saw the movie first, and later O'Brian couldn't convince me that Stephen is small and ill-favored, because he looks like Paul Bettany in my head.

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Old 03-22-2012, 09:20 AM
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O'Brian couldn't convince me that Stephen is small and ill-favored, because he looks like Paul Bettany in my head.
I believe a scruffy Dustin Hoffman would have been excellent.
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Old 03-22-2012, 04:00 PM
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Getting back to the OP, it's surely a lot easier taking a ship from a surprised skeleton crew, who by definition aren't exactly the best motivated among the regular crew.

Esp. with a cunning and determined warrior type leader.

I mean, they have a plan already and it'll get executed, presumably, pretty well.
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Old 03-22-2012, 05:09 PM
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The books were released in digital editions back in December. They're $9-$10 each on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
...
Thanks! I've been waiting for years for this to happen!
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Old 03-22-2012, 05:30 PM
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You're just not taking this seriously, are you?
If Gerard Depardieu could put on a convincing English accent, he would easily fit the descriptions of Lucky Jack. Crow was a good Jack, but he's too fit and too pretty.
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Old 03-22-2012, 05:42 PM
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A Frenchman play Jack Aubrey? What stuff. Only a poteen swilling Papist could think that's a good idea.
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Old 03-22-2012, 06:15 PM
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A Frenchman play Jack Aubrey? What stuff. Only a poteen swilling Papist could think that's a good idea.
They can't help. They are only foreigners.
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Old 03-22-2012, 06:27 PM
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Pass the poteen, dude. I need a drink.
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Old 03-22-2012, 06:30 PM
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Pass the poteen, dude. I need a drink.
The bottle stands beside you, Ms. Grandmother.
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Old 03-22-2012, 06:44 PM
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The bottle stands beside you, Ms. Grandmother.
Sounds like good stuff.
  #49  
Old 03-22-2012, 07:14 PM
muldoonthief's Avatar
muldoonthief is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrettyVacant View Post
Getting back to the OP, it's surely a lot easier taking a ship from a surprised skeleton crew, who by definition aren't exactly the best motivated among the regular crew.

Esp. with a cunning and determined warrior type leader.

I mean, they have a plan already and it'll get executed, presumably, pretty well.
Right. The other issue about the treacherous French Captain staying aboard is that common sailors can't navigate - that's one of the reasons you always take the officers off a captured ship. So even if they thought about retaking the ship, they'd just be sailing aimlessly until they ran aground on the wild South American coast, or starved. But with an officer on board, they've got an actual chance of getting back to France.
  #50  
Old 03-22-2012, 08:03 PM
Princhester is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrettyVacant View Post
Getting back to the OP, it's surely a lot easier taking a ship from a surprised skeleton crew, who by definition aren't exactly the best motivated among the regular crew.
Why do you say that? I thought that sailing a prize home was regarded as a plum job.

And Muldoonthief obviously the Frenchman thing is a bit anomalous (just a bit) but the physical match is good.
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