This is a continuation of the Alligator
but it grew to this
While most smugglers
brought in everything except arms and ammunition because it was certain death if they got caught,
one of them smuggled in what ever was needed. His ship was the only one that
could get through during one period of the Rervolutionary War.
Finally he got word that the
English were going to plant arms on his ship and take him prisoner so he had
to quit.* He agreed to teach three of our best captains his techniques.
Here is what he taught
them. I am not certain how far he developed the techniques himself and how far
the other three then further developed them. The techniques were then fully developed and
used in the War of 1812. I think that all our supply ships got through.
Setting sail with the tide uses the
tidal current and it has assisted every sailor that has ever lived and they
have been grateful for it. Yet at the same time they usually cursed most other
You must realize that all the other
currents in the oceans are just about as predictable as the tides and far more
predictable than any wind except the trade winds near the equator.
Even the most dangerous current and
the one most feared, which are riptides are very predictable [They are loved by surfers
since they don't have to paddle out past the breakers. In California the surfers
call them the The
Highway Out of Town.]
What he did was set a sail underwater.All
his crew were relatives (except for two boys that would never talk) so his
secrets never leaked. .However if need be he could get by on the dangerous leg of the trip
with only one other man.
He used a crossbeam with a sail that
they could unfurl. They would lower the sail in to the ocean to the depth where a current was
that he wanted to use. There might be up to four currents going in different
directions, each one at a different depth down to about 125 feet.
The Chesapeake was our number one smuggling route so I will use it as my example.
At the mouth of the Chesapeake there were four currents that were offset and were navigable. Submariners
know about these and the sea lanes were changed to accommodate at least one
current because it was so strong.
Usually he used two currents (he
said). When currents would cross over or under each other he would just raise
or lower his water sail and catch the other current and change direction without
slowing down. He could trim the weighted sail. He also had casks filled with
air attached to each side of the sail. When he pulled a long rope it would pull
out the cork on one of the casks. It would fill with water and then that side
of the sail would turn because it got heavier. That way he could head into the
current exactly like you can head into the wind in a sailboat by turning the
sail sideways. All this went on at up to 15 mph and with his sails down. The
only ripples on the surface of the water were caused by the wind. He could literally sail around in circles in the middle of a bay
in a dead calm with all his sails lowered.
Since this is not common knowledge
nothing about this is on the internet. However I have found bits and pieces of the processes
that are used today and similar underwater drogue sails that they use today for
measuring and mapping currents. I put this together with info about various
types of ocean currents on this page so that you can understand
the process more comprehensively.
His ship was sloop rigged like this
one. And in twenty minutes he could transform it completely. First they carried
extra supplies that made it ride very low in the water. Then he lowered the sails
and took off the bow sprint (the front pole) and in it's place went this.
and along the sides they placed some shields like these
They stuck 20 oars out
the sides and were in a harness that allowed one or two men to fan them in the
air above the water.
What you ended up with in less than
20 minutes was a genuine-almost-Viking funeral ship gliding across the water
or (as most often reported) in the air to Valhalla.
It looked about like this so the reports of the watches not only got dismissed by the English captains but they got double guard
duty and often whipped for reporting a false sighting. So after
that nobody in the British fleet would report his ship.
It took about an hour to change
it back to a sloop. If the British searched the
ship they found the scenery for a theater group being shipped to England and
a few fake handbills showing a picture of a stage with the bow of a Viking ship protruding from the wings. The British were told that the
Viking bow was used for a fight scene. The bow would make it
look like a Viking invasion scene. The British inspectors always allowed them
At first the American crew just blackened themselves
from head to toe but they looked suspiciously like sailors all dressed in black
when they had to trim sail or do things that were familiar to sailors. So when they had to be sailors they put these on their heads.
It could be a dead calm in the middle
of the night and his ship would go zooming past the anchored British ships blockading
our ports at 5 knots so silently that from 150 feet you could hear the lookout on the British ship whisper 'oh shit'.
They would just stare in awe as it
went by. Vikings were real big with the British sailors at the time. Since sailors
were almost always superstitious when they saw a huge Viking funeral barge taking
it's dead to Valhalla they were terrified. The lore was that you could not interfere with the
delivery of the dead or you became one of them. So the English watches rarely raised the alarm
and at the speeds the American ship was going in the dead still water
there was usually nothing the British could have done anyway.
If they got caught he was ready
to turn the ship into
a genuine burning Viking funeral
ship to give it the final touch of realism, then dive in the water and swim
to shore in the confusion. He never needed to do this as most of the guards who saw it
even deferred their eyes out of respect for the dead.
Again that page about currents.
*I think we kept all this about his smuggling a secret
because after the war he traded with England and not
only would his recognition make it difficult but he still might have been imprisoned
by the British for smuggling since they did not recognize our independence fully until
after the War of 1812. Getting captured after the Revolutionary War for deeds done during it happened to at least one other person so it was not
out of the realm of possibilities. One reason we wanted to keep his smuggling a secret was that the English would have captured him and then tortured him and got the information. We also wanted to keep his techniques
from being used against us in the future but at the same time we in the government had to know what the techniques were in order
to defend against them.
There are lots of mysteries including
about smuggling that went on during the Revolution that are still a big mystery.
The reason for it was as Ben Franklin said 'There is about 90% chance they (the
British) will take this place (the US) back over' Those who helped us did not
want to get hung needlessly and a medal seemed almost completely 'needless'
© 2004-8, 2020 John