Piratium Academia was always buzzing with energy. It’s expected at a school for pirates in which everyone lives and breathes competition. But this morning the academy was especially buzzing, it was practically bursting at the seams. Everyone was gathered at The North Ports, waiting for the official start of the annual Piratium Academia ship race.
The ship race was always a big deal at the academy, it had started as just a ship race, but it was more like a festival nowadays. Teams of three would board a ship and it was up to the three of them to brave the Wild Sea and beat the other ships back to the academy. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. The Wild Sea was just that, wild. It was some of the roughest water known. And on top of that, the faculty of the academy made it more of a challenge, and all the more rewarding, by making sure every ship had something wrong with it. Sometimes it was broken sails, other times there were no oars. Once, all the ships had structure problems. No one, except the faculty knew what would be wrong. This made it a test of teamwork, preparedness, and ingenuity. This year, my friends and I had finally earned enough badges and we were able to enter the race.
“Do you think we’ll get an awesomely named ship?” Burt asked Carol and me, as my dad, headmaster and legendary pirate, started directing groups to ships.
“I think they try to make all the names awesome,” Carol replied.
“I don’t know, sometimes they don’t succeed,” I pointed out as I searched for the name I saw earlier, “Whiskey. Who’s scared of whiskey?”
Chuckling, Burt replied,” Or what about those ships they name after people?” he was about to start listing off names, when we hear our names.
“Burt, Carol and Jack, to Port 5, you’ll be on The Gargoyle” my dad announces.
“Yes!” The three of us shout in excitement. We then proceed to maneuver through the crowd, our gear in tow. Our gear included tarps, rope, duct tape, tools and some snacks. As a part of our game plan, we agreed that it would be best to bring versatile things that had more than one purpose. We did not wasn’t to be kicking ourselves.
As a student pirate, you're told that all ships are special... They all have their own style and all of them are working pieces of art. But you won't really understand it until you have your own ship. And as we approached Port 5, we could see The Gargoyle. It was gorgeous! Now that I know that it is my ship, I would definitely become one of those biased pirates. It was the color of dark mahogany and it was huge. It wasn’t one of those ships that had the name painted on the side, it simply had a carved gargoyle as the figurehead.
“Wow,” I gawked as we climb the ladder up the side of the ship. Evidently my friends were in a similar state of awe, because they simply nodded their heads. And as we did our pre-sail system and structural check, I fell more in love with The Gargoyle. I was pretty certain it was a dream pirate ship.
Once my dad listed off all the teams and assigned them to their ships, the air horns were sounded and all the ships started leaving the North Ports and began their course to the South Ports, where the race ended.
At first it seemed as if the faculty forgot to make something go wrong in the ships. Everyone sailed smoothly out of the ports and into The Wild Sea. This fact had me and my friends suspicious because the faculty never forgets, they always make something go wrong. This led me to believe that it was a calculated move. It was meant to lull some into a false sense of security; to make the race all the more interesting when something did happen.
“What do you think is going to go wrong with the ships?” I asked Burt and Carol. If we could anticipate what would happen, our reaction time would be better and then we might have a chance of winning the race.
“Structure problems are out since we checked that before we sailed off. I would guess some sort of engine failure. But I suggest that with hesitation, since we also inspected the engine before sailing off,” Carol said.
“It could be that,” Burt agreed, “Because it’s not like we took the engine apart and inspected it inch by inch. I remember from a Mechanical Devices class that I took; there are these little devices that can cut off fuel supply. There are also these really small explosives that can be placed in the engine to completely disable it,” Burt realized the gravity of what he said and then quickly said, “But they wouldn’t actually try something like that. It’s enormously unreliable, risky and dangerous. I would bet on the fuel device.”
“Okay. So let’s assume they did that. How could we check that? Do we have to take the engine apart?” If we were forced to take the engine apart, it would slow us down quite a bit. But, with luck on our side, we would be able to recapture our lost time and beat the other ships into the South Ports.
Burt started to pace and got a little glint in his eye. This was a sure sign that he was getting in the zone. “No. The engine wouldn’t have to be taken apart. I’d just maneuver around somethings to get to the fuel line. But I would want you two to attach the sails, because I’ll need to slow the ship down a couple knots,” Burt said.
“Let’s do it, then. We’re pirates, no risk, no reward,” Carol said with a nod.
With that, Burt went to the engine room to begin his tinkering, and Carol and I started pulling up the sails. We were lucky that the Piratium Academia Ship Race was always held on an incredible stormy day… There was plenty of wind to propel The Gargoyle.
We were about to head down to the engine room, to see if Burt needed any help, when the devices went off. All around us, ships started slowing to a halt. We could see the crews rushing around the decks, pulling up sails and trouble shooting. And it was at that moment that the Wild Sea started to get wild.
It had been a little rough before, but nothing that couldn’t be handled. But now, the Wild Sea was hurling 8ft waves in all directions, making it all the more precarious, and essential, to pull up the sails.
“This will be a race nobody’s gonna forget soon,” Carol shouted over the wind. I nodded my agreement. I was about to suggest we go help Burt, when the hum of the engine informed me that we were back at top speed.
“Look at this little wonder!” Burt shouted, while holding a tiny device, as he emerged from below deck. A grin illuminated his whole face.
“That’s the device?” Carol asked in bewilderment.
“Yes indeed. This was leeched on to the inside of the fuel line. It went off just as I was extracting it.” Burt clapped his hands together as he said, ”Are we ready to win a race?”
“Like you even need to ask, man,” I answered while clapping him on his back.
Then we sailed on into first place... Into South Port like it was a perfect sailing day, because in all respects, thanks to teamwork, knowledge, and troubleshooting, it was.