Twas a moonless night, the air warm and humid. In a backwater, Lousiana bayou that drained into the Gulf of Mexico, a place far from anywhere and a location most people were discouraged from coming to, a pair of tall, wooden, camouflaged doors silently opened on well-greased hinges. A facility had been hidden here along the coast.
A longboat appeared, with six men rowing three muffled sets of oars that cautiously dipped into the sea without making a splash. Then another boat and another followed. A taut rope extended from each into the darkness behind the open doors.
The bowsprit of a ship poked through the opening. It inched forwards.
American naval officers standing aboard the barque just offshore watched the new ship being pulled into the open. After years of secret experimentation and construction, the Blade had been finished. Now it was time for sea trials to begin.
To a historian, the Blade would seem to be an anomaly. It looked far too shallow for an ocean-going vessel, and it was oddly wide, making it unlike the typical schooner it had been classed as. Surely, something like this would be slapped around in rough seas and have great difficulty navigating high rollers and waves.
But the shipwrights had a plan to deal with such things, just as they hoped to create the fastest ship on the seas. The following days and weeks would prove if their innovation had any hope of success.
The Blade’s black sails were raised, and the Resolution followed suit, though its sails were white. Together, the two ships drifted southwest, seeking more private waters.
Unfortunately for one smuggler, who had been making his way up the coast from Mexico, his night-time route took him directly into the path of the two ships on their secret mission.
The captain had just enough time to call out a warning to his crew before a bevy of cannonballs blew his sloop to smithereens. He and his men all sank beneath the surface, never to speak of what they might have seen.
And the ships sailed on.