Shifting international alliances send H.M.S. Patrician and Captain Drinkwater (The Bomb Vessel, Decision at Trafalgar) sailing around the Horn to protect His Majesty's interests in California, where Russians lurk in the preindustrial fog. It's 1807 and the Corsican monster is stirring up trouble in Europe, while Czarist loyalties are shifting from England to France. If Captain Nathaniel Drinkwater had better social connections, he'd probably be in the thick of Continental action. Instead, he has been sent off with his unlucky ship and a rebellious crew to sail round South America and restake Sir Francis Drake's shaky old claim to the North American Pacific coast--where the Spanish have a grip on everything up to San Francisco, and the Russians are eying everything else. Gloomy Captain Drinkwater--still smarting from an embarrassing run-in with a Danish ship and brooding over the hanging of a crewman--has the devil of a time getting through the Straits of Magellan. At last northbound, the Patrician sinks a Spanish ship and rescues her crew. The indignant Spanish skipper clearly has it in for Drinkwater and, sure enough, later violates his parole in California and swipes Patrician. Drinkwater lands in prison, and Patrician winds up in Russian hands. The Captain's fate rests in the slim white hands of the Spanish governor's enchantingly beautiful daughter. . . It's awfully easy to get tangled up in all the sheets, halyards, and spinnakers anytime the weather kicks up. But, fortunately, there's also enough smooth sailing here for lubbers to follow the swashbuckling without too much trouble. Quite dashing.