London: 1793. Young firebrand John Pearce, on the run from the authorities, is illegally press-ganged from the Pelican tavern into brutal life aboard HMS Brilliant, a frigate on her way to war. In the first few days, Pearce discovers the Navy is a world in which he can prosper.
And he is not alone; he is drawn to a group of men who eventually form an exclusive gun crew, the Pelicans, with Pearce their elected leader. During an action-packed two weeks, as HMS Brilliant chases a French privateer across the English Channel, these disparate men form friendships that will last a lifetime.