The French gave Jones the authority to use his own judgment as to where he would sail to attack British shipping. Jones now had the ship but needed officers and a crew. The ship also needed to be converted from a merchantmen to a ship of war. A few months were needed to find and secure cannon and stores so she could become a fighting frigate. By this time Jones was bestowed the title of commodore as other ships were also placed under his command. The Bonhomme Richard was not a new ship by any regard, having made many voyages in her cargo guise. As such, she had a tendency to develop leaks to the point that Captain Jones felt uneasy. With a new coat of paint and a new name she was finally ready for the sea.
Jones sailed the Bonhomme Richard out on June 19, 1779 along with his squadron of ships including the fine USS Alliance (a 36-gun frigate), the French warships Pallas (a captured British 32-gun frigate), the Vengeance (a 12-gun British brig), the cutter Le Cerf and a complement of troop ships. This voyage resulted in no contact with British shipping but in August the fleet set sail into the North Sea and captured 16 British merchantmen along with their cargos. After returning to port for repairs, Alliance and the Bonhomme Richard collided in a storm.
The squadron sailed again on the 23rd. While they were near the entrance to Dingle Bay, a lookout sighted the vessel Fortune. Jones approached and the Bristol-bound brig lowered its flag as it was clearly out-gunned. Two armed boats were lowered from Jones' flagship and took the Fortune as a prize. Jones placed a small crew on board and sent the Fortune back to France. Also that day, the Alliance's commanding officer, Captain Pierre Landais, a former officer in the French Navy who went to America and received a captain's commission in the Continental Navy, was given the Alliance due to his sea experience. Landais was not content to serve under Jones and whenever possible was quite to derail his commands.
The squadron now found itself close to the Irish coast with the wind calming down. Jones was concerned if his ships pursued vessels into the shoals they might be stalled and result in capture. Jones ordered Landais to not follow a particular vessel towards shore. To that, Landais boarded the Bonhomme Richard and told Jones face-to-face that he would no longer obey Jones' orders. This became the first American mutiny at sea.
Problems continued for Jones and his squadron for, that evening, when Bonhomme Richard had drifted dangerously close to the shoals, Jones ordered his barge lowered so it could tow the frigate into deeper water away from Ireland. The coxswain and the boat's Irish oarsmen were delighted to return home and decided to cut the lines and row their vessels towards shore. The Le Cerf became separated from the squadron while looking for the boats and had no choice but to return to home port. Pallas, the French frigate, broke her tiller and dropped out of sight. Landais took Alliance off on his own without permission, leaving the Vengeance and the Bonhomme Richard to sail alone.
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