About this geocaching series:
Since there is a serious shortage of puzzle caches in the Bryan/College Station area, I have put together a series of them, each with a different theme and unique puzzles to solve. They also have varying levels of difficulty, but I have designed the puzzles to be solvable without needing extensive specialized knowledge. Please refrain from posting in your logs any hints to either the puzzles or the actual cache locations. However, I do encourage you to work with others. I will not post any extra hints, but if you keep having trouble after repeated attempts at solving them, feel free to send me a message and I can point you in the right direction. I want these to be challenging but still fun to do. So good luck and happy trails.
THE CACHE IS NOT AT THE POSTED COORDINATES!
You are a geocacher on your way home after finding an elusive puzzle cache that had been on your list for over 8 months. For some reason it was only accessible by hot air balloon and since they aren't cheap, it took you some time to save some money to rent one for a couple of days. As you float home you see a storm gathering in the distance but before you can land the balloon safely on the ground, strong winds carry you off. With no control over your craft, you remain airborne for several days before finally crashing down onto the beach of a mysterious, uncharted island somewhere in the South Pacific. According to your GPSr, the crash site is located at S 34° 57.000 W 150° 30.000 (approximately 1,600 miles to the east of New Zealand). It seems odd to you since the last time you checked google maps, this area was nothing but open ocean. You gather your things, build a crude shelter, make fire, warm up, and then set off to explore the island in hopes of finding food. You follow the coast headed north for approximately 3/4 of a mile and then turn northwesterly facing a large cliff. Above the cliff is the crest of a small mountain. You decide it would be a good idea to try and climb to the top in order to get a better view of the island.
After a few hours you manage to reach the apex. Scanning 360 degrees you estimate the island to be only around 35 square miles with absolutely no obvious signs of other human activity. You then remember that in your bag there is a small antique spyglass that your grandfather left to you in his will several years ago. You pull out the spyglass and to your surprise you see a fleet of large sail ships headed towards a large cove to the west. It strikes you as very weird to see sail ships in this day and age. Despite the anachronistic presence of the fleet you decide it best not to get anywhere near them, especially since each ship sports a large skull and crossbones on its main sail. You suspect that the pirates are certainly up to no good (which isn't a bad assumption considering that it is part of the pirate code to always be engaged in mischievous activities), but there is no way you could possibly take them on yourself. As you continue to survey the rest of the island through the spyglass you spot a lone cannon situated atop a hill about two miles to the west of your location. It seems as though this cannon could very well launch its artillery out into the cove where the pirate ships are gathering. This is your only chance to stop them so you hurry down the slope, being careful not to slip on the rocks. You race across the valley and up the neighboring hill, climb to the top and reach the cannon. There are exactly 20 cannonballs with plenty of powder to shoot them out into the cove.
As the last of the ships makes its way into the cove, you notice that no one is leaving to come to shore. You observe that each ship has lowered its sails and since the sky has already started getting dark, you assume the pirates must all be waiting until morning. Waiting until nightfall to make your assault seems like the best idea, but it might be too dark for you to aim the cannon. So while there is still some light left, you must quickly mark the location of each ship:
Task #1 - Pirateships
This puzzle below is a solitaire version of the classic board game - Battleship. The grid represents an ocean with a hidden fleet of pirate ships. A ship may be oriented horizontally or vertically within the grid, but no two ships can occupy adjacent grid cells (not even diagonally). The numbers on the right and on the bottom of the grid show how many squares in the corresponding row and column are occupied by ship segments. The numbers (0-10) on the top and the letters (A-J) on the left of the grid indicate a particular cell (e.g. A5 or G8). Any segment without a ship piece is considered a water segment. Three ship pieces have already been inserted to help start the puzzle. Your task is to logically determine where all ships are located. Then you must write down each cell that contains a ship piece and arrange them in alphabetical order (e.g. A1, A2, B5, J4,...). There will be 20 in total (including the freebies).
Now that you have identified the the the positions of each ship, you carefully put the chart in your pocket and wait. Right as your watch flashes 2:00 AM, you commence firing a barrage of iron missiles upon the fleet. Using exactly 20 shots, you manage to hit every ship. At daybreak, you wander over to the cove in search of anything salvageable. Upon reaching the cove you come to find that your aim last night was too good, sinking absolutely everything straight to the bottom. The only trace left behind is single bottle being rolled back and forth over the sand by the waves. Inside the bottle is a piece of parchment with a note scribbled on it by a Captain Syre S. Roulette:
Task #2 - The Letter
Rolled up with the letter is a map. You enter the key mentioned by the Captain and open the map, observing that the pirates have cleverly hidden the location of the treasure using a puzzle. You must solve this puzzle and identify the map coordinate where the treaure is buried.
Task #3 - The Map
With the map coordinate in-hand you make the trek over. When you reach the spot indicated by the map you discover two giant logs lying in the grass in the shape of an X. Thankfully pirates never deviate from Section 26.03 of the pirate code mandating that X always marks the spot. You find a large stick and begin digging. After several hours and a six-foot hole you become discouraged that there is no treasure chest to be found. You question to yourself: Did pirates really bury their treasure? Did I read the map correctly? But why else would there be a huge X in the middle of this field? Then suddenly it dawns on you that the coordinates are never exactly right so you expand your search (and consequently your hole) to +/- 15 feet around center. Your improvised shovel finally strikes something hard. Could this be the chest? You start to dig frantically and after a few minutes you indeed unearth a large wooden chest. There is no lock, but there is a small piece of iron wedged in the latch to keep the lid closed. You remove the wedge and lift open the lid. As you lift your head to peer into the chest...an alarm clock goes off on the nightstand. You reach over and hit the snooze button, knocking a book to the floor in the process. "Man, what a dream", you think to yourself as you slowly lift your head up against the headboard, "I shouldn't stay up so late reading." It is 8:00AM on a Saturday morning. You remember that today was the day you had planned to seek out an elusive puzzle cache that has been on your list for 8 months now. You go to your computer and log on to your account to take a look at the puzzle again. There are three pieces left to solve:
1) What was the key to the map (as referred to in the letter from Captain Syre S. Roulette)? Call this number A.
2) Where did X mark the spot? Convert the grid cell coordinate from the alpha-numeric to a number where A=1, B=2, etc. Please note this conversion is different from the one used previously. Thus a cell coordinate of A1 would be 11 and a cell coordinate of J7 would be 107. Call this number B.
3) What year was the book on your nightstand first published? Call this number C.
A/(C-1273) + (B*30) + 2015 = ????
N 30 3_._ _ _
A/(C - 1273) + (B*30) - 788 = ????
W 096 2_._ _ _
Too bad there isn't any real booty stashed in this cache, otherwise you'd be able to afford living in this neighborhood. Oh, and don't forget to bring a pen!
To all of you going after the FTF. There were some typographical errors in the puzzle that have now been fixed. Sorry about that!