Monthly Archives: December 2007

Thomas takes El Gamo

Captain Lord Cochrane, thrust his head through the skylight of his cabin to allow him to stand upright, placed the open hatch on the quarterdeck, set his shaving gear on a towel on the teak planks, and began his morning shave. Lieutenant Parker and Midshipman Cochrane, on watch, moved aside on hearing the hatch open […]

Harrison’s Clocks

John Harrison built four clocks in his attempt to win the Admiralty’s prize for the first person to accurately calculate longitude at sea. In 1773, 31 years after he began trying, he proved that he could find longitude at sea within the required half a degree.


Grog was a mixture of rum and water and was served to every man and boy in the Navy twice a day.

A 31 inch Cable

A 31 inch cable. Rope over a certain size was labeled in terms of its circumference, not its diameter.

Rating Ships

Rating Ships. To simplify administration of the Royal Navy, all warships were assigned a “rating.” This rating, a number from 1 (the largest) to 6, was based on the number and weight of her guns, and was used to decide the size of her crew and thus the cost of running her in terms of pay and rations.

Nelson and the Battle of the Nile

The Battle of the Nile took place on the 1st of August 1798, in the Bay of Aboukir, Egypt. Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson demolished Admiral Brueys’ fleet, only four ships escaping from a fleet of 15.

Rochefort, Basque and Aix Roads

Rochefort is a commune in western France and a seaport on the southern Atlantic Coast. Used as a nautical term, Roads are simply the approaches to a harbor.

Impérieuse and her Crew

Impérieuse was originally the Medea, captured from Spain in 1804. She was the fastest ship of her class in the Navy. At the time of The Battle of Aix-Roads, she mounted 40 guns and carried a crew of 284 men and 35 marines.

GPS, Sextants and Astrolabes

Global Positioning Systems (GPS), used by most navigators today, began replacing the sextant on June 26, 1993. A system of satellites allows a receiver on the ground to calculate its position, expressed as a latitude and longitude, to within 30 feet.

The Titanic and Unsinkable Boats

Modern catamarans are unsinkable unless they are rammed by a tanker and disintegrate.

The Royal Navy

Charles II formed the Royal Navy in 1670.

Portsmouth Naval Research Center, PNRC

The Portsmouth Naval Research Centre (PNRC) was invented for my story.

Portsmouth, or Pompey

Portsmouth is called Pompey by all members of the Royal Navy and by its locals. It is today one of the RN’s principal ports.

The Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark’s name is derived from a poem by Robert Burns called Tam o’ Shanter.

Deadly Sins and Heavenly Virtues

The Seven Deadly Sins were Greed, Lust, Gluttony, Anger, Pride, Sloth and Envy.


Cockpit – the area usually below deck level, which allows the crew to work the boat or enjoy sitting outside exposed to the wind and sun.


Coach. The coach is the living area or “house” of the boat.


Deck: the top surface of hull.


The stern is the aft end of the boat.


Midships is the point midway between the bow and the stern.


The bow of the boat is the tapered front portion, designed to split the water into the wake.


Catamarans are two-hulled vessels.

Port and Starboard, Forwards and Aft

Forward is towards the bow and aft is towards the stern. Facing forwards, starboard is the RHS, port is the LHS. In old terminology, larboard was used instead of “port.”

Hurricane Categories

There are five Hurricane Categories – the least powerful is Category One, the most powerful is a Five.


Hull. A boat’s biggest single part is the hull, the piece to which all other parts are attached either directly or indirectly.

A little more on the facts

Notes on the first page of the book, which sets up what’s fact and what’s fiction.