Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Sinking of Le Protée

In his autobiography, Thomas tells us how he learned in Speedy to concentrate his fire on one spot on the enemy ship. Given that Speedy’s  14 guns were all 4 pounders, firing them all at the same spot would mean it was hit by 28 pounds of shot rather than 4. Of course, the shot would be […]

Three-masted Xebec

Xebec referred to the ship itself and its type of rig – one which could be used as a fore-and-aft design or a square-rig approach depending on the desired point of sail and wind direction. They were sometimes used on frigates and El Gamo the ship which Thomas captured in Speedy was one.      

Plato’s Soulmates

James tells Josh and Ses that Plato would be delighted with the depth of your feelings for one another, and references Plato’s Symposium (written between 385 and 370 BCE.) The symposium in question concerned itself with love in its various forms and today, parts of it are thought to have introduced the concept of Platonic Love. The dialogue has […]

Ship’s Canon

These illustrations will help you to identify the parts of a ship’s canon.


Bit-by-Bit She was (is) a real boat although not the one used in the story. BeeBee was my own boat from 2000 to 2001 and she and I sailed about 15,000 miles on an attempted solo-circumnavigation. It came to halt when we were wumped on by Hurricane Olga near Bermuda in November 2001. My boat […]

Clinker built

The text in the book on page 55 reads: The Jolly boat you used to fall in with us. It was clinker built in the French design of this time. Wooden boats use 2 distinct methods to lay the hull’s planking: Clinker built boats have their planks overlapped  Carver built boats have their planks joined […]

Chapter 7 Notes

Kipper My homage to the Master: Patrick O’Bryan. His Aubrey-Maturin series of novels inspired this book. Kipper is my poor attempt to recreate Killick. O’Bryan based much of Aubrey’s life on land and sea on Captain Lord Thomas Cochrane, and his concept of Dr. Stephen Maturin may have been inspired by Thomas’ friend, Dr. James Guthrie.

Chapter 6 Notes

Orders from The Admiralty to a ship at sea The order which Josh hands to Thomas was edited based on a similar order written in 1811, viewed in the Greenwich Maritime Museum’s stacks. When I asked for a set of the cotton gloves in the tray in front of the Librarian, so that I could handle […]

Chapter 5 Notes

My Lord. Bit-by-Bit is of an advanced design and the Admiralty wishes to keep her existence secret for a while longer.  I wanted badly to add, (for about two-hundred years), but resisted doing so in the search for suspense. Ship’s Bells: Bells Struck  Time into the Watch       Various clock times 1 bell                1 half hour                   00:30, […]

Chapter 4 Notes

Bosun’s pipe Among the most important roles a Bosun played, was controlling the deck of the ship. He ordered the crew on it to perform all the duties which the deck supported: basically everything except sleeping and eating. He played a different set of blasts and tones on a pipe to indicate the next order or manoeuvre to be carried out. […]

Chapter 3 Notes

The Battle of Aix Roads One of Captain Lord Thomas Cochrane’s great victories, despite the disappointing finale to it. Once again I recommend Ian Grimble’s The Sea Wolf for a detailed account of it, and also Thomas’ autobiography (you can read an excerpt from this on page 344 of my book, in the chapter on the battle). […]

Chapter 2 Notes

Horizon at Sea The curvature of the earth reduces the distance one can see looking straight out to sea. A person around six feet tall can see about 3 miles of water stretching out ahead before the surface “drops” below her line of sight. More on the sails and rigging of old warships.