Author Archives: Eric Goldman

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.

Chapter 1 Notes

Cassius Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was published in 1601: ‘Yond Cassius has a mean and hungry look. He thinks too much, such men are dangerous.’  Click here to read the play and some good study notes. HMS Impérieuse Her vital statistics are accurate and were taken from Thomas’s autobiography. The facts and incidents on Thomas are also […]

Canadian Book Club Review

Review of the 2008 version of the book: Napoleon’s Gambit by Eric Goldman will reel you into a fantasy of time travel. At first glance, it reads for a male audience. A high-level military man gives pony-tailed Joshua Rick $5 million dollars to build his dreamboat. Part of the fantasy starts with the technology used to […]

What would you take back to the 19th C?

Readers wondering why Josh takes the items he does to show Thomas and James, will find the answer in one of Chapter Twelve’s notes. But what 3 items would you take, if your mission was to go back to the 19th C and convince someone that you’re from the 21st C? To play, you have to […]

Swiss Army Knives, Zip-Locks and iPhones

Readers have asked about the goodies Josh takes with him to convince Thomas and James that he’s from the 21st C. Why these three items?

Greed, Lust and Gluttony

Josh believes GLG is the overriding human condition. Here’s an extract from a previous draft where Cassius is recruiting Josh in Bermuda. The wine waiter arrives filled with the importance of opening some of the cellar’s rarest bottles. He extracts the cork and places it in front of me. I pick it up, sniff and compare […]

Traditional Boats and Tall Ships

Reviewed in Traditional Boats and Tall Ships, September 2008. Napoleon’s Gambit: Sailing through history to commit the prefect crime by Eric Goldman Back to the Future meets Hornblower in this entertainingly engaging debut novel from Canadian sailor Eric Goldman. It’s 2009 and Joshua Rick, an accomplished sailor is recruited by the Royal Navy to carry […]

Historical Maritime Society

If you thought that the plethora of writers on this period must have covered it so thoroughly that there was little leeway to say more you may think again. Eric has skilfully woven a new thread into an old and worn canvas.

Separating Fact from Fiction

This novel blends fact and fiction. The facts are: Napoleon signed the Treaty of Valençay with King Ferdinand VII of Spain on December 11th, 1813. It restored Ferdinand to the throne he’d been forced to abdicate to Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, in 1808. The Battle of Vittorio occurred on June 21st, 1813. The French were defeated […]

Commandant Coignart

Commandant Coignart is a fictional character modeled on typical officers of his time.


A Shako is a tall, black, fur hat worn by members of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

Put Good Foot

A short story I wrote about a true event. Yes, the sea features in it, but this time no sailboats appear. It’s set in the early 20th C and I won’t spoil it by telling you much more than that. It’s published on Wattpad here.

Reviews from Early Readers…

Here’s what people are saying about Napoleon’s Gambit: A splendid story celebrating love, the importance of family and exploring the need for a code of ethics. It’s also a rollicking adventure that will keep you up late, reading. Good, intelligent fun – just what summer ordered. I was hooked from the get-go; the tension, humor […]

Chapter Notes Overview

These Chapter Notes will mean more to you after reading a chapter or the whole book. The notes were originally footnotes in the chapters, but most readers found them distracting. Stubbornly believing that some people like to separate fiction from fact as much as possible, I removed the notes from the book and placed them here on its […]

George Day, Blue Water Sailing Magazine, December 2007

Blue Water Sailing Magazine Eric Goldman is a sailor, a historian and now a novelist. He has created a story that will appeal to all those who enjoy the swashbuckling tales from the Napoleonic wars and who have a fancy for time travel, since Goldman’s main characters manage to transport not only themselves but their […]

Get your own Chapter One Podcast – FREE!

For those who like to hear a book rather than read it, you can now listen for FREE to Napoleon’s Gambit narrated by the author! The book has now been released in podcast form for the wonderful price of zero! Click here to start listening

Map of the World

Please note: The text labels of this map contain spoilers which might tell you more about the story than you’d like to know. I suggest you glance at it without reading the labels to get an idea of the routes, and then read the labels when you have read the book. The following map shows […]

San Sebastian Photographs

Photographs of San Sebastian, showing the locations visited by Josh and James.


A Xebec was small fast boat usually with three masts.

Bosun’s chairs

Bosun’s chairs were seats suspended on a tether of rope, used to haul or lower a person.

Sailing large

Sailing large means running before the wind, or sailing directly away from the wind.

Hull down

Hull down means the hull of the ship is not visible beyond the horizon’s curve.


Heave-to. To stop a boat in the water and to ‘hover’ in this position.

Hull speed

At hull speed, the length of the wave generated by he bow equals the waterline length of the hull.

Parachute drogues

Parachute drogues are dragged behind a boat in storms, to slow it down.

Fathom and Cables

Fathoms and Cables are units of length. A Cable is also a thick rope.


Mainchains were the shrouds for the main mast.

Ship’s magazine

Ship’s Magazines stored the gunpowder and shot.


To reef a sail is to make it smaller.


Booms on modern sailboats run horizontally from the mast aft. On an old ship, the boom was a spar which extended the foot of the sail.


Foredeck. The deck in the forward area of the boat.

The Glass, Bells and Watches

The Glass was a timing device which allowed sand to dribble through a hole at a precise pace; the ship’s bell was struck in half hourly intervals to mark the passage of time, allowing the watches to rotate.


The trampoline is a net used in place of a solid deck, running from the bows to the mast base.


Nacelle. The nacelle of a catamaran is the base of the coach suspended above the water between the two hulls.

Anchors, Rodes and Chain-Lockers

Anchors are dropped from the boat to the seabed, attached by a rode (chain or rope), and all of this gear is stored in the chain locker.

Sails and Furling

Sails are aerofoils which generate the thrust needed to move the boat.

The Rig and the Standing and Running Rigging

The Rig of a boat is the gear which holds the sails in place, and controls their shape, size and angle of attack.


Masts are the tall sticks of a sailboat which support the sails.


Chain plates attach the shrouds to the hull.


Forestays hold the mast vertically and prevent it from moving backwards.