Friday, June 29

Captain Edward Fellowes

EDWARD FELLOWES, Esq.

This officer, a son of the late William Fellowes, of Ramsey Abbey, Esq., M. P. for the town of Andover, and brother of William Henry Fellowes, Esq. the present representative of the county of Huntingdon, was a Lieutenant in 1793, commanded the Albicore sloop in 1795, and obtained post rank in the Tourterelle, of 26 guns, Dec. 7, in the same year. He was present at the reduction of St. Lucia, by Sir Hugh C. Christian and Sir Ralph Abercromby; and soon after that event removed into the Alarm frigate. On the 23d Nov. 1796, he captured the Spanish corvette El Galgo, of 18 guns, off Grenada. This vessel had on board specie to the amount of 80,355 dollars.

In Feb. 1797, the Alarm formed part of the squadron under the orders of Rear-Admiral Harvey, at the conquest of Trinidad +; she was subsequently employed on the Jamaica station, where Captain Fellowes cruized with very great activity and considerable success, taking, among other prizes, a Spanish brig of war, pierced for 18 guns, with a cargo of sugar; and the Felice schooner, of 14 guns and 80 men.

Our officer's next appointment was to the Acasta, a frigate of the largest class, in which he captured the Spanish ship la Juno, of 8 guns, pierced for 16, laden with cocoa and indigo; an armed polacre, with a cargo of brandy, wine, and dry goods; a French schooner, laden with coffee; two French row-boats, schooner rigged; two Spanish doggers; a xebec, of 16 guns, with a cargo similar to that of the polacre, and a number of unarmed merchant vessels laden with coffee, sugar, plantains, fustick, corn, stock, &c.; and destroyed la Victoire French privateer, of 10 guns and 60 men, under the batteries of Aguader.

Captain Fellowes returned to England with the homeward bound trade under his protection, in Sept. 1801 ; and continued to command the Acasta until the following spring. In the summer of 1805 he was appointed to the Apollo, a new frigate; and in 1806, we find him employed under the orders of Sir W. Sidney Smith, in co-operation with the British army on the shores of Calabria. Major-General Stuart, in his official account of the battle of Maida, made the most grateful mention of Captain Fellowes's "solicitude for the success of the campaign; his promptitude in sending on shore supplies for the troops; his anxiety to assist the wounded; and the tenderness with which he treated them."

Our officer subsequently commanded the Conqueror, of 74 guns, on the Mediterranean station, from whence he returned to England in 1812; since which time his health has not allowed him to be in active service. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, June 4, 1814. His lady is the eldest daughter of the late R. Benyon, Esq., M. P. for Peterborough.

Residence.—29, Gloucester Place, Portman Square, London.

From: "Royal Naval Biography; Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted; Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes ... With Copious Addenda: Memoirs of all the flag-officers of His Majesty's fleet now living" 

by: John Marshall
Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1823
pg 703

Thursday, June 28

Captain James Wood

Capt. of Acasta, April 1802 - February 1805
WOOD, James Athol (1756-1829), of Albany, Piccadilly, Mdx.

Constituency GATTON, Dates 1806 - 1807

Offices Held
Able seaman RN 1774, master’s mate 1776, acting lt. 1778, lt. 1778, cdr. 1795, capt. 1797, r.-dm. 1821.

Vendue master, Curaçao 1812-15.

Biography

Wood’s elder brothers Mark and George having entered the East India Company’s service, he began his career at sea in the East India merchant service (1772), but subsequently entered the navy and saw action in the American war, in which he was severely wounded. After the peace he was two years in France; then in the merchant navy, in the East Indian (1788-9) and West Indian spheres. He was at Barbados in 1794 when Adm. Jervis appointed him to the Boyne, to convey French prisoners from Martinique. On putting in at St. Malo he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris by order of the committee of public safety, 1 June 1794, remaining there until April 1795, when he was released and exerted himself on behalf of other English prisoners.

J. T. Duckworth
He next saw active service in the West Indies and after his part in the capture of Trinidad was posted captain (1797). He survived shipwreck off Madagascar (1798) and after returning to England was appointed to escort a convoy to the West Indies in the Acasta, November 1804. On arrival at Port Royal, February 1805, Sir John Thomas Duckworth*, the recalled commander-in-chief of the Jamaica station, commandeered his vessel, appointing his own captain, and, according to Wood, who was obliged to return as a passenger, loaded a cargo of merchandise, contrary to the 18th article of war, 22 Geo. II c. 33. Wood applied for a court martial against Duckworth, but it decided in the latter’s favour and his brother Mark’s attempt to have the minutes of the court martial laid before Parliament was ‘loudly negatived’, 7 June 1805. Wood’s memorial to the Admiralty board at least inspired a regulation aimed to prevent any repetition of Duckworth’s behaviour and he was found another ship.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
From the History of Parliament website: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org

Wednesday, June 27

Meet Captain Kerr

ALEXANDER ROBERT KERR, Esq.

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.

Son of Lieutenant Robert Kerr, R. N. who died at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, in 1805.

The subject of this memoir entered the naval service as a Midshipman on board the Endymion 44, commanded by Captain (now Lord) Gambier, in Nov. 1781; and served in that ship, the Nemesis, Alarm, and Boreas frigates; Rattler sloop of war, Orion 74, Narcissus 20, and Boyne 98; under Captains Edward Tyrrel Smith, Charles Cotton, Horatio Nelson, James Wallace, Sir Hyde Parker, Philip d'Auvergne, John Salusbury, Paul Minchin, and George Bowyer; on the Leeward Islands, North American, Jamaica, and Channel stations; till his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, at the conclusion of the Spanish armament. His first commission bears date, Nov. 22, 1790.

In April 1791, Mr. Kerr was appointed senior Lieutenant of the Narcissus, then commanded by Captain Minchin, with whom he continued until paid off in Oct. following. Previous to the commencement of the French revolutionary war, we find him joining the Boston 32, Captain George W. A. Courtenay, in which ship he lost the sight of his right eye by splinters, and received a grape-shot wound in the shoulder, whilst engaged with l'Ambuscade, a republican frigate of superior force, near New York, Aug. 1, 1793. The following account of that action, and of the circumstances which led to it, has been forwarded to us, by an officer who belonged to the Boston, since the publication of the memoir in which we first noticed it.

"We sailed from Newfoundland in consequence of a letter addressed to Captain Courtenay, by the late Sir Rupert George, then commanding the Hussar, at Halifax,, stating that l'Ambuscade French frigate had arrived on the coast of America, and that there was not a British man of War on that station, of sufficient force to protect our commerce; the Hussar being about to depart for the West Indies, with a fleet of transports under her convoy.

'After calling off Halifax harbour to procure pilots, the Boston proceeded towards Sandy Hook, where she arrived on the 26th July, 1793f. Two days afterwards she captured a French schooner privateer of 5 guns and 34 men.

"This prize was manned as a tender, and placed under the command of Mr; Hayes, acting Lieutenant, who was sent into New York, with despatches for the British Consul, apprising him, on the authority of the prisoners, that a French squadron lad arrived in the Chesapeake, from Port-au-Prince, St. Domingo, and that the enemy might shortly be expected to appear off the Hook. Mr. Hayes was likewise directed to reconnoitre l'Ambuscade, to obtain information respecting the strength of her crew, to ascertain, if possible, when she would be ready for sea, and above all to endeavour to get some volunteers for the Boston, she being short of complement, and six of her men unable to leave their hammocks.

"Mr. Hayes parted company with the Boston, at 4-30 P. M. on the 28th July, taking with him our purser, one midshipman, a pilot, and eight men. On the 30th, two officers and thirteen men, belonging to l'Ambuseade, were taken prisoners in the way you have mentioned at p. 674, of your late publication.

"On his arrival at the entrance of the North River, (July 29th, 4 P. M.) Mr. Hayes observed l'Ambuseade at anchor off the town of New York, with top-gallant-masts pointed, and her crew in the act of bending sails. On his nearer approach he clearly ascertained that she mounted 26 long guns on the main-deck, 8 on the quarter-deck, and 2 on the forecastle.

"Soon after the tender had anchored, she was boarded by a French officer, supposed to have been Mons. Bompard himself, who asked her commander if he had seen an English frigate off the Hook; upon which Mr. Hayes informed him that he had the honor to be one of her lieutenants, that he had lately left her there, that she had come from Newfoundland, purposely to meet l'Ambuseade; that her officers would be happy to see the French frigate outside the Hook, and that if Mons. Bompard had the smallest inclination to meet Captain Courtenay, he might depend on finding him about 3 or 4 leagues from the above mentioned point. To this the Frenchman replied that the Boston should certainly be favored with a meeting, and that l'Ambuseade would sail the next morning: he then took leave of Mr. Hayes, and returned on board his frigatet.

"The Boston's real character was first discovered by the master of an American revenue cruiser, who was heard to say, as he passed almost touching her, that * that ship, and those boats (alluding to two which were towing astern), never came from a French port.' In consequence of this remark, and by the desire of his gallant commander, Lieutenant Kerr went out on the bowsprit, and hailing the vessel, said 'this is the Boston frigate, Captain Courtenay; if l'Ambuseade will come out we shall be glad to sec her.' 'I dare say you will,' answered the American; 'I shall be happy to see you meet, and I will take care to let her know it.' This was the only challenge given by Captain Courtenay's directions.

"Finding from the report of 1'Ambuscade's officers, that Mons. Bompard was getting ready to sail, and that he would soon be at sea, Captain Courtenay immediately despatched a midshipman (the late Captain Daniel Oliver Guion) in a fishing boat to recall the tender ;but on that gentleman approaching New York he met Mr. Hayes and his party coming down the river in a small hired vessel, the French Consul having taken measures to cause the schooner's detention, and thereby prevented him from fulfilling the principal object of his mission.

"On the same day, July 30, Captain Courtenay gave chase to a 6trange vessel off the Long Island shore; and on the 31st, when returning to the spot where he expected to meet with his tender, he was himself pursued for several hours by the above mentioned squadron, consisting of two 74gun ships, five frigates, and several corvettes. In the mean time, Mr. Hayes had pushed out to sea, but not finding the Boston, and observing VAmbuscade under weigh, he was obliged to tack and stand in shore again, by which means alone he could possibly hope to save his people from being captured.

"The Boston resumed her station, off Sandy Hook, just before midnight; and on the first of August, between 2 and 3 A. M., a large ship was seen to windward; at day-light she was discovered to be a frigate, distant about 3 miles.

"The stranger now hoisted a blue flag, with a white cross at the mizen peak, and both ships set their courses, jibs, and spankers ; but kept three reefs in their top-sails, the wind blowing strong, with a smooth sea. In less than an hour the Boston fore-reached on the other frigate, tacked, and passed to leeward off her. At 5 o'clock, being then on her lee-quarter, we again hove in stays, when she hauled her courses up, wore round, hoisted French colours, and steered for our larboard or weather bow. The Boston's first fire did but little execution, and it was quickly returned by the enemy's ship, as she ranged close past us to windward, backing her main-top-sail on the starboard tack.

"Having thus commenced the action, Captain Courtenay directed the helm to be put down, intending to tack under 1'Ambuscade's stern; unfortunately, however, our cross-jack-yard had been shot away, which caused us to miss stays, and we were consequently obliged to wear short round in order to close with her. From this time, 5-10 A. M., the Boston's maintop-sail was kept to the mast, and we continued warmly engaged for an hour and three-quarters, during which period the enemy made three attempts to board us, and the colours of each ship were repeatedly shot away.

"After being in action more than an hour, the Boston's main-top-mast fell on the lee-quarter of the main-yard, and caused it to top an end; the enemy's cross-jack-yard was also gone, and her fore-top-sail-yard was lying on the cap.

"About a quarter of an hour before the firing ceased, an unlucky shot struck the foremost hammock stauncheon on the quarter-deck, which occasioned the death of Captain Courtenay, and the marine officer, who were then walking together. At this time the first and second Lieutenants were below getting their wounds dressed•; but the senior, Mr. John Edwards, who had been much hurt by a splinter striking him on the head, was no sooner informed of his Captain's fall than he went upon deck and assumed the command.

• Lieutenant Kerr, "with the temporary loss of sight in one, and with total blindness in, the other, of his eyes."—James's Nav. Hist, 2nd., edit. vol. i, p. 145.

•• The Boston had hitherto maintained a position close under the enemy's lee; but was now fore-reaching, and falling to leeward for want of after-sail, the gaff being shot away, and the mizen-stay-sail literally cut to pieces, no less than 25 large shot, besides an immense number of musketballs, having passed through it. The main-top-sail was hanging over the lee-gangway, so that it was absolutely necessary to clear the wreck before the larboard guns could be fired with safety; and when about to wear, for the purpose of bringing them to bear on I'Ambuscade, several strange sail suddenly appeared to windward. This alone induced Lieutenant Edwards to put before the wind, and Mons. Bompard, although encouraged by the sight of his supposed countrymen, did not make any attempt to follow the Boston until she had increased her distance to about 2 miles. The last shot fired by either party was at about 7 A. M.•

"The Boston's damages, in addition to those I have mentioned, were as follow:—the cap of the bowsprit shot away ; fore-top-mast, and fore and main-yards badly wounded; mizen-mast wounded and sprung; the whole of the mizen-rigging on both sides, and the standing and spring, stays shot away; only two main shrouds on one side, and one on the other left standing; the, fore-rigging much injured; the main-spring-stay and both bob-stays cut in two ; every brace and bowline gone ; the ship hulled, in many places, and two of the main-deck-guns dismounted. The loss we sustained has been correctly stated by youf, and that it was not greater is truly astonishing, as the musket-balls afterwards picked up on our quarterdeck alone amounted to an almost incredible number.

"Our opponent mounted 26 long twelves, 10 long sixes, and 2 heavy carronades; the Boston had the same number of long twelves, but only 6 sixes, and not a single carronade, either 'monkey-tailed,' or of any other description. Lieutenant Hayes, Mr. Guion, &c. having been prevented from joining the ship, the total number of effective officers, men, and boys on board in the action was only 189; and a few of these were necessarily stationed as sentries over the 49 French prisoners. L'Ambuscade, notwithstanding the absence of two officers and a boat's crew, had many mea above her established complement; indeed it was afterwards strongly reported that the numerical strength of her crew, including American volunteers, exceeded 400; but this is a point that I will not pretend to determine. That she had an unusually large proportion of small-arm-men cannot be disputed.

"After losing sight of L'Ambuscade, we steered for the Delaware, in order to repair our damages; but when about to enter that river the next morning, a pilot-boat informed us that two French frigates had gone in at day-light; it was therefore thought prudent to haul off and steer for Newfoundland, where we arrived in safety on the 19th of the same month. I should here mention, that a letter, written purposely to deceive the enemy, was addressed to the British Consul at Philadelphia, stating that we were going to refit at Jamaica, which letter was carried to the French frigates according to our expectation."

The official letter respecting this hard-fought action, written by Lieutenant Edwards, was never published, probably because he mentioned in it, that a number of men, on seeing Captain Courtenay fall, had run from the Boston's quarterdeck guns, and seated themselves round the fore-brace-bitts, from whence he could not immediately get them back to their quarters. We know that such were the reasons assigned by Lieutenant Edwards for his own precipitate conduct in ordering the body of his gallant Captain to be thrown overboard without surgical examination; and although it might have been impolitic to publish such facts at the commencement of the French revolutionary war, we see no reason why they should be concealed at this distant period.

The Boston returned to England in 1795, under the command of Captain (now Sir James N.) Morris; and we subsequently find Mr. Kerr serving on board the Repulse of 64 guns. About April, 1796, he was appointed first Lieutenant of the Clyde 46, commanded by the present Commissioner Cunningham, whose high opinion of him was thus publicly expressed in a letter to Lord Keith, reporting the capture of la Vestale French frigate, Aug. 20, 1799:

"The Clyde's officers and men conducted themselves much to my satisfaction; and I received that support from Lieutenant Kerr which I was prepared to expect by his animated conduct in former critical and more trying situations."

Mr. James, in his second edition, after giving an account of the Clyde's action, says, w since the capture of the Reunion by the Crescent, and of the Unite" by the Revolutionnaire*, it had not been customary to knight the Captains of 18-pounder frigates for their success over the 12-pounder frigates of the enemy. Hence Captain Cunningham was not so rewarded; but the Clyde's first Lieutenant, Alexander Robert Kerr, was made a Commander f." Our contemporary "must excuse us" for reminding him that la Vestale was captured on the 20th Aug. 1799, and that Lieutenant Kerr was not promoted until April 29, 1802. The manner in which the Clyde was employed during the six years that Mr. Kerr served under Captain Cunningham, and her well-managed escape from the mutinous fleet at the Nore, have been described in our memoir of the latter officer, Vol. II. Part I, p. TJ. et seq.

From June, 1802, till February, 1806, Captain Kerr commanded the Diligence and Combatant sloops of war, both employed watching the enemy's flotilla at Boulogne. In the latter vessel he assisted at the capture of a lugger privateer, near Cape Grisnez. His post commission is dated Jan. 22d, 1806.
We now lose sight of Captain Kerr until Aug. 1808, between which period and the month of June 1809, he was successively appointed, pro temp,, to the Tigre, Valiant, and Revenge, third rates, employed off Brest, l'Orient, and Rochefort.

The Revenge was the only two-decker of Lord Gambier's fleet that sustained any loss in Aix Roads on the memorable 12th April, 1809. By reference to his lordship's official letter, which is inserted at p. 818 of our first volume, it will be seen that she then formed part of the advanced squadron under the orders of Captain (now Rear-Admiral) John Bligh, by whom it is stated that she anchored about three cables' length within Lord Cochrane's ship, and drew the fire of the batteries of Isle d'Aix from the frigates and smaller vessels to herself. This statement was made at the trial of Lord Gambier, on which occasion the following questions were put to Captain Bligh:

1st, " What number of guns appeared to command the anchorage of Aix Reads from the batteries of the island?" 
A. " When at anchor in the road of Aix, I counted 50 guns; there may have been more, but I am certain there were not less." 

2nd, " Did the enemy throw shells from the island ?" 
A. " They did." 

3rd, "What is your opinion of the position taken by Captain Kerr, of the Revenge; was it judicious ?" 
A. "/ think it impossible a ship could be better placed than the Revenge; and indeed the general conduct of the Revenge on that day reflects the highest credit on the Zealand bravery of her Captain."

From the evidence given by Captain Kerr at the same trial, we find that the Revenge's bowsprit was very much injured, great part of the running rigging and sails were cut to pieces, five planks of the quarter-deck cut through, and one of the beams was entirely carried away. She had also a number of large shot in different parts of the hull; and her loss consisted of 3 men killed and 15 wounded, 2 of whom mortally. On the following day, when returning to Basque Roads, she was struck between wind and water, under the main-chains, by a shot from Isle d'Aix, the shells from Oleron at the same time passing over her.

Captain Kerr's next appointment was to the Ganymede of 26 guns, but he does not appear to have ever sailed in that ship. The Unicorn 32, to which frigate he was removed in Aug. 1809, captured, whilst under his command, le Gascon French privateer, of 16 guns and 113 men; and l'Esperance (formerly H. M. 22-gun ship Laurel) armed en flute, with a valuable cargo "of East India produce.

In April, 1811, Captain Kerr assumed the command of a most desirable frigate, the Acasta, mounting 48 guns, with a complement of 300 men. During his continuance in her he captured the American brig privateer Curlew, of 16 guns (pierced for 20) and 172 men; Highflyer, schooner privateer, 5 guns and 75 men ; Herald letter of marque, 10 guns (pierced for 18) and 60 men, from Bourdeaux, bound to Baltimore *; and several unarmed merchantmen. He abo assisted at the capture of the Snapper schooner privateer, of 10 guns and 90 men; and the Porcupine letter of marque, with a valuable cargo, from Bayonne bound to Boston; likewise at the recapture of a British 20>-gun ship, and many trading vessels, which had been taken by the Constitution and other American cruisers.

The Acasta returned to England in July, 1815; and Captain Kerr was about the same time nominated a C. B. as a reward for his long and arduous services. The following letter was addressed by him to the author of this work, shortly after the publication of Sir George Collier's memoir:

"Great King Street, Edinburgh, Oct. 6, 1825,
"Sir,—I have just seen in the fourth part of your Naval Biography, a note attached to the memoir of the late Sir George Collier, which induces me to explain why I did not make a signal to the Leander of the force of the American squadron off Porto Praya, on the 11th Mar. 1815.

"Perhaps you are not aware that, at the time the Acasta's log states the force of the enemy, the Leander was nearly as close to them as the Acasta; and as the water-lines of the enemy's ships were distinctly seen from her, I could not suppose that any difference of opinion could possibly exist respecting their force. I therefore considered the senior officer fully able to judge for himself, and that it would be presumption in me to make that signal, or to suppose they could not make out the force of the enemy on board the Leander as clearly as we did in the Acasta. 
I am, &c.
(Signed) "A. R. Kerr."
"To Lieut. John Marshall, R. N."

ANSWER.

"London, Oct. 10th, 1825. 
"Sir,—I have been favoured with your letter of the 6th inst., and I shall feel much pleasure in giving publicity to the explanation therein contained; but I must confess that nothing less than such an avowal, coming from an officer of high reputation and indisputable veracity, could possibly have staggered my belief as to the state of the weather, and the position of the Acasta, on the unfortunate 11th Mar. 1815. The former, judging from the documents which were sent to me soon after a late melancholy event, I certainly supposed to be so very thick and hazy, as to render it impossible for the Leander to make out, what you appear to have so promptly and correctly done, the real force of the enemy; particularly as it is stated by Captain M'Dougall, whose letter I have incorporated with the memoir of his lamented friend, that the Levant was not discovered to be only " a corvette or 20-gun ship" until the Leander's fire was opened upon her: and the log of the senior British officer describes that as having been done only ten minutes previous to the enemy rounding the eastern point of Porto Praya bay, when on her return to the anchorage she had so lately left; and not more than twenty minutes before the Leander was obliged to shorten sail in consequence of finding herself close to the rocks off Quail island. 

The following extract from the log of the Leander will corroborate what I have just written:

"3-15 P. M., opened our fire on the chace, who hoisted American colours,—saw the land a-head.'

"' 3-25,' {ten minutes after gaining- sightof the land)'' saw chace rounding the easternmost point of the harbour.'

"' 3-35,' (only ten minutes later) ' up main-sail, being close to the rocks off Quail island.'

"From an entry in the Newcastle's log, the only one that mentions how the British ships bore from each other when they had all tacked to the eastward, at 1 P. M., I could do no otherwise than suppose that you were more than a mile nearer to the enemy than Sir George Collier was, and nearly in a line between him and them •. You have been kind enough to undeceive me, and I return you my best thanks for doing so. I am, &c. 
(Signed) "John Marshal!."

"To Captain Alex. R. Kerr, R. N. C. B."
The subject of this memoir married, in Jan. 1805, Charlotte, youngest daughter of Dr. Charles Maule, formerly a physician in India, and by that lady he has seven children. His eldest son is a Midshipman, R. N.

Agent.—A. C. Marsh, Esq. >

Text taken from: "Royal Naval Biography; Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted; Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes ... With Copious Addenda:"

by John Marshall
Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827

Tuesday, June 26

The Prize Crew


On the weekend of June 16-17, a crew from the Acasta travelled North to Lake Michigan to set up at the Michigan Maritime Museum’s Harbor Festival event. We demonstrated Royal Naval life ashore circa 1812 and it also gave us an excellent opportunity to log some hours sailing aboard their ship ‘Friends Goodwill’. The above video is a highlight reel from that weekend!

Monday, June 25

The Traditional Saturday Toast



A clip from "Master and Commander: Far Side of the World" (2003) that shows off the traditional toast giv'n on Saturdays.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, what are you wasting time here for? Go watch it immediately!

And when you're done, be sure to read about the traditional toasts from the other days of the week.

Friday, June 22

Friday's Toast

A calm, clear day today. The Captains of the ships on the blockade had the Signal Midshipmen practicing their signal flags for the majority of the afternoon. No sooner would a series of flags be hoisted then the boys would all have out their glasses, eagerly looking for the reply. All manner of mock orders were sent to and fro. 

An uneventful day at sea, followed by an equally uneventful dinner in the Wardroom. After the loyal toast, Lt. Fitzroy, gave the traditional Friday toast.

"A willing foe and sea-room!"

We all drank with great gusto! We all enjoyed the possibility of prize money, and with several of our officers, the more 'willing foes' the better. 

Thursday, June 21

A Bloody War or a Sickly Season

The Ward Room aboard HMS Trincomalee
As it is Thursday, after the Loyal Toast was giv'n and drunk, Lt. McLean offered up "A Bloody War or a Sickly Season". As we drank, I pondered the meaning of such a toast.

Being promoted upon the death of your superiors has been the Naval tradition for time immemorial. But I cannot help think that it is quite morbid to wish the untimely demise of one's associates in order to procure advancement in one's field of occupation. Every man in the Ward Room drank glady to the idea.

Wednesday, June 20

Wednesday's Toast


Sick call at the mast this morning with Baptiste and Reid was followed by dosing and treating the various shipboard illness and injury. Their complaints this morning consisted chiefly of scrapes and bruises common among men whose job it is to climb, handle rope and lift heavy objects on a daily basis.  

The traditional Wednesday toast was offered up in the Ward Room this evening from Lt. McLean, "To Ourselves". 

It was followed by the amusing (and equally traditional) reply from Lt. Fitzroy "As no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare!"

Tuesday, June 19

To Our Men

Early this morning, it was thought that a ship was espied attempting to escape the blockade. The men were all excitement that we might be taken into action to give chase, but it was not to be, the American schooner was simply moving about within the harbour and not attempting to 'make a run for it'. After it was discovered that our day was not to be punctuated with a chase and engagement, there was a great deal of sullen coiling of ropes as the men returned to their duties. 

This evening in the Wardroom, Lt. Fitzroy raised his glass and says, "To our Men", the traditional toast giv'n on a Tuesday. 

I took a sip and then passed my glass of Port behind me to Mr. Vassermann. He finished the glass in a single swallow by snapping his head back, then refilled the glass and thanked me as he passed it back. Several of the other Wardroom officers followed suit.

Monday, June 18

To Our Ships At Sea

Ward Room aboard USS Constitution
Mr. Vassermann, who had previously washed my breeches in salt water ensuring that they were uncomfortable and barely fit to wear, has washed them out again in a barrel of rainwater that he has accumulated over the past few days. My poor small clothes should be fit to wear again once they are dried. My breeches were stiff and itchy, and caused the most unpleasant chaffing.

Dinner this evening in the Ward Room, followed by the traditional Monday toast, "To our Ships at sea!". 

It gave me pause, and I considered some of the ships of His Majesty's Navy that we have encountered thus far. 

HMS Ramillies under command of Sir Thomas Hardy 

HMS Poictiers under Capt. Beresford, in whose company we have made several significant captures.

HMS Dotterel, HMS Martin, HMS Nymphe whom we encountered at Bermuda recently.

HMS Maidstone, Æolus, Childers and Colibrie with whom we have shared captures.

Wednesday, June 13

New Signal Flag Demonstration


Bring your spyglasses to the Jane Austen Fest July 13-15th 2018 so you can try your hand at sending and receiving messages ship to ship via period signal flags! This awesome new demo will be located near the Acasta naval camp all weekend. These images offer a sneak peek into the play-testing of the demonstration... we hope to see you there!



My 14 year-old daughter flew such vital signals as 'You are gross', 'You look like horse' and the ever popular 'I might mistake you for lizard'.



Tuesday, June 12

Before the Mast Vol II


Our second weekend as the first, brought great success to our continued training. It began by reintroducing everyone as we had been apart for some three weeks and was followed by a refresher on safety equipment on board the Friends Good Will. After we were all reacquainted, we practiced tossing our mooring lines to the dock as well as adjusting the main and head sails. After a slight weather delay we made ready to sail up the channel out onto the lake for our first hands on sail. While we made preparations, the Captain did us Acasta’s a great honor by flying the royal ensign on the flag halyard! We gave our heartiest cheer and thanked him for his kind gesture.





Once we set the main and head sails out on the water, we practiced tacking our good ship to windward and wearing her to get us landsmen used to adjusting the sails to the Captain’s desires. The lake was calm and we had a pleasant breeze to aid us in or practice. We sailed our course parallel to the shore back and forth roughly two miles out for a few hours until it was time to return. As we sailed into the channel we were greeted by many onlookers. Between readying our stations to dock, were able to wave back and enjoy the comfort of the return ride. Once we were moored, the Captain called a huddle at the mast and thanked us all for our time and eagerness to learn. With that, we concluded our training and were accepted as volunteer crew. We now have the opportunity to gain more sailing experience as often as we want and have a wonderful organization and ship to turn our passion for interpretation into real life experience.

Monday, June 11

Before the Mast Vol I


Though the HMS Acasta excels at portraying everyday life of Royal Navy sailors during the wars with France, many of our interpreters aren’t true sailors. 

To amend this, the weekend of April 28th and 29th, several Acastas attended the first portion of basic sail training at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Michigan where we began our voyage to becoming true sailors. The museum was gracious enough to host us, as well as several new volunteers eager to learn to sail their square-rigged topsail sloop Friends Good Will. 

The training began as we learned basic directional terminology for travel as well as directions aboard ship. We continued on with the geography of the ship herself and all of her various parts that make up the vessel that she is.  After we got more familiar with the decks, masts, yards, spars, rigging and sails we practiced some useful knots to aid us in adjusting the many lines for the rigging as well as for mooring the ship to port. 

In our down time between classes, we were able to watch the Friends Good Will launch on a crew refresher sail out onto Lake Michigan from the museum. Being as we know proper respect for Captains, we gave her a salute as she sailed down the channel which was celebrated amongst the crew as she pulled away.  

Overall, the first weekend was a great success! It not only fulfilled a long time unit goal, but brought us that much closer together as a group. 


Friday, June 8

The Art and Science of Knotwork: a Primer

By Buzz Mooney

When you mention the word “knotwork”, different people will picture different things: The rigging of sailing ships, 60s macramé wall hangings, or elaborate ancient Celtic graphics, seen in ancient Irish Gospels, like the Book of Kells.  It helps to sort through the confusion, by understanding that these are all, at their roots, the same thing: a form of continuous-line weaving. 

In my youth, as a Boy Scout, I struggled with knot-tying: A knot I had JUST learned, and tied successfully, was lost to me, minutes later. “The rabbit goes around the tree, and the shark jumps over it… no, the shark eats the boat, then the rabbit eats the shark… No…” Knot-tying was like Algebra: complicated, and hard to imagine how I’d use it, in real life. It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I developed a fascination for Ancient Celtic art, and knotwork, in particular, that I began to see the patterns and architecture of knots. And when I began my fascination with Sailing Ships, I began to see that knots are like old-style LEGO, or Tinkertoys: You only really have a few different pieces to work with: It’s how you COMBINE them, which makes all the different knots.  When I went to Hollywood, to work in Special Effects and Props, I took my newfound understanding of the Art of Ropework with me: When James Franco played James Dean, I did the fancywork shoulder-sling on his conga drum, and the “monkey’s fist” he plays with on the set of “Giant”. For Band of Brothers, I coiled all the letdown ropes the 101st guys wore for the Normandy jump. I even did the ropework for a prototype hammock for Master and Commander, but, alas, another Prophouse got the gig, so my work didn’t appear in the film. Having a working CONTEXT to use this knowledge, made all the difference.

I won’t go much into the TYPES of knots: Hitches, to secure a line to an object; Bends, to temporarily connect two lines, Splices, to PERMANENTLY connect two lines, or create a clean end on a line, and True Knots, to create a stop or other such feature. I’ll talk, primarily, of the STRUCTURE of knots.  In the accompanying images, I’ll be using red nylon rope: It’s easier to see the various elements of each knot, than with a natural-fiber, laid rope.

To understand what I mean about knots being made up of only a few, related elements, let’s look at the Sheet Bend (Figure 1): This is a quick, temporary hitch for connecting two lines.  You can see that one line is simply a loop, the other goes up through, around under both legs of the loop, and up and across, passing under itself. Now look at the Bowline (Figure 2): It’s EXACTLY THE SAME KNOT! The only difference, is that the working end of the line from the right, loops around to become the standing end of the line from the left.  So here, one of the most basic bends becomes one of the most basic hitches, simply by virtue of the loop. Cut the loop, and it’s a Sheet Bend.


Now, lets look at Two Half-hitches (Shown loose, in Figure 3, and taut, in Figure 4): If I slide it off the belaying pin, and snug it up (Figure 5), you can see the way is creates a diagonal, across itself, making a sort of “Letter N”.  If we look at the Clove Hitch, (Figure 6) you can see that same “Letter N” is formed around the pin, itself, instead of around the standing part of the line. If I KEEP “throwing” Hitches around the pin, I get “French Hitching” (figure 7); a decorative and protective covering, which can also improve handgrip on railings, etc. If, however, I ALTERNATE the direction of subsequent hitches, I get “Cockscombing” (Figure 8), which serves the same purpose, but with the resulting ridge running straight down one side, rather than spiraling. The Taut-line Hitch (Figure 9) many of us learned in Scouts, for adjusting tent ropes, is just another variation on the use of Half-Hitches.




To tie the infamous Sheep Shank (Figure 10), double the rope back on itself, twice, making an elongated “S” or “Z”, and throw a half-hitch over either end.


When you start getting into Stop-knots, like the Wall, the Crown, the Wall-and-Crown, or even the Matthew Walker, or Splices, or into Turk’s Heads, the principles of the aforementioned Celtic Art come in: In Knotwork, the Artist generally follows a rule of “Over one, under one” (or Over 2, under 2, etc.) In addition, on splices, and most good Stop-knots, you’ll be using the individual yarns of the line, untwisted from each other, to create your knot.  Here, I’ll be using three separate ropes, taped in a bundle, to represent the three individual yarns, unlaid from the end of the rope, to create a basic Crown Knot. First, laying open the yarns, I bring one up and over, down between the other two, laying it alongside the standing part of my rope (Figure 11). I then take the next end, and do the same (Figure 12 and 13). But I can’t simply bring the third yarn up and over the other two: it has to be interwoven with them, so that each holds its neighbor in place.  To do this, I’ll draw the first two loops tighter, to help me see where I need to go.  As you can see here, (Figure 14) yarn#1 isn’t holding anything down, and nothing is holding down yarn #2. So Yarn # 3 has to go OVER #2, and UNDER #1, like so: (Figure 15). When I draw them up tight, (Figure 16) you can see that they form a tight triangle, with each going over one, then under the next. If I continue this pattern, (Figure 17 and 18) I can build a larger knob, useful to stop a line running out of a block, or to form a handhold at the end of the line.





This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of knotwork, but, hopefully, it gives a basic understanding of the structure and architecture of ropework: The basic, geometric principles that help to create not just a knowledge of how to tie several knots, but how to UNDERSTAND how knots work, and to choose or develop the knots needed for any task.

Recommended reading:
The Arts of the Sailor. Hervey Garret Smith

The Marlinspike Sailor. Hervey Garret Smith

Celtic Art: The methods of its Construction. George Bain

Ashley Book of Knots.  Clifford W. Ashley

The Sea Scout Manual. Boy Scouts of America.
(I recommend looking into some of the earlier editions, since content changes over time. I also suggest seeing what the British Naval Brigade/National Sea Cadets may have published. Such guides tend to focus on the basics, and can be very helpful for “learning the ropes”, quite literally.)