Reply To: Tacking vs. wearing square-riggers — relative time and distance

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#10541
Malcolm Lewis
Participant

I recall reading that in the Georgian navy their Lordships forbade warships to tack unless “in the chase” for fear of costly damage to rigging and canvas which was often difficult to repair especially when some distance from port. Captains were instructed to “wear ship” instead.
Before Trafalgar the combined French and Spanish fleets were heading for the Straits of Gibraltar when the French Admiral Villeneuve changed his mind and ordered his fleets to return to Cadiz. To reverse the course of forty one square rigged ships of various sizes with different hull conditions, combined with the lack of experience of many of their crews, must have presented a problem. They would have been in some disarray by the time they were eventually engaged by Nelson’s fleet.
Several of Nelson’s ships also struggled to get into the fray in the light airs much to the frustration of their Commander in Chief.
Fifty five years later the mighty HMS Warrior proved a handful to manoeuvre and apparently could take up to 50 minutes to tack even in a strong breeze.
Malcolm Lewis