Category Archives: Geography

Saint Malo: The City of Corsairs

st, maloThe Breton city of Saint Malo was infamous to the British navy and merchantmen as a home of some of the most brazen privateers produced by France. In earlier wars, British merchantmen had paid tribute directly to Saint Malo to allow unhindered passage through the English channel.

Though Dunkirk produced more privateers, Saint Malo figures more prominently in naval fiction. It also produced Robert Surcouf, who’s activities when based out of Mauritius made capturing that island a necessity for the British.

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Tetuan

tetuanThe Moroccan port city of Tetuan features prominently in the plot of the C. Northcote Parkinson novel Touch and Go featuring the British naval officer Richard Delancey. Delancey, in the sloop HMS Merlin, and a merchantman it is escorting stop in Tetuan to replenish water supplies. It is just off the main square, pictured above, that Delancey participated in a slave auction as a purchaser.

The main square is drawn as it appeared circa 1838 and very similar to the way it would have seemed to Commander Delancey.

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Gibraltar

gibraltarFrom Gibraltar’s capture in 1704 it has been a bastion of British power in the Mediterranean. This was especially true in the dark days as the First Coalition failed and the the British navy lost bases in Corsica and what is now Italy to the forces of the French revolution.

Gibraltar forms a key setting for many novels set during the Age of Sail. In the above photo you are looking from Gibraltar across the bay towards the Spanish port of Algeciras, the scene of Admiral James Saumarez’s initial repulse and eventual victory.

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Punta Vaca, Culebra, Puerto Rico

punta vacaPictured above is Punta Vaca on Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico.

This is where the survivors of HMS Triton and the merchantman Topaz made landfall in Governor Ramage, R. N. Ramage’s camp would have been in what looks like a hotel complex in the inlet at the upper right.

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Vis (Lissa), Croatia

visBelow we discuss the Battle of Lissa (1811) fought just west of the mouth of the harbor pictured above.

In 1811, the Dalmatian island of Lissa, as Vis was then called, was used by the British navy as a base of operations for warships and privateers operating against the ships of France and its allies in the Adriatic. The main town on the island was Port St. George, the modern day town of Vis which is pictured above.

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Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

marigot
In Ramage and the Freebooters, Lieutenant Nicholas Ramage finally tracks down the lair of the French privateers at Marigot Bay, St. Lucia.

The landward end of the bay shows the channel that could have easily been concealed from seaward view by the use of rafts bearing camouflage.

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St. George’s, Grenada

fort st george grenada
The main action in Ramage and the Freebooters is centered on St. George’s, Grenada. The above photo gives a panorama of the harbor. Fort George, seat of the military administration in the novel, is easily visible in the center background.

Fort George, then called Fort Rupert, was heavily damaged by US airstrikes during Operation URGENT FURY in October 1983.

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Texel

NorthSea1

Of all the blockades run by the British navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the blockade off Texel by the North Sea fleet had to have been one of the most hazardous. The island of Texel and the Dutch naval yard just to the south, Den Helder, made this area a logical point of concentration for Dutch warships before conducting a sortie against the British.

The prevailing winds are generally from the southwest, creating a strong counter-clockwise current. The constricted space brings with it the nasty property of presenting any blockading fleet with a lee shore under most wind conditions.

This satellite image has Texel and the Wadden Sea centered in the frame. If you are interested at the view from ground level, there are a lot of interesting shots of Texel land and seascapes here.

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Killala Bay, Mayo/Sligo, Ireland

inishcrone
The hilltops with glory were glowing
‘Twas the eve of a bright harvest day
When the ships we’d been wearily waiting
Sailed into Killala’s broad bay
And over the hill went the slogan
To waken in every breast
The fire that has never been quenched, boys
Among the true hearts of the West

lyrics from Men of the West

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Cartagena

cartagena
The harbor at Cartagena, Spain.

Cartagena holds a shipyard as well as a major Spanish naval base.

Cartagena is the base from which the Spanish fleet sailed in February, 1797 to defeat at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. It is where the fictional Lieutenant Nicholas Ramage, holding a forged Protection, was held awaiting transit to the United States. It is also where the real British officers Thomas Hardy and Jonathan Culverhouse were held until their exchange was arranged by Commodore Horatio Nelson on February 10, 1797.

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