Tag Archives: Prudente

Robert Surcouf

Statue of Robert Surcouf in Saint Malo

Statue of Robert Surcouf in Saint Malo

Robert Surcouf was as close to a born privateer as one was likely to find. Born on December 12, 1773 in Saint Malo, both his mother and father’s families had produced famous privateers among them René Duguay-Trouin.

He was reputed to be a rowdy young man, prone to fighting, and he was packed off to sea in March, 1789, aboard the slaver Aurore. In February, 1789, Aurore with a load of slaves was caught in a tropical cyclone and wrecked in East Africa. The ship was repairable and Surcouf came to the captain’s attention through his energy and perseverance while removing the rapidly decomposing bodies of 400 dead slaves from the hold of the ship so it could be made seaworthy. He was hired on as first mate in that captain’s next ship.  That ship was also wrecked and Surcouf signed onto the French corvette Bienvenue which was bound for Lorient to be paid off. He arrived back in Brittany in January 1792. Continue reading

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Making Virtue of Necessity

Let’s face it. When it comes to nautical fiction we are all Anglophiles. The major fictional heroes of the Age of Sail are British. Alexander Kent is probably one of the few authors who have managed to sell books in the United States in which Americans are the enemy.

There are undoubtedly novels out there in which a French naval officer is the hero, but I’ve just not encountered them.

Just because our fiction in Anglophile, it doesn’t mean we should accept the prejudices held by the British Navy as being accurate.

In fiction, two of these prejudices have acquired the level of articles of faith. The first is the supremacy of the weather gage, the second is the superiority of aiming at the hull of the opponent, “‘twixt wind and water,” rather than the rigging.

Let’s look at them.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Naval Battles, Naval Fiction, Naval Gunnery, Naval Operations, Naval Tactics, Naval Weapons