Tag Archives: nelson

Nelson’s last shore run

John Simpson has been thinking about Nelson, as many do around the anniversary of Trafalgar – as I write, I can see the position of the schooner Pickle on the AIS as she makes her way to Dover and then the Solent for Pickle Night celebrations.

Here’s what John has to say:

‘This Spring I visited Old Portsmouth and the small Camber Dock. It was wonderful to see how this area has been rejuvenated.

‘In 1805 Nelson ate his last breakfast ashore before the battle of Trafalgar near to Camber Dock at The George Hotel, which doesn’t exist now.

‘He left via the hotel’s back entrance to avoid the crowds waiting to see him going down to the beach – by this point in his career, he was in danger of being mobbed like one of today’s rock stars.

‘He passed the 500-year old Square Tower (used then by the navy to store meat – I bet that smelt) and crossed a drawbridge through a sally port to a redoubt on the shore, then joined a boat that rowed him out to his flagship HMS Victory and his fate; she was anchored in St Helen’s Road (to the East of the Isle of Wight).

‘Thirty years ago we used to come into the Camber with our school boats. It was useful to teach students how to tie up onto a harbour wall using long warps and a fender board with the rise and fall of tide, and it was a free mooring!

‘The place and pub were very dilapidated though many local fishing boats still used this handy place. Once I awoke to find our boat Gallivanter pinned down by the bows on a rising tide under a bit of ruined harbour wall ladder. All the crew’s weight was needed to free her.

‘New houses and pontoons were being built and sometimes we would tie up to them.

‘Nowadays Ben Ainslie is using part of this dock as a base for his Land Rover-sponsored America’s Cup campaign. He may have failed in Bermuda, but let’s hope he gets angry again for the next one!

‘There’s also storage racks for powerboats and RIBs, with with quick forklift access to the water and a good diving school. The Bridge Tavern looks much posher with a good mural painted outside…

‘Careful timing is still needed to enter the dock due the Isle of Wight ferries very close to the north. Their wash sweeps round to tiny basin; when a ferry leaves good attention is needed, particularly if you’re moored to the wall.

‘Portsmouth Harbour’s main entrance has always been narrow and busy with Isle of Wight ferries, ferries to France and of course the Royal Navy. It’s still controlled by a Queen’s Harbour Master, which means that that the Royal Navy can close it anytime.

‘The narrow channel has had to be dredged for the new aircraft carriers built in Scotland, and the current harbor master must have been bricking it when the new one came in.

‘Small boats have to keep very close to the west and must use their engines even if they have a sail hoisted.

‘Thinking about Nelson’s last walk through the old town still brings a shiver down my spine. The forts, beach and old walls still attract many visitors. It was wonderful to see it all again on a hot sunny day.’

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Pilot Cutters and the Victory: books from Seaforth Publishing

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I must read this book by seasoned sailor and writer Tom Cunliffe some time. Here’s what the Seaforth Publishing’s blurb says…

‘The pilot cutters that operated around the coasts of northern Europe until the First World War were among the most seaworthy and beautiful craft of their size ever built, while the small number that have survived have inspired yacht designers, sailors and traditional craft enthusiasts over the last hundred years.

‘They possessed a charisma unlike any other working craft; their speed and close-windedness, their strength and seaworthiness, fused together into a hull and rig of particular elegance, all to guide the mariner through the rough and tortuous waters of the European seaboard, bought them an enviable reputation.

‘This new book is both a tribute to and a minutely researched history of these remarkable vessels. The author, perhaps the most experienced sailor of the type, describes the ships themselves, their masters and crews,and the skills they needed for the competitive and dangerous work of pilotage. He explains the differences between the craft of disparate coasts – of the Scilly Islesand the Bristol Channel, of northern France, and the wild coastline of Norway – and weaves into the history of their development the stories of the men who sailed them.’

I notice that whoever wrote it has managed to capture the characteristic Cunliffe persuasive and salty style.

PS – A more recent release from Seaforth is Brian Lavery’s book Nelson’s Victory: 250 Years of War and Peace, which is published this month to coincide with the 250th anniversary of her launch.

Brian is also guest curator of an exhibition at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, if you have time to get over there.

The publisher’s notes promise the book is the most comprehensive book yet published on the topic and includes new and surprising revelations, including that:

  • she was almost wrecked on her launch
  • diplomacy conducted onboard her played a crucial role in provoking Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1912
  • 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm set the First World War in motion sitting at a desk made from her timbers

The book also tells the story of Horatio Nelson, who was born a few weeks before his most famous ship was ordered.

HMS Pickle ashore

Here’s HMS Pickle ashore in Portugal, after being lifted by a mighty big boat lift… Many readers will notice that she now has all her masts in place, so owner Mal Nicholson is making progress!

Others might notice her lines, which to my eyes have a look of rightness about them…

HMS Pickle is named after the fast and in some ways similar Bermudan-built schooner HMS Pickle that brought news of the victory at Trafalgar and of Nelson’s death back to Britain. Follow HMS Pickle’s Facebook page here.

And meanwhile here’s a nice sailplan line drawing that Mal acquired from somewhere:

pickle line drawing