Tag Archives: Trafalgar

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.’


Sailors go 200 years back in time to crew sailing vessel which brought news of Trafalgar

Portsmouth Naval Base volunteers are to sail the schooner Pickle from Hull to the Solent to attend a celebration of the original HMS Pickle’s voyage to Falmouth carrying the news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson.

The battle took place off Cape Trafalgar (not far from the Southern tip of the country) and the journey took ten days – and then it took another 37 hours for captain Lieutenant John Lapenotiere to reach the Admiralty in London.

On arrival, it’s recorded that he announced: ‘Sir, we have gained a great victory but we have lost Lord Nelson.’

The accomplishments of Lapenotiere and his small boat are celebrated each November 4 – the anniversary of Pickle’s arrival in Falmouth – with Pickle Night, an evening for naval ratings to remember the heroes of 1805 and generally let their hair down, often dressed in the uniform of the day.

HMS Victory hosts a special Pickle Night event on the great ship’s lower gun deck with 104 specially-nominated ratings dining with Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock.

HMS Victory executive officer WO1 Dickie Henderson along with some senior ratings serving aboard Nelson’s flagship thought this year the presence of a replica (the original Pickle was wrecked more than two centuries ago) berthed next to Victory, would add to the proceedings.

The current Pickle was built 20 years ago in the Baltic, has a hull similar to the original and was adapted to look more like the original HMS Pickle to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar.

The crew will live in more comfort than sailors of Nelson’s era but he sailing gear would have been recognisable to old time sailors. On her  planned way south from the 25th-30th October, she is to call at Harwich, Dover and Eastbourne, and reach Portsmouth on the 30th.

Thanks to support from long-time Navy supporter Sir Donald Gosling and his foundation, and the RN RM Charity, up to six sailors, at a time, from HMS Victory and Portsmouth Flotilla will be able to crew the Pickle on each leg (the longest is 36 hours)… I gather there has been no shortage of volunteers.

HMS Pickle is on her way home

Now substantially fixed up with many new timbers, new rigging and other gear, HMS Pickle is now sailing her way in shortish hops along the coast from Portugal to her new home at Keadby Lock in South Humberside. She has reached Santander.

Today’s HMS Pickle is traditionally built schooner named after the celebrated Bermudan sloop HMS Pickle, which famously brought news of the victory at Trafalgar and of Nelson’s death to England. Little Pickle got the job because she was quick and handy, but from reading the original HMS Pickle’s Wikipedia entry she was involved in quite a number of remarkable exploits, including various captures and rescues.

To see her position on the route home, click here. Also, follow her progress on the official HMS Pickle Facebook page.