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I publish them regularly on topics based around my enduring love for all matters maritime. I keep them short and light, so they should be no longer to read than the time it takes to drink a coffee. If you want to receive them, please subscribe below

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman was born in 1603 in a small village in rural Holland. Little is known about his early life, but this was a time when his country was rapidly becoming the great maritime power of Europe. Dutch merchant fleets were opening up the world, and the all-powerful Dutch East India Company was hungry for talented employees to serve in its empire amongst the Spice Islands of the Far East. By the late 1630s Tasman had a growing reputation as a sea captain, and had moved from Amsterdam to Batavia, the principle Dutch base in the region and the site of present-day Jakarta. The Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies was the ambitious Antony van Diemen who wanted to expand the Dutch Empire. H

The Raid on Santander

Napoleon Bonaparte was a military genius whose downfall came from two catastrophic errors of judgement. One, his decision to invade Russia in 1812, has been widely studied. But just as significant was his earlier decision in 1808 to depose the Spanish Royal Family and replace them with his brother Joseph. At a stroke he converted a willing Spanish ally into an implacable enemy. It triggered a savage and bitter war of resistance in the Iberian Peninsula that would sap away at French strength for years afterwards. It also provided Britain with a theatre where her army could fight the French on ground that played to her strengths. Apart from at the Pyrenees, Spain and Portugal are surrounded by


Boarding is when the crew of a ship attempt to capture another by forcing their way onboard. For much of naval history it has been the main way of resolving battles at sea. Ancient war galleys, such as those of the Greeks and Persians were armed with heavy rams to pierce the sides of an opponent, but they also carried soldiers and archers. This was because opportunities to ram were rare, and most sea battles degenerated into masses of ships locked together with soldiers jumping from one vessel to another. In the Roman navy a special ramp was designed, called a corvus, with twin steel spikes mounted in the end. A ship was manoeuvred alongside an opponent and the ramp was dropped onto the enem

Around the World with Woodes Rogers

In 1711, three worn-out ships limped up the river Thames and dropped anchor on the edge of London. Their patched sails and stained paintwork spoke of many months away from home. Two of the ships, the frigates Duke and Duchess were British privateers. The third, much larger ship was their prize. She was one of the fabled Spanish Manila galleons, the richest treasure ships afloat, captured on the far side of the world with a hold full of gold, silver and precious Chinese silks. The leader of this expedition was a West Country sea captain called Woodes Rogers. The late 17th and early 18th century was the golden age of piracy, with leaders like Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts and “Calico” Jack R

Admiral Rodney

What should the world make of Admiral George Rodney? On the one hand he was undoubtedly a vain, grasping, selfish man who actively supported the slave trade. On the other hand he promoted John Perkins, the Royal Navy’s first black commanding officer; saved thousands of lives by introducing lime juice into the diet of his men, and was one of the best admirals in the years before Nelson. He was born into a wealthy family in 1718, the third child of a captain in the marines. Two years later his father lost everything in the South Sea Bubble, leaving the young Rodney impoverished but with a life-long avarice for money. At the age of fourteen he joined the Royal Navy. This was a logical step for

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