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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


Mounted on my wall at home is a sextant. It is not an especially old or valuable one. Made from brass and steel, it was manufactured by Heath and Co of London in the 1950s, and still works well. The advent of modern marine navigation aids have made it largely redundant. It never fails to attract the attention of visitors, whether they have an interest in the sea or not. Some are drawn to the precision of its engineering, others to the elegant shape, with its curving scale and polished mirrors. The design is so perfect for its task (measuring the angle of celestial objects above the horizon) that it has barely changed in two hundred and fifty years. If James Cook was to walk through my front

The Battle of Copenhagen

On the 2nd of April 1801, Nelson fought the second of his major fleet actions against the Danish fleet in the shallow waters of The Sound off Copenhagen. It was one of his hardest battles, and saw him come close to defeat. Tensions had been building with the Baltic powers over the British policy of intercepting and inspecting neutral shipping, to ensure that it was not bound for France or Spain. Trade with the Baltic was particularly important because many materials essential for ship building came from there, including tar, canvas for sails, and hemp for rope production. In 1800 France began a diplomatic offensive to encourage Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark to form a League of Armed Ne

The Fighting Temeraire

At the 1839 Royal Academy exhibition Joseph Turner revealed his most famous oil painting. It was a wonderful work, heavy with symbolism. It showed a Napoleonic warship being dragged to her doom at the breakers yard. To add to the indignity, the tug towing the old sailing ship was driven by steam, the power source that was starting to replace wind in the navy. The sun sets behind the ship (even though they are actually travelling westwards up the Thames) to underscore the era that is drawing to a close. The ship he chose to portray was HMS Temeraire, affectionately known to the public as The Fighting Temeraire. But veteran warships were being broken up on a regular basis in the 1830s, so why

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