Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Indispensible Fleet.

At last, we have come to the fleet that you must have in a Age of Sail collection.  Yes, here is the British fleet.  No matter what other navy from this period you might have, at some point they fought against the British.  The Russian Navy that cooperated with the British (and Ottomans!) in 1798 would be blockaded in Lisbon by the British in 1808.  Sometimes, the British fought their enemies and allies at the same time.  As an example, see the Anglo-Russian War (1807-1812) and the Anglo-Swedish War (1810-1812).  No acts of war occurred between Great Britain and Sweden, trade continued between the two nations, AND the British navy kept using Swedish ports.  Nevertheless, the Swedes did declare war against their former allies.  Clearly then, if you are going to play French Revolution or Napoleonic AOS scenarios, then you need a British fleet.

With all that in mind, here is my British fleet.  Keep in mind that even with all these ships, it is still growing as I progress towards completing my Trafalgar project.  The future ships will be seen on the blog as they're completed of course.  Maybe in the future, I can revisit this post and get all of the family together in one place.

The obvious ships to start with are the First Rates.  Of course, one of them is HMS Victory.  I suspect there is a law somewhere that says every wargamer's British fleet has to have Nelson's flagship.  The other one is HMS Britannia, also a 100 gunner and a near-contemporary to Victory as to when she was constructed.  Victory was purchased, but I repainted the hull and did some rerigging when I rebased the ship.  If you want better close-ups of Britannia, they are located in my post entitled, "The Hundredth Ship" from September of 2017.  Given the number of ships in this post, I will be grouping them together in pictures as much as I can. 

Yes, the Victory is way too high out of the water.  That will be fixed the next time she
is rebased.  When is that?  Dunno.
Victory towing the boats was based on the Geoff Hunt painting "Victory races Temeraire
for the Enemy Line."  I added those to the ship when I rebased it the first time.
Next are that British anomaly, the Second Rates.  These are the 90-98 gunners.  According to Brian Lavery's book Nelson's Navy they were originally conceived in the 1670s as a cheaper alternative to the first rate.  By our time, they had no specific role and their shorter length compared to a first rate made them poor sailors so they were (according to Lavery) in decline as a class.  Be that as it may, there were 21 in the fleet in 1793, and 17 by 1812.  I have three 98s, and still have to pick up one more for Trafalgar.  I couldn't get all three into one shot, so each of these gets their own beauty shot.

First up is HMS Windsor Castle.  She was an active ship, seeing service at Toulon (1793), the Battle of Genoa (1795), Calder's Action (1805), the Action of 25 September (1806) and the Dardanelles (1807).  Unfortunately, it appears that Langton doesn't make this ship any more.

One of my early efforts, so in need of a little update now.
I did have a bit steadier hand back then.
  The next two ships are just generic 98s, both of which are "at quarters."  They are more time consuming to paint with all the guns run out, but you just can't beat the appearance.

This is one of my older bases that were built of wood and modelling clay.
You can clearly see here what I mean about having the guns run out.

This is a purchased ship.

Next up are the backbone of any fleet, the third rates.  Since I don't have any British 80 gunners, we'll start with 74s.  Officially, there were only 2 types of 74: Large and Common classes.  Gamers and the historian William James though, talk about 3 types: Large, Common and Middling.  The Middling 74 tends to be slightly longer than the Common (173-75 feet instead of 168-170 feet), and so could carry 2 more 18 pounder guns on the upper gun deck (30 instead of 28).  Large class 74s could carry 24 pounders on the upper gun deck, but didn't always do so.  The two ships below are my Large class 74s:

The ship on the left side of both photos is purchased.

Next are the 74 Middlings.  All three of these ships were purchased, but I had to reinstall the mizzenmast on the center one, so took that opportunity to repaint the hull.

The photos below are of my 74 Common class ships, which are the backbone of any British battleline, especially for the early battles.  At the beginning of 1793 there were 3 x Large 74's, 4 x Middling 74's and 54 x Common 74's in the fleet, although many of these were in ordinary.  By 1805 there were 24 x Large 74's, 11 x Middling 74's and 32 x Common 74's on the register, and a great many of them were in service.  So, no matter what year you're looking at, you need a lot of Common class 74 gunners.

All three of these are purchased.

The ship on the right in these photos is one of the first British 74's I built after I got back into Age of Sail gaming; maybe even the first.    One thing is for sure, though: I built it before I had a lot of my reference works, as the picture below will demonstrate:
See if you can spot the error.  It's REALLY easy.
Yes, that is a red painted gundeck.  No, apparently I didn't know any better almost 20 years ago.  Why don't I correct it?  Well, I think 1) it's a good reminder of how far I've come, and 2) no one has ever said anything about it.  To be honest, it's probably more the second reason since I'm kind of lazy in that regard.

The third rates wrap up with my 64 gun ships.  I have two of these, and a French 64 that often stands in when needed.  The French 64 was pictured in those fleet photos, so this will be just the two British ones.

Once again, the one on the left is purchased.

The right hand ship is HMS Agamemnon, which was featured in the
post entitled, "HMS Agamemnon; Nelson's Favorite..." back in July of 2017.

The last ship of the line type is another peculiarity of the British Navy and that's the Fourth Rate.  These are the 50 gun ships that had no place in the line of battle, or even fighting another ship of the line (see: ).  They were useful as squadron flagships in peacetime and as patrol vessels in wartime, which is why there were 19 in service in 1793, and 14 as late as 1812.

She's cute enough, but do the bigger ships pick on her when no one's looking?

Now that the ships of the line are out of the way, we come to the frigates.  There's not as many of them as there are ships of the line so they will each get their own beauty shot.  Just like the other ships, I will start with the largest and work my way down.

A purchased 40 gun frigate.

A 38 gunner, the backbone of the frigate fleet by 1813.

A purchased 36.  There were 43 of this type on the list in 1805.

Another 36.  This ship was the star of those "What Is My Time Worth" posts.

A purchased 32.  Most of my frigates are from a collection I bought when I
started AoS gaming again in 2000 or 2001.

A purchased 28 gun frigate.

To close out the post, here are a couple of ships that I suspect get no love at all from most gamers.  Those are the transports.  In real life, these were 44 gun two deckers like HMS Serapis that were converted for transport and troopship duties.  Although there were 21 of them in 1793, they were practically extinct by 1815.  If you want to run early war scenarios in places like the Caribbean though, you're going to need some.  I have two, and could need more depending on the scenario.

As you can see, this one still tries to look at least a little like a warship.

This one, however, isn't even trying anymore.

So there, at last, is my British fleet.  I think the next big post after this will be the various unrated warships that can be used for any side.  After that, future ships will show up as individual posts.  Once the Trafalgar project is finished, perhaps I will do a series of posts about each of the fleets involved for that, with pictures of all those ships together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Brief Interlude 4: How to Win a Medal

Some of the people who visit my blog may also visit my friend Stew's blog, entitled: A Terrible Loss of Lead and Wealth. If you haven't, I suggest you drop by.  The address is:   He has some really nice looking ships, and is a generally all around good  guy.  How do I know he's a good guy?  Well, his March 7 blog entry entitled "Shipping disaster" bears it out.

If you haven't read it (and I suggest you do) it tells the story of how his 4-year-old daughter stepped up on his box of sailing ships and sent it flying.  Furthermore, there are pictures of the carnage, so consider this a trigger warning before you go.  The part of that post that I thought was particularly wonderful was when he says:

In a calm voice,  "What did I just say..."
My wife says I'm father of the year for not loosing it.   

When I showed it to my wife and said that I don't think I would have been that calm, she laughed at me.  Then she said that our grandchildren (and probably everyone else) would have run away from me in tears.  I suspect know she's right.

A level of calm as high as Stew's deserves some recognition.  So, I bought him one of these:

Stew earned his and it was an excuse for me to buy myself one, so I'm not completely altruistic here. There's also a homemade (but very nice, IMO) certificate:

No pension though.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The First Unicorn

As mentioned in the "Unicorn Hunting" post, one of my goals for this year is to try and finish some ships that have been languishing for several years now.  The reasons are varied, but I've finally decided that if nothing else, they can serve in capacities other than what their hulls would indicate.  So, with that in mind, here are some pictures of the First Unicorn, the USS North Carolina.

According to Canney's Sailing Warships of the US Navy, the ship was laid down in June 1816, and was commissioned by 18 December 1824, so 8 years and 6 months before she was put into use.  By comparison, mine took from September 2014 to March 2018, or 3 years and 6 months.  If we use Canney as a benchmark, I flew through building my version. 😀  According to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships (DANFS, the online address is: ), North Carolina was laid down in 1818, launched on 7 September 1820, and got her first captain on 24 June 1824.  That's only 6+ years, so even by those real world standards I'm still doing pretty good.  That's enough self-congratulations for right now I think, so let's move on to some photos of the new model.  First though, a plan of the original ship:
I saw an online comment that said this ship looks like the Constitution on steroids.  Maybe....

Remember, this is officially a 74-gun, 2 deck ship of the line.

The sails obscure just how flat the ship is.  No waist, or
stacking of decks here. Just one cabin above the spar deck.

This earlier photo gives a better idea of what I mean.

Pretty enough, but in a very practical, almost brutal, way.  I think it's
due to the ship being mostly black and white.
I did have a bit of a problem on deciding how to paint the masts.  Paintings and models show a number of different ideas.  There are white masts with black hoops:

Or, white masts with white painted mast hoops:

This model is at the USS North Carolina (BB-55) memorial
at Wilmington, NC (
And in some cases, black masts with white hoops:

The last picture was painted in 1827 and was probably commissioned by one of the ship's officers.  So, it's possibly the most correct.  However, I didn't think this looked very good on the model (too much black), so went with the white mast/black hoop combo.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, North Carolina wasn't commissioned until 1824, so will never fight under US colors except in some sort of "what if" scenario.  Given her paint job and distinctive appearance, it's almost certain that she will be impressed into the Russian navy as a 74 for various scenarios.  Either way, the first unicorn is finished, and others will be following

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Paper Anniversary

One year ago today,  I uploaded the first post to this blog.  Hard to believe that it's been a year since I first welcomed people aboard this little bragfest about my hobby.  It's perhaps even harder to believe that people keep coming back, and some have even signed on to follow my ramblings about toy sailing ships.  A tip of the bicorne  to all of you who come by, even if you don't leave comments.  I assure you, all of your visits are appreciated.

There have been a few visitors, to be sure.  As of 3/06/2018, there have been 8,483 visitors to the blog.  Unfortunately, the Blogger statistics do not separate out my views from everyone else, so I know some of those are mine but not how many.  What the Blogger stats do tell me is where the visitors come from, and that is quite interesting.  Most pageviews come from the US, as you might expect, followed by the UK and Belgium respectively, with Australia coming in fourth place and Ireland at fifth.  Interestingly enough, the audience is evenly split between English speaking countries and other ones.  Poland is sixth on overall pageviews, Spain is seventh, Germany is eighth and France comes in at tenth place.  If you look at the monthly or weekly breakdowns, then things get really interesting.  For the month of February 5 to March 6 2018,  I had 20 pageviews from Switzerland.  That is probably the one I least expected, as even the 19 visits from Russia could be because I posted photos of my Russian ships.

Another thing the stats let me see is which posts are the most popular for a given period. As of 3/06/2018, the most popular post contains the photos of my French fleet, with 245 views.  What's interesting though, is that the second most popular post are my thoughts about getting into ACW ironclads.  That one has 220 views.  Of the other posts in the top 10, 4 of them are from the "What Is My Time Worth?" series that I did about how long it takes to build a ship.  In terms of popularity, those are ranked below:

  4) Part 7: Final Thoughts
  5) Part 5: Standing Rigging
  9) Part 4: Painting and Installing the Masts
10) Part 2: Fitting and Filing

I'm not too sure why those entries out of the seven made the top ten, and so will just leave it right there.  I'd certainly appreciate any opinions in the comments.

While I appreciate everyone who visits the blog (as I said earlier), there are some people out there that I owe an extra thanks to.  At the time of this posting, I have a total of 5 followers.  Now, I know that's not a lot compared to other people.  However, I'm impressed that there are 5 people out there who enjoy my scribbling enough to actually sign up for them, as opposed to just dropping by now and again.  I would name them, but I think there might be 1 or 2 that wouldn't appreciate it.  So, let me raise a toast to my 5 followers:   .  You really are appreciated more than you can imagine.

For this coming year, I will be adding a page with reviews of books that I think are useful for Age of Sail gamers.  There will also be a page on how squadrons maneuver, using the Post Captain rules as a basis.  I also need to finally get pictures of the British fleet up, while playing more games and taking photos of them.  Of course, pictures of my new ships as they are built are just a given.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed this brief peek under the hood of how the blog has done this last year.  If anyone has questions that I didn't answer or touch on, feel free to ask me in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.