Flying Kites – H.M.S. Surprise Under Royals and Stunsails


Jack Aubrey’s favorite command in light Mediterranean airs. This superb new image illustrates the cover of “The 26-Gun Frigate Surprise” – Geoff Hunt’s new book in collaboration with Brian Lavery. Patrick O’Brian was inspired by the history of the 6th Rate 24 gun SURPRISE, which started life as the French L’UNITE, captured in 1796 by HMS INCONSTANT. Her plans survive in the National Maritime Museum. She was 126 feet long on the gundeck; 31ft 8in. beam; 579 tons; and registered as a 28-gun ship although she actually carried twenty-four 32-pounder carronades on her main deck, and eight 32-pounder carronades on her quarterdeck and forecastle, with two or four long 6-pounders for chasers, making 36 guns!

The SURPRISE gained renown in 1799 when Captain Hamilton recaptured the Hermione from the Spaniards, who were in possession after a group of mutineers brought her into Puerto Cabello. In a daring cutting-out expedition, six boats from Surprise recaptured the Hermione in the night, and towed her out to sea.

Captured French Frigates was much sought after by the English seamen because of their speed and maneuverability. Because of the very streamlined design of the hull below the water line these French frigates could outrun most other ships in the lightest of winds.

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