Horatio's Rules for the SeaRoad Trip
by Archer's Aim
Summary: Take three tired people. Stick them in a multi-hour traffic jam on the highway. Let them start discussing road trips and Hornblower. This is what you get. Thank you Horatio for helping us stay awake long enough to make it home!
To: The Authors and Editors of Nore's Complete Book of Seamanship
From: Horatio Hornblower, Lieutenant, Indefatigable
After several years serving in His Majesty's Navy, and following my recent return from a prolonged and unpleasant trip to Muzillac, France, I have come to the conclusion that your volume, Nore's Complete Book of Seamanship, does not adequately address the problems encountered by British seamen when on a searoad trip. I have therefore drafted this proposed chapter for inclusion in a revised version of Nore's, and humbly submit it to you for your consideration.
Vessels Should Always Be Inspected Before Embarking On A SeaRoad Trip.
A seaman should follow the same rule as all other travelers, and make a thorough inspection of the vessel in which he proposes to travel. You should first examine every aspect of the vessel, and in particular should check the area below the waterline for any gaping holes. The presence of such holes is a sure indication of at least one unanticipated, but necessary, repair stop during the trip.
Second, you should ascertain whether the vessel has sufficient accommodation for all passengers, and more importantly, whether those accommodations will meet the expectations of the passengers. I suggest that, as a precaution, a simple note be sent to the passengers describing the vessel and its cabin dimensions, which may prevent such situations as a Duchess embarrassing herself, and you, by telling everyone around you that she cannot even turn around in the cabin assigned her, and could she possible have your cabin instead?
Remember, following this simple rule before embarking on a trip will keep you and your passengers from finding yourself traveling in a substitute vessel/rowboat, which is ill equipped to handle the number of men crammed into it. (Such cramped quarters are never a desirable experience unless you are a university student from America who has been dared to see how many people you can fit in a rowboat at one time!)If Possible, Make The Passengers Leave Their Pets At HomeDetermine ahead of time whether the passengers are bringing any pets with them. Can your vessel provide sufficient space for those pets? If unable to convince the passengers to leave their beloved or needed pets at home, I advise you to limit the passengers to no more than one pet per trip. The pets in those situations tend to be large, smelly animals that require massive amounts of tending by other passengers, thus deriving them of the pleasures to be experienced in an ocean-going voyage. If forced to transport such animals, please require the owner to provide his or her own labor to care for them. Particularly if the pets are horses. Or cowpets. Never get on a vessel if it contains cowpets.
Of course, this rule will not apply to anyone senior to you in the Service.
Question your crew as to their likes and dislikes for certain animals, and then assign them duties accordingly. In particular, be certain you know your crew's culinary tastes, and if one of them has a fondness for any meal featuring a passenger's (or captain's) pet, send that crewman ashore and leave him there! It will prevent unpleasantness later, when you are forced to separate the seaman from his proposed meal in order to keep your passenger/captain happy.Double Check Your Emergency Equipment And Carry Spares!As part of your vessel's inspection, you should ensure that all necessary equipment is both present and in good working order. Sails should be (if possible) relatively new and untorn, cables should not be tangled and all wood should be free from rot. Make sure your accommodations, such as (hopefully) the captain's cabin, are equipped with the necessary items maps, charts, compass, sexton, firm and comfortable bed (a non-lumpy cot may have to suffice), food free from weevils (at least at the start of the trip), and lots and lots of wine. Then ensure that no one absolutely no one gets access to the cabin or your stores, and that no one shares the accommodations with you. Although you may have to share them with a cannon. Fortunately, cannon do not snore.
On a final note on this matter, I recommend carrying two essential items with you at all times a spare compass tucked into your waistcoat (in case the ship's compass is accidentally dropped over the side of your substitute vessel!) and spare balls for your pistol. Lots of spares. And make certain your pistol is always loaded. You never know when you may need it to deal with the passengers.Always Review The Past Records Of Your Proposed Traveling CompanionsAlways, always, always review your passengers' background. Always. I cannot stress this rule more highly.
A seaman cannot always select the passengers with whom he travels. But you can ensure that you are prepared for any difficulties your traveling companions may pose by knowing their backgrounds! Learn their names, talk to former traveling companions and most definitely inspect their luggage (a sharp instrument such as a guillotine will provide many clues to your passenger's past history and current state of mind). This information will prevent two major spoilers of a successful and happy searoad trip worry and ruined onshore tours.
First, knowing all about your passengers will prevent unnecessary worry and mental strain on your part. For example, if you are aware that your passenger is not truly a Duchess, but an actress posing as a Duchess, who nevertheless is true blue and loyal to Britain, you will not need to spend endless days worrying that the top-secret dispatches you entrusted to her that are currently hidden in her underwear will be turned over to the enemies of Britain.
Second, such knowledge will enable you to plan onshore tours that both run smoothly and pose no threat of harm to your passengers. If you know that one of your passengers, despite being a high-ranking member of the French aristocracy, is crazy as a loon, hated by all his former neighbors, and harbors delusions that he can break a world-record for most people guillotined in a single afternoon, you will not be tempted to plan a day trip to his hometown! And therefore, said passenger will not be overrun by a hoard of angry neighbors who promptly place his head into his own guillotine. Losing a passenger in such circumstances tends to upset everyone else on the trip, and it definitely does not look good on your record.Bring Sufficient Toys To Occupy Your Passengers' Time During The TripIt is important, on a road trip, to keep your passengers happy and quiet. This is particularly true when on a searoad trip, where the passengers do not have the advantage of changing scenery to occupy them. Therefore, it is essential that you ensure the passengers (and you!) have enough toys to occupy their spare time, so that they do not become bored and then bother you with questions.
Toys need not be elaborate, nor need they be ones for solitary use. A set of captured French uniforms will keep a Duchess quite content playing dress-up with some (preferably off-duty) crewmen. And if you have several military passengers (such as a heroic French general, a British Earl who happens to be a Major in the Army, and a slightly erratic French aristocrat with pretensions of military ability), you can simply provide a map and a proposed mission, then sit back and watch them argue endlessly over the best way to conquer a small village with no known military defenses. Not only will the discussion keep them busy the resulting arguments will provide considerable amusement for yourself and your men (however, be careful not to be drawn into the argument and then assigned to the position of liaison/arbiter!).
When all else fails, and the passengers are bored with their toys, you can allow them to come on deck and take the air. Challenge them to attempt seagoing tasks. Once again, their efforts, while game, will provide much amusement for you and your crew. However, I suggest not allowing them to be on deck while attempting to travel through less-than-desirable neighborhoods. Particularly if the passenger is a Duchess with a loud voice that may attract attention to your presence, resulting in your relocation to a prison separate from that passenger. (See my previous note regarding losing a passenger.)Always Preview Your Shoreside Accommodations and Onshore TripsYou should never ever take the word of travel agents (particularly the ones working for the Admiralty) about the safety of various trip destinations or the comfort of accommodations. I do not know why, but I and many others! have found their suggestions to not always be reliable. Thus, verify their statements and suggestions by independent means, if possible. Stop in the local tavern and, while hoisting a few, question your fellow seamen about their recent trips (this is best done once you've bought them at least two rounds, as the drinks will loosen their tongues and provoke more honest responses to your questions).
In particular, check the status of any foreign port you intend to visit, and book your inn and day-trips accordingly. If, for example, someone mentions that a man in the market at a particular port ran toward him, cried out and fell down dead, this is a strong indication that a trip to this port might not be in the best interests of yourself or your passengers. Otherwise, you may not be able to return to your own vessel, and may end up stuck on a less than clean substitute vessel with someone's cowpets.
And if someone describes how they found "these interesting" souvenirs, such as an French army cap, broken-down wagon and other bits and pieces of an army on the move change your plans. At once. Unless ordered to go by higher authority. In which case, invest in a lot of life insurance, and pray if you have the inclination.
And should your accommodations prove to be less than satisfactory (as in a bare stone-walled room with barred windows and flea-ridden mattresses holding three instead of lush "comfortable, clean individual rooms with wide open windows overlooking the sea") do not despair. Remember, they are only accommodations for sleeping. You can always escape (I hope!) to the outside and enjoy your surroundings, taking long walks with fellow passengers along a pristine beach, or watching maneuvers by the local military designed to demonstrate their superiority (or lack thereof) over another nation's forces.
Most importantly, make friends with the locals. This will keep your accommodations and enjoyment of the trip from sliding even further downhill (say, into a hole in the earth). Local residents will be able to provide you with adequate warnings of danger, especially if you charm them with your gentlemanly and honorable behavior. Just try to leave them at their home when you leave, so as to not spoil your memory of the trip by an unfortunate accident to your new friend(s).Sample Local Cuisine Carefully!Half the fun of traveling is the opportunity to experience the cuisine native to the lands at which you have just arrived. However, you should not just wander into the nearest tavern and begin ordering off the menu! Observe the area's inhabitants, and what foods they enjoy eating. Then order the same.
This simple rule will prevent you from consuming such things as oatmeal gruel that your Spanish host mistakenly ordered two years ago, and that he has been unable to fob off on the local population. Good manners and some weapons pointed at you may require that you eat such food without complaint, and once you do, your host will continue feeding it to you, on the assumption that you find the meal enjoyable.
Forget good manners. Simply refuse to eat it, give an accurate description of its taste to your host, and hope for better food later (like some nice Spanish fruit).Have An Answer Ready For The Question, 'Are we there yet?'Ah, the age-old question, heard by parents, captains and stage-drivers everywhere. I will start this section by cautioning you to always check the weather conditions before leaving on your journey. In particular, be aware if the report calls for fog. Fog is not good. Especially if you must travel through certain highly um, unsafe areas. (Like the entire coast of France that will inevitably lie in the path of any searoad trip you take these days.)
I observe that, if you provide a passenger an explanation, using difficult navigational and mathematical concepts, proving that you have another two weeks to travel before arriving at your destination, your time has generally been wasted, particularly when the passenger has had a chance to look at the chart and believes your ship need only sail, say, another one week to arrive in port. Therefore, follow one of my primary rules when dealing with passengers, willing or otherwise, and directions lie.
Simply re-arrange the chart to show at least one extra week's sailing time to your destination than currently expected. Place your vessel in a spot just slightly different from its true location. Then, allow your passengers ample time to inspect the chart, on the sly, without giving any indication to them that you are aware of their actions. When a passenger asks you 'Are we there yet?', tell him the true amount of time remaining in the voyage. Placidly smile at him when he informs you that there is no way you can sail your ship the remaining distance in that amount of time.
When you arrive in port according to your statements, you will look like a hero to your passengers, who will praise you to the Admiralty (thus ensuring further promotion). Moreover, this rules also affords you the opportunity to handle another searoad trip problem.Remember, Everyone Has An Opinion And Likes To Give DirectionsAll men have no problem with directions. Not asking for them, of course as men, we know that no true man seaman or other ever asks another person for directions. But rather, volunteering directions. Seamen, just like their land-dwelling brethren, have no problem volunteering directions, particularly when their suggestions allowed them to point out that the person currently in charge of the vessel is, say, an imbecile who doesn't know where he's going and will land them in the middle of the French fleet, without actually calling that person an imbecile. However, by following the above rule, the passenger will not have a reliable location for the vessel on which he is journeying.
Thus, when he offers directions to you suggesting, say, a change in course at the next cove in the coastline, and that cove fails to materialize when he expects it, you will have the opportunity to smile smugly while exhibiting your superior knowledge of the coastline and the ocean currents (in other words, provide a not-necessarily-correct-or-true explanation as to where and why you are not where he thinks you ought to be). The passenger will hang his head in shame and slink away, muttering about the failures of mapmakers to correctly reflect the features of the coastline. You should not be bothered by him again.
Unless, of course, the passenger is trapped with you in an inadequate substitute vessel, due to the inability of your previous vessel to continue the journey, in which case the passenger will subside into a sulking mood, which may turn dangerous later, particularly if he has access to weapons and has had to ensure several hours of scornful and snide remarks about his skills from his fellow passengers.
Which is why you should always follow the first rule above, and check your vessel before sailing. And keep a loaded pistol to hand.
I hope these rules have been of some enlightenment to you, and will provide assistance to other seamen trapped in the same circumstances in which I have found myself in the past.