Friday, October 29, 2010

Encounter at Sea

Balearic Sea, 10th August 1713

The small Catalan convoy had sailed off Sant Feliu de Guíxols harbour in direction to Barcelona, transporting a couple hundreds of French prisoners and a battalion of Mountain Fusiliers, under escort of the "Sant Francesc de Paula" warship. Their raid on Sant Feliu de Guíxols had been a complete success, and it seemed it would be a quiet journey back home. But at a short distance from the Catalonian capital city, a lookout gave a warning voice, that a Spanish fleet had been sighted sailing in their same direction, following a slightly convergent route to theirs own. Short time later, when both groups of ships were close enough, they found that what had been taken as a hostile squadron was actually another convoy, which consisted mostly of coastal ships and barges.

However, the Catalan warship captain Josep Tauler was not reassured at all, because he soon discovered that the Spanish convoy was escorted by two war galleys. He knew very well it would be a mistake underestimating galleys due to, in spite of their apparently fragile appearance, their ability to maneuver contrary to wind and their front guns made them deadly predators of sailing ships -even those heavily armed. It was not uncommon for a galley to cut into pieces a reckless 4th rate warship, so that their ship could be a fairly easy prey for two determined and well coordinated galleys.

Therefore, he breathed deep when it was found that the Spanish ships started an evasive maneuver to escape and avoid contact with them. Perhaps he wouldn't have felt so happy if had known the Spanish convoy load: a full infantry battalion, recently evacuated from the Savoy border with destination to the port of Peniscola.


abdul666 said...

At least the Galatan ships and men were not lost: only a slight and momentary advantage for the Hispanians, maybe.

Indeed in 1684 the French warship Le Bon fought victoriously against 35 galleys, but she was heavier, and by far, than a mere brigantine, did not have a convoy to protect nor an enemy convoy to hunt down!

Hyronimous I said...

And don't forget the Lion Couronne with 26 cannons, she withstood the attack of eleven galleys in 1651 ;)

Soldadets said...

It depends on a nuber of factors, of course: captains skills, weaponry of the galley... besides of the fact that there was some tendence to call "galley" to almost any thing on oars...

The 'leit-motif' behind this scene is allowing readers to realize that attacking a couple of war galleys was a highly hazardous endeavour -even for an uparmed 36-guns brigantine like our 'St. Francesc de Paula'. Her apparently overhelming artillery power was by no means a guarantee of success, face to a couple of highly maneuvrable, low-profiled oarships, whose artillery was concentrated at bow -the movement direction.

Indeed, I must point that in our campaign thew Catalan player chose to attack the Spanish convoy. My own election, as Two Crowns player, was evasion... and dice determined the Spanish maneuvre to succeed :)