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Thread: April: Between a rock and a hard Place

  1. #1
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    Default April: Between a rock and a hard Place

    Johan Puke was going up the steps to the Royal Palace in Stockholm dressed in his best uniform. The short blue wool coat had a worn silk lining but shining polished golden buttons. He was apprehensive of the meeting with His Majesty the King of Sweden, Gustav III. He had met him before and wasn't nervous about meeting the absolute ruler of Sweden, but this time he expected to be rewarded for his many successes and he was excited.

    It turned out he was disappointed. Not that he wasn't rewarded. The King did award him Knight of the Royal Order of the Sword and he was given a country house on Vikbolandet. He had recieved the yellow silk sash and retreated from the King with deep courtesies and a wide smile, but he felt betrayed. He had wanted a promotion, a ship of the line and perhaps even a squadron of his own. What good is a farm to a man longing for the sea?

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    When walking through the palace on his way out he passed by small groups of people, talking, raising glasses, laughing. Johan looked around and soon found a servant bringing champagne on a silver tray. He grabbed a glass and quickly drank it down. He took two more glasses before letting him be on his way. During his latest voyage the wine had spoilt. There had only been a few bottles that could be drunk out of two cases. Rather than drinking the same beer as the men, he had drunk water. Not having lost his sea legs compleately and qickly feeling the effect of the champagne he almost felt a little tipsy. It comforted him.

    "Gratulerar!" a voice said from behind, congratulating him. Turning he found Nordenskjöld with a raised glass. Johan raised one of his glasses in return and emptied it with an unimpressed look. "Johan af Puke", Nordenskjöld said emphasizing "af", continuing "Majoren verkar inte nöjd med sin utnämning." With a slight bow Johan answered, "Hans Majestät har hvalt att belöna mig med högre utnämningar än jag någonsin kunnat önska." with a half hearted try at diplomacy. The champagne made it come out more sarcastic than he wished. "Det vi vunnit af edra bedrifter är för värdefullt för att belöna eder med ett linjeskepp. Vilken dåre som helst kan icke göra mycken fel i en slaglinje, men en god fregattkapten är svår att ersätta." Nordenskjöld said shedding light on why his rewards had kept him a Major. The Navy needed a competent frigate captain more than wasting his skills on a ship of the line. "Jag äro tacksam för ert ärliga svar, Schoutbynacht!" Johan said bowing slightly and pausing shortly before mumbling to himself, "In i dimman." and emptying his other glass. Nordenskjöld choose not to correct him on his own recent promotion to Vice Admiral.

  2. #2
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    The dashing Captain, in his mid twenties, stood on the rail of the bulwark on the Swedish frigate HMS Sprengtporten of 24 guns, one hand holing a stay the other shading his eyes, leaning slightly out over the side of the ship. He was looking at what he thought to be at least a thousand troops being loaded onto a Russian 74 gun ship. There was also a 38 gun frigate escorting it and it was just setting sails, coming his way.

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    The captain's name was William Sidney Smith. He was a British captain who had as many others in peacetimes found employment in other navies to make a name for himself. He leapt into action. "Let's get going!" he shouted, continuing "We're no match for them and we need to warn the army." as he leapt down on deck and hurried back to the quarterdeck where the ansvarsstyrman asked "Vilken kurs... what course?" The captain brushed back some dark curls from his forehead and put on his hat that was handed to him by a skeppsgosse. "Keep us to windward of them. I want to see their heading before I tell you, but I have my suspicions."

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    For some time the larger Russian ships and the small Swedish frigate played a game of cat and mouse but Sidney was too cautious to be caught. Finally the Russian ships gave up and set their course. They were heading west hugging the southern coast of Finland. Sidney studied the map. He found what he was looking for. "If they land near Virojoki they could cut off a large part of the retreating Swedish army. That would most surely lead to a lot of casualties, possibly the destruction of an entire army corps." The ansvarsstyrman looked surprised at him. "I shared a glass with Gustaf Adolf von Siegroth" Sidney answered with a smile to his unspoken question. He still formed one with a troubled look, saying "We must warn the fleet... men det äro omöjligt att hinna i tid! How... how?" Sidney caught the meaning of it, even though his Swedish was very rudimentary, commenting "We have no choice. We will have to run the gauntlet of Trångsund, otherwise, as you said, we will never make it in time."
    Last edited by TexaS; 03-30-2019 at 08:41.

  3. #3
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    Sidney stood on the quarterdeck and studying the coast around him, comparing it to his map. The course between the Russian guns in their fortified positions had been carefully plotted out in his mind. Now he just had to put it into reality to make it through to the other side of the strait. The small ship cut through the water at full sails throwing a good bow wave, sometimes spraying the foredeck with cold water.

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    His plan took HMS Sprengtporten close to the coast to try to stay out of the reach of the guns of the fortification in the middle of the straight.

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    "We need to get closer to the coastline." Sidney told the ansvarsstyrman. "Closer?" he replied surprised, continuing "We are already very close and at full sails!" Looking straight ahead he turned to the helmsman and said "Rorsman, roder midskepps!"

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    Without measuring the speed his experienced guess was ten knots and taking that into consideration he estimated the turning speed. Looking at the coast and the fortified little island, glancing at his watch, he hesitated for a few seconds before giving the order "Three points to starboard!". "Tre streck till styrbord!" the ansvarsstyrman repeated to the rorsman. "You see! The fort on the cliffs above us can't depress their guns enough."

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    As Sprengtporten came closer to the high cliffs of the island ahead the winds off the cliffs shifted the course of the small frigate and brought it out towards the centre of the straight, bringing her into the the arcs of the fortifications.

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    As the little frigate came into the range of the guns of the fortifications they fired, both the fort in the middle of the straight and the fortification on the high coastline behind them bore. The thunder of the guns echoed between the rocky sides of the straight startling hundreds of birds that took to the skies. The Russian gun crews were experienced men ready for the approaching frigate, but they were not used to it's speed and certainly hadn't seen riding the winds off the cliffs before. The shots fell mostly behind the quick little ship but a few heavy balls struck her hull doing some damage and sending splinters flying. Sidney shouted "Take in sails and prepare for a hard larboard turn." trying to overcome the rumbling echoes of the gun fire.

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    "Wait for it" Sidney told the rorsman directly, holding up his hand. HMS Sprengtporten sailed around the high cliffs of the island and into view came the final big fort with a lot of heavy guns that were just waiting for their target become visible. Sidney looked at the approaching guns of the final fortification. They were heavy guns. Then the larboard bulwark exploded in a shower of splinters.

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    A piece of wood, over two foot long, struck Sidney on his left leg and almost knocked him down. It hit sideways and although painful the leg turned out to not have been broken. Not all had been so lucky. A jungman was almost cut in two by a cannonball not more than a few yards away from Sidney and the högbåtsman had a wooden splinter jutting out of his chest. He was taken below with it still in Place, while the jungman was given to the sea. Sidney had no time for regrets. The next order came without hesitation. "Hard larboard! Do not get too close to that battery. If we touch, we die!" He gestured wildly to rorsman who turned the wheel as quick as he could.

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    Steadying himself Sidney stared at the heavy guns of the battery, not more than a pistol shot away. Compared to his own Swedish 12 skålpund guns, they looked huge. He thought they looked to be at least as the 32 pounders that he knew from the lower deck of heavier ships of the line. At least. His thoughts touched the familiar numbers. HMS Sprengtporten had a broadside weight of 144 skålpund. It equalled a broadside of 135 pound, which was still good for its size, but that weight was only four of those guns. Now he faced at least four times that. The order "Full sails!" was immediately followed by "Sätt segel!"

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    The Russian gunners worked their huge guns hard, trying to catch HMS Sprengtporten in a second salvo. Even though the sails were set in a flash and drew in seconds in the brisk winds could not escape the guns of the fortification in time.

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    Once again the guns of the fortification roared, spewing large flames from the muzzles, throwing their large cannonballs at the small ship delivering a devastating blow. To Sidney the hull seemed to shatter and the air filled with splinters. Men shrieked out in pain and blood coloured the deck red. Sidney blinked and shook his head trying to clear the ringing from his ears. He tried to assess the damage to his ship. He could see the sea through both sides of the hull, but most of the damage was above the waterline. They had been too close to the guns for them to depress the guns enough to sink her. The masts still stood in spite of damage to the rigging and she still gained speed.

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    "We made it! I hope to God it was worth it!" Sidney said with a sigh. He limped to what was left of the larboard bulwark and looked back at the fortifications.

    "We braved Trångsund to save the army. That's something you men can tell at every tavern you visit. And every man worth his salt should buy you the next drink. But this first one is on me." Sidney ordered schnapps to be served and stood proud on the quarterdeck trying to not show the pain he felt in his leg.

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    Last edited by TexaS; 11-04-2018 at 03:03.

  5. #5
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    Johan studied the heavily damaged ship. Suddenly a sharp pain hit him. He recognized his own old ship HMS Sprengtporten. He had sailed her to S:t Barthélemy a few years back. Even though she nearly sank due to damage from several storms back then, he had never seen her in a worse state. Setting a course to meet her Johan impatiently stood on the forecastle looking at his dear old ship.

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    As soon as they were within hailing distance he asked if they needed assistance using a speaking trumpet, "Behöfver ni hjälp?" The answer came a bit surprising, "Not us, but the boys on land do!" When the two ships came closer Sidney stood on the forecastle with a great smile and his left foot on the low railing, saying "We went through hell on earth to get here, and apparently sir, it's called Trongsound." Johan's surprise was evident, "William Sidney Smith!" he exclaimed "I've heard of you, but never had the pleasure. What… how… why…" With a short bow Sidney answered, "Please call me Sidney. We're trying to send warning about a Russian regiment sailing eastward, probably for Virojoki."

    The two ships heaved to and after further introductions Sidney told of how HMS Sprengtporten had braved the heavily fortified strait of Trångsund to deliver the report of the heavy frigate and the 74 gun ship overloaded with troops in time. Sprengtporten would continue on to warn the army of the threat, but suggested that if Johan could slow the ships down, it would make a world of difference. Johan who had heard of the ambitious young Brit agreed, but thought to himself, "Jag tänker banne mig göra mer än så. Armén är för långsam att agera." Bidding adieu to Sidney, Johan set all sails and was soon on his way to catch up with the troop transport.

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    Last edited by TexaS; 10-25-2018 at 15:19.

  6. #6
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    Johan reflected over the happy coincidence that he had happened upon the heavily damaged HMS Sprengtporten. The outcome of the entire war could depend on what happened next. The war was unpopular amongst many of the officers as was the coup d'état wherein Gustav III took power and turned the Country into an autocracy. Sweden had attacked Russia and a major set back could not only force a very unfavourable peace but even affect the standing of his Majesty himself. Much depended on Johan's success and besides, he didn't want to let Sidney's efforts to have been in vain.

    Planning his attack Johan made sure to have the weather gage. He had heard Sidney's description of how overloaded the 74 gun ship was and wondered if she could be fought at all. If she could, the broadside would still be very dangerous. There was also the presence of the escorting frigate. Thoughtfully and carefully not to break the brittle chalk pipe, Johan knocked it on the railing emptying it of ash and started packing it.

    As the Russian ships appeared on the horizon, HMS Venus was at the ready, her guns loaded and run out. Johan still gave the orders, "Klart skepp för drabbning!", "Sätt fulla segel!" ordering all sails to be set and he also ordered the course to be set three points to the larboard of the two Russian ships approaching against the wind on starboard tack. His aim was to get at the large 74 gun ship of the line carrying the troops while avoiding to fight the frigate at the same time.

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    Johan raised his looking glass. Studying them in turn Johan noted something worrying, he could see that the frigate had 38 guns but that some of them were carronades. He would have to make sure to never get close to it. He could not see anything unusual with the third rate, which worried him. He had once defeated a 74 gun ship of the line, but then he had had the help of a recently captured frigate of his own class. Together they had had more guns, albeit of lesser weight. Now that extra frigate was on the other side.

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    The Russian ships stayed on their tack even though they must have seen the Swedish frigate proudly flying it's colours. "Fem streck styrbord!" Johan ordered and rorsman turned the wheel. The new course took them closer to the rear of the line, closer to the ship transporting the troops.

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    Johan kept a watchful eye on the Russian ships looking for a sign that they would tack. They did, but it was too early for Venus to be able to take advantage of their predictable behaviour after tacking. He kept the course heading for the ship of the line.

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    Realising that the frigate would be higher in the wind Johan choose to fall off and prepare for a possible raking of the 74 gun ship. He called out "Minska segel! Ta in fock och storsegel! Roder hårt babord! Redo styrbords kanoner!" The nimble frigate turned quickly to its new heading while everyone who could watched the tacking Russian ships.

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    The range was still to long to be effective. Johan ordered a starboard turn to keep the broadside pointed at the ship of the line carrying all the troops and perhaps circling it to keep the frigate out of the fight as long as possible. The large tacking ship fell off from the wind and headed straight for Venus. All the Kanonbefäl that could see him looked expectantly at Johan waiting for the command to fire. As Johan judged the distance to be close enough he finally gave the order, "Fyr". The Swedish frigate fired a rolling broadside raking the large ship of the line.

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    As the smoke cleared Johan saw that the effect of the broadside was as expected when a frigate fires at a ship of the line at a quite long range. There were some hull damage and some casualties. He couldn't really see what damage they had inflicted on the bigger ship, but knew there would be much more needed to make them haul down their colours.

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    With the sound of their guns still ringing in his ears Johan ordered "Roder hårt babord" making the rorsman turn the wheel as fast as he could. Venus wore and she was followed by the two Russian ships. The men was sweating as they reloaded the warm guns in the warm summers day.

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    Ansvarsstyrman asked "Till vilken kurs, Kapten?" but Johan just held up his hand with his back turned looking at the Russian ships behind. The starboard guns were being run out again. He ordered "Redo babords kanoner!" Ansvarsstyrman shouted orders trimming the sails for the changing angles. As Venus started to bore up Johan saw both Russian ships also turning into the wind. The Russian frigate captain wasn't stupid, but had been put at a disadvantage by the overly eager ship of the line. Ansvarsstyrman shouted "Kapten?" as Venus was coming higher and higher into the wind. "Håll henne dikt bidevind!" Johan answered and rorsman spun the wheel as fast as he could to centre the rudder. The 74 bore up lining up her most forward guns as Venus fired her full broadside into the large ship.

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    The broadside hit high on the starboard side of the third rate and did some damage to the rigging too. Johan saw even from his low position that there were dead and wounded on the 74 but it still fired an answering salvoe hitting the hull of HMS Venus. One of the 6 skålpunds guns close to Johan was hit and the carriage was shattered spreading splinters but no one was wounded.

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    "Hårt styrbord!" Johan ordered Ansvarsstyrman while assessing the damage to his ship. "Inte så djävfla illa." Johan said to himself, "Om jag nu bara kan undvika den faan bakom så." feeling confident as long as he can avoid the frigate. He noted that it followed his every move.

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    "Roder midskepps" Johan ordered but cut the order short, "Håll där!" only easing the turn some, contemplating what he should do. "Vi får gå i lä. Redo styrbords kanoner!" he ordered instead, planning to move downwind.

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    The order "Roder hårt styrbord!" was given followed by "Öppna elden!" The large ship of the line was much closer now. It's intimidating broadside was close to bearing, but as Venus guns started to go off the Russian guns answered. Most of the Russian broadside fell behind the frigate but several hit the hull, sending deadly splinters flying. But the 24 skålpunds guns hit the 74 gun ship hard breaking up the planking.

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    "Ladda om!" Johan shouted ordering the guns to be reloaded. Johan assessed the situation. He realized he could not continue his cat and mouse game with the other frigate but decided to go between the two ships firing both broadsides. The ansvarsstyrman gave Johan an uncertain look, but he only nodded confidently. The frigate continued its tight turn bearing up and heading straight for the large ship.

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    The Russian ship of the line had turned the helm over and were turning larboard but the manoeuvrable Swedish frigate was already moving in to rake her stern.

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    Johan didn't have enough men to man the guns on both sides and he realized that the chance to rake the approaching frigate would present itself before the 74, but if he manned the guns on the starboard side that would risk not being able to fire at the optimum moment at the ship transporting the troops that could decide the war. "Redo babords bredsida!" Johan ordered, continuing "Förbered avfyrning av styrbords bredsida omedelbart efteråt!" making sure that the men knew to fire starboard broadside immediately after larboard broadside. A few of the aftermost guns fired into HMS Venus as she passed the chance to rake the Russian frigate, but passed closely to the stern of Царь Константин and then the guns started firing. From fore to aft the guns roared as they shattered the glass of the stern of Tsar Konstantin. As soon as the recoil had been handled the gun crews ran over to the starboard gun trying to get a shot off at the frigate, but not many could be trained around enough to fire.

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    Suddenly a small explosion rocked Venus. A bucket of lintstocks had been hit and embers showered the deck and two dropped prepared powder charges. When it exploded it started a fire amidships. Johan ordered all gun crews to concentrate on putting out the fire. Johan turned and looked at Tsar Konstantin and saw that the broadside had cut the mizzen mast below decks and it had fallen over. She also lay low in the sea, water pouring from the scuppers. Walking over to the starboard side he saw gaping holes in the hull of the Russian frigate.

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    "Roder midskepps." Johan said to ansvarsstyrman "Vi måste få den satans elden under kontroll!" He could see högbåtsman Brita order men to man the pumps and buckets with water were handed between crew members.

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    Looking back Johan could see the Russian ship of the line starting to sink. "Vårt uppdrag är avklarat." he declared the mission a success, but continued with wishing to get home too, "Låt os nu bara komma hem också."

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    The crew had been successful. The fires were put out and the men cheered. Johan wasn't as happy. The Russian frigate bore up and fired her foremost guns. The cannonballs hit the starboard bulwark and being damaged by fire it shattered widely spreading death among those celebrating. "Sätt fulla segel!" John ordered determined to out-sail the Russian frigate as it had lost momentum when it turned into the wind.

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    HMS Venus looked like a swan spreading it's wings as she also set studdingsails and staysails. Johan didn't even bother to reload the guns yet. He ordered repairs to be made to the hull and rigging to make sure they would get away.

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    The Russian frigate Брячислав made an fruitless attempt to follow Venus that had already reached almost ten knots and quickly outdistanced it.

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    Soon Briachislav abandoned the pursuit and returned to the sinking ship of the line to pick up survivors. There would be no landing of troops behind Swedish lines. The front was safe, for now.

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    Last edited by TexaS; 10-31-2018 at 09:54.

  7. #7
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    Bloody Hell man you went through hell and back literally. I thought for awhile you were a gonner but you persevered and got through.

    REP on its way.

  8. #8
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    There was one box left of hull and about half crew, but it was close. Very close.

    Thank you Neil.

  9. #9
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    Now the second part is finished too.

    And as a bonus a picture of what I drank to the game. It’s the rest of an opened bottle of port I had been given as a gift.

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    Great AAR, Jonas.

    The use ships look awesome.

  11. #11
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    Well worth waiting for that superb action Jonas.
    Once more intelligent handling of your ship proved Johan to be the victor.
    Your story line is also very compelling.
    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

  12. #12
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    Thank you very much Rob.

    I can hardly wait for posting the October story line. It was very interesting when I played and had the idea for that storyline.

    I'm notoriously slow at finishing these though...
    Last edited by TexaS; 10-23-2018 at 04:23.

  13. #13
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    And for everyone who's wondering about the upside down pictures... Most looking glasses of the time turned the picture upside down due to the construction. I was contemplating if I shold put them in there right side up or not, but went with the weird way.

  14. #14
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    I was very impressed with your upside down view Jonas. Correcting lenses were notorious for diminishing the light reaching the image as you will know.
    You may have noticed that my Captain is equipped with the latest Dolland achromatic lens which allows for the use of an intermediate correcting lens, but of course when you are in the pay of the HEIC you can afford such luxuriousness. Unfortunately the night scope is not so advanced.

    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

  15. #15
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    Mine I'm holding in my avatar picture is right side up with a correcting lens. That is a bit more modern though, at ca 1840. Johan in my stories is active in the 1789-1790 time span.

  16. #16
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    For those who do not know what the heck I'm rambling on about.


    John Dollond FRS (10 June 1706 – 30 November 1761)

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    He was an English optician, known for his successful optics business and his patenting and commercialization of achromatic doublets.


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    One of Dollond's telescopes in the White Hall of the Vilnius University Library


    Dollond was the son of a Huguenot refugee, a silk-weaver at Spitalfields, London, where he was born. He followed his father's trade, but found time to acquire a knowledge of Latin, Greek, mathematics, physics, anatomy and other subjects. In 1752 he abandoned silk-weaving and joined his eldest son, Peter Dollond (1730–1820), who in 1750 had started in business as a maker of optical instruments; this business went on to become Dollond & Aitchison. His reputation grew rapidly, and in 1761 he was appointed optician to the king.


    In 1758 he published an "Account of some experiments concerning the different refrangibility of light" (Phil. Trans., 1758), describing the experiments that led him to the achievement with which his name is specially associated, the discovery of a means of constructing achromatic lenses by the combination of crown and flint glasses, reducing or eliminating chromatic aberration (distortion due to colour fringes). Leonhard Euler in 1747 had suggested that achromatism might be obtained by the combination of glass and water lenses. Relying on statements made by Sir Isaac Newton, Dollond first disputed this possibility (Phil. Trans., 1753), but subsequently, after the Swedish physicist, Samuel Klingenstierna (1698–1765), had pointed out that Newton's law of dispersion did not harmonize with certain observed facts, Dollond began experiments to settle the question.
    Early in 1757 Dollond succeeded in producing achromatic refraction by the aid of glass and water lenses, and a few months later he made a successful attempt to get the same result by a combination of glasses of different qualities (see History of telescopes). For this achievement the Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal in 1758, and three years later elected him one of its fellows. Dollond also published two papers on apparatus for measuring small angles (Phil. Trans., 1753, 1754
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Thank you for that information.

    I hope it will illuminate more of the readers of this forum than just me.

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    Dollond first disputed this possibility (Phil. Trans., 1753), but subsequently, after the Swedish physicist, Samuel Klingenstierna (1698–1765), had pointed out that Newton's law of dispersion did not harmonize with certain observed facts, Dollond began experiments to settle the question.

    Hi Jonas
    I thought that you would be interested to know that it was one of your fellow countrymen physists that set Dolland on the right track towards his project's success.

    Rob.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Yes, we didn't have Newton, but we had a few of our own. Carl von Linné and Celcius comes to mind and where of that time I think...
    Last edited by TexaS; 10-24-2018 at 14:51.

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    I have to say that the ratlines of Sail of Glory look very nice, even more than Langton's.

    Jonas, what do you want me to tell you ... a very pretty game table full of a lot of scenography elements and very nice boats. You have done a good work in repainting and rigging . Just out of curiosity, what brand are the forts? The fort of manzanillo and the other one I know where they are from but the other two do not.

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    The fort Trekroner, the last one, and Chapus, the other one in the water are from Langton.

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    Very well done Jonas!

    Very nice wreck model. Is it a SoG model or one of the Langton wrecks? Your terrain and forts are also spot on. I have the Langton Trekroner for a Battle of Copenhagen scenario I did in 1/2400 scale many years ago.

    Perhaps most importantly how was the port?

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    The port was exquisite. It was very balanced with lots of fine nuances. I'm glad you asked. Ten out of ten. Would drink again!

    About the wreck, I made it from left overs of a SoG model.
    https://sailsofglory.org/content.php...o-make-a-wreck

    Here's why I got left overs...
    https://sailsofglory.org/showthread....orten)-a-ship)

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