Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

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SteveSilver
Able Seaman
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:06 pm

Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Post by SteveSilver »

Hello all,

I'm looking for information on the route a British frigate might take from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia in late fall or late spring of 1810. Some of my sources say they would touch at the Azores, yet some suggest they would cross directly. Any help (and especially references) would be sincerely appreciated.
Steve
"A favourable wind and a willing enemy"
jon_ystrad
Petty Officer
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2021 11:54 pm

Re: Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Post by jon_ystrad »

I am pretty certain that the force sent out in 1760 went directly, which included frigates. Two of the ships, one of them being the Penzance, got into difficulties. The Penzance ended up putting into Halifax for repairs, whilst the rest headed to the Saint Lawrence.

This is just an example, I know, but it shows that the direct route would be considered the most obvious, especially if time was important.

Maybe by 1810 a more circuitous route meant that the frigate enroute could perform other duties along the way?
SteveSilver
Able Seaman
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:06 pm

Re: Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Post by SteveSilver »

Thanks Jon. That's great info.
Steve
"A favourable wind and a willing enemy"
Navclio
Captain
Posts: 106
Joined: Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:40 pm

Re: Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Post by Navclio »

I hope Steve Silver comes back to check for additional replies.

It would have been highly impractical to follow a "direct" route from anywhere in England to Halifax. The winds in the northern temperate latitudes are from the west. A straight line from England to Nova Scotia is somewhat south of due west, but still in the eye of the wind as far as sailing ships were concerned. Tacking upwind for 3,000 miles was just not practical. Zig-zagging back and forth across the direct line would have multiplied the distance to sail by many times. It's a long time since I took trigonometry, but I think that a ship that could get within 75° of the wind had to sail nearly 7 miles to make 2 miles dead ahead—at it's slowest speed! The great circle distance from the mouth of the English Channel to Halifax is about 2,800 statute miles (4,500 kilometers), but the actual route would be longer because the great circle crosses Newfoundland. Just a 3:1 ratio (assuming that the wind would not be dead foul all the time) would convert this into a voyage of 8,400 miles (13,500 kiloemters).

Sail-era mariners knew all about this, so to get from Europe to America they headed southwest to the latitude of the northeasterly "trade winds" south of 30° north latitude. Before proceeding west across the Atlantic. At some point they would turn north and get the westerlies on their port or larboard beam (left side). Ships going to ports in what by 1810 was the United States would go almost to the coast and then get additional speed to the north from the Gulf Stream current. For Halifax, they might have arced north farther out.

The Azores are on this route. Ships did not always stop there, or even come within sight of it, but that's the general direction in which they went to get to North America or, for that matter, the West Indies (for the latter destination, they didn't turn north and pick up the Gulf Stream). The Spanish, starting out farther south, would go to the Canary islands, a Spanish possession, perhaps stopping there. Portugal governed the Azores and was usually neutral, but a long-standing ally of England. The "circuitous route" had everything to do with sailing with the wind and nothing to do with "other duties."

The return trip, from North America to Europe could take the great circle route, running before the mostly westerly winds.
jon_ystrad
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Re: Sailing Route from England to Halifax, Nova Scotia

Post by jon_ystrad »

Thank you very much. I guess all I knew was the ships I was reading about had not put into anywhere enroute, but as you say "direct" here is clearly not as direct as I might have thought it to be!
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