Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Old Stratagem

I see now what Patrick O'Brien was reading. Shelvocke, on the far side of the world, is being pursued by a French ship, bigger and faster than he:
The nearer I approach'd to her, the less I liked her, and could not but think it adviseable to about ship, and crowd from her. However, she gain'd upon us, and advanced near enough to shew us that she was the Brilliant, the Admiral's consort; she was a French built ship of 36 guns, mann'd with people of that nation, and other Europeans. She was handsomely rigg'd, which is rare to be seen in these parts, and sail’d almost two foot for our one, so that, notwithstanding that we had a calm almost all the heat of the day, she would come near us apace upon every little breeze. But night coming on, I made use of the old stratagem (I thought it might be new here) of turning a light adrift in a half tub, instead of a boat, darkning one part of the lanthorn, that it might not appear a continued light, and alter'd my course. As the day broke, I handed all my sails, and in full day-light could perceive nothing of her.
This is George Shelvocke's A Voyage round the World by the way of the great South Sea, performed in the years 1719, 20, 21, 22 (1726), p.198; the first edition is available in full on Google books.

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