The Royal Navy in the age of sail was a force so dominant that it led a small island nation to rule over a quarter of the world’s population. How many of us are avid readers of historically inspired fiction of the era, such as the Aubrey/Maturin series, or Horatio Hornblower, among many others?
The Royal Navy was the greatest naval power in the world until World War II. The stupendous cost of the war, coupled with the unprecedented growth of the US Navy saw the end of the RN as the master of the seas. Even so, for some time after, she would remain a significant force, with ships deployed worldwide for a variety of roles.
One such ship was HMS Dampier. Laid down as a Bay class anti-aircraft frigate in World War II, she would be commissioned in 1946 and serve for over 20 years as a hydrographic survey ship, mostly in the Far East.
In 1967, returning to Britain, the ship lost a screw near the off the coast of southern Africa. To be sure, the ship had twin shafts. But a 3000 mile journey, with only one shaft on an elderly machinery plant was a long way to limp home. And there were only three weeks until Christmas. It would be nice to reach home and hearth in time for the holiday. What to do?
Yes, they fashioned lug and square sails from awning canvas.
The crew apparently became quite adept at trimming and jibing. Old traditions, like old habits, die hard.