Chris Scott Wilson Writer
when she came in for a refit.
The remainder of the year and almost half the next were spent on convoy and blockade work, braving winter storms, the boredom broken by regular visits to Plymouth. The most rewarding prize Eagle took was on 30th May 1757, when with HMS Medway she fought and captured the 68 gun Duc d’Aquitaine in heavy weather at the mouth of the channel. Captain Palliser and his crew earned their share of the prize money, but the victory came expensive. While Duc d’Aquitaine was dismasted and needed towing, Eagle’s masts and rigging were shot to pieces, bulwarks pitted by ball and bar shot, over 130 of her men wounded or dead. She limped into Plymouth again to wait her turn for a comprehensive refit.
In dock again with the men swarming all over the ship, caulking hammers ringing, the smell of hot tar in the air mingled with the odour of wood shavings from the carpenters’ adzes, the riggers measuring and splicing and the sail makers spreading canvas and stitching, James Cook had other things on his mind. On June 29th at Trinity House, Deptford Cook sat in front of a senior captain and three masters for an oral examination. He passed and received his warrant as sailing master then was immediately discharged from Eagle and appointed to the frigate HMS Solebay the following day, 30th June. The post of sailing master was not a commission as six years service was obligatory before any commission could be considered. Unlike the merchant service where captain and master were the same man, in the Royal Navy the captain made all the military decisions and gave directions while the master’s duty was to implement them, issuing the sequence of commands necessary to sail the ship competently. Navigation was another responsibility, along with a thousand others, such as ensuring the ship had sufficient replacements for canvas, masts, rigging and cordage to effect running repairs while on voyage, or supervision of hold stowage to maintain the ship’s trim.
Ordered to join Solebay at Leith, near Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth, the journey north would afford Cook a chance to visit family and friends in North Yorkshire. When he shipped aboard on 30th July, he little knew he would only stay with the frigate some six weeks. HMS Solebay’s mission was to police Scotland’s coastline against smugglers, a monotonous and thankless task which would take her out of Leith to Fair Isle, the Orkneys and
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