Join us for a Voyage into History:

Discover Sea History!

Group Leader: Bill Bertram
Venue: Devonport Views Activity Room
Day: 1st Monday unless it is a Bank Holiday then see program below
Time: 10:15

Entrance fee £2 including tea/coffee biscuits

Email me for further details

Updated 29th August 2018


19th Century Naval Joke

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides), as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (i.e. Fresh water distillers).
However, let it be noted that according to her ship’s log, “On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S.Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.”
Her mission: “To destroy and harass English shipping.”
Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum.
Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.
On 18 November, she set sail for England. In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each.
By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, although unarmed she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland . Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.
The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rumno wineno whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water.


Britain has a second to none seafaring history. Our group makes it come alive in the research and discussions. Each meeting brings out new insights and discoveries, from the ancient Roman mariners, to Portuguese navigators opening up the ocean world. From heroic efforts of our seamen of World War II to Replica ships sailing long forgotten trade winds. We always have various interesting topics.

If you love the sea and British History, then come and join our growing group. We have retired experts from a lifetime of Marine based professions, to people who just love hearing about the sea and Britain contribution to the maritime world.


The uncontrollable nature of the sea has given way to many a nautical lore, each one as curious as the next. Non so bad as the following, oh I’m not sure about that!

No Bananas On Board

Aside from their peels causing many comedians to trip and fall down, bananas have long been thought to bring bad luck, especially on ships. At the height of the trading empire between Spain and the Caribbean in the 1700’s, most cases of disappearing ships happened to be carrying a cargo of bananas at the time.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Another theory suggests that because bananas spoiled so quickly, transporters had to get to their destination much quicker. Fisherman thus never caught anything while bananas were on board. Another danger caused by monkey’s favourite fruit fermenting so quickly, was that in the heat of the storage hull, bananas would produce deadly toxic fumes.

A final theory on the perils of bananas at sea (though there are tons) is that a species of deadly spider would hide inside banana bunches. Their lethal bite caused crewman to die suddenly, heightening the fear that banana cargo was a bad omen.

Ergo Bananas are evil


Here is an example of what we might examine…

During the Seven Years War, Admiral Byng was charged with ‘failing to do his utmost’. He was executed on board the Monarch on March 14th, 1757.

A quiet, shy man, the unfortunate John Byng was no coward – he faced his death with cool courage – but he seems to have been too cautious, passive and defeatist for command in the British navy. He went to sea at 13 and rose up the ladder to captain at 23 and rear admiral at 40.

Another Example might be the Cornish Fishing Fleets

Fishing is one of the oldest professions in the world.  One could argue that perhaps Cornwall’s fishing industry has a real claim to be one of the oldest, there they mainly hunted the pilchard (now referred to as ‘sardines’).

Fishing villages such as St Ives and Newlyn sprang up into large towns, their prosperity based on the small fish that swarmed in the Cornish waters.

See you there