So next up in my very-occasional series of ship tours is HMS Victory. In truth I was sort of procrastinating this one, both because I'm heavy into editing A Change of Legacies, but more because I knew I was going to have to sort through a whole lot of photos to do Victory justice. I've seen the ship multiple times, and have been fortunate enough to take photos before some of her current restoration work began, but that meant going back pretty far into my personal archives.
I've posted about the Hermione and USS Constitution so far. Those ships differ from Victory in several ways. First, they're both frigates, and while the Constitution is larger than you'd expect, they're still both notably smaller than the Victory, with her 104 guns. The more significant difference is that the Victory, although still technically a commissioned warship, is permanently dry-docked. I actually like that the Victory and the Constitution, the two most famous survivors of the age of sail, serve two very different purposes. The Constitution (although also undergoing repairs now) has up until recently been capable of -- very occasionally -- still sailing. The Victory, meanwhile, has been given over wholly to serving as a living museum, so almost nowhere is off-limits, unless it's currently undergoing repair. And the Victory is much more thoroughly set up to tell her story. You can (and I have) spend hours going through this ship.
But enough words. This is a story best told in pictures, although what these photos won't capture for you is the delightful smell of a ship of this age -- tar and old wood. Hopefully readers will recognize things I've written about, or you'll be seeing in forthcoming books in the Constant Love series!
Victory, seen from Portsmouth harbor. They're considering enclosing the ship in some manner to better protect her from wear. I do think the ultimate priority is to preserve the ship, but it would be a real hit to the Portsmouth skyline to lose this beautiful sight.
The bow of the ship, before her figurehead was removed for restoration.
Walking around the ship, you get a real sense of both the immensity of her size, and the craftsmanship that went into her.
I would not want to be responsible for all of this rigging!
What's the difference between a ship and a boat? A ship carries boats -- like these.
The head. Yes, this was the outdoor "toilet" used by the seamen.
68-pounder carronade. You can see it's squatter and stumpier than the great guns in the photos further down. As a result it packs a greater punch, but it's less accurate.
The ship's immense wheel, some of the officer's cabins, and the entrance to the captain's cabins.
The captain's great cabin. A ship of the Victory's size would generally have been a flagship, and would therefore have both an admiral and a captain (the flag captain) living on board. You'll see the admiral's cabins further down.
Upper gun deck.
The sick berth is also on the upper gun deck, which gives it much greater ventilation than the surgeon's cockpit, down on the orlop deck.
One of the admiral's smaller side cabins, leading to the great cabin.
The admiral's great cabin, set up as it would have been used by Nelson.
Great cabin, showing what I presume are replica uniforms of Nelson's. His original from Trafalgar is at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
The admiral's cot, with replicas of the embroidered bed hangings made for Nelson by Emma Hamilton. Creepily, captains and admirals would have been buried at sea in their cots if they died, so they were sleeping in their own coffins!
Number 7 original gun, with some of the various types of shot that would have been used in a battle.
Bilboes. If a seaman was awaiting serious punishment, he would have been locked up here.
The Victory was launched in 1765, which makes her the oldest commissioned warship in the world, although not the oldest afloat (that honor belongs to the Constitution).
Lower gun deck. I'm not sure if this is the original deck planking, but it's noticeably older than the higher decks. Here, you can more easily see the oakum (tarred rope fiber) that's been pounded down into the seams to caulk the deck seams.
Passage to the grand magazine. In a battle, young boys ("powder monkeys") would have been traversing this passage to get gunpowder for the guns. They've opened up alternate access for today's visitors, but during her day, this would have been THE passage to get to the magazine.
The grand magazine. The light is very limited here to simulate how it would have been. They could not have an open flame anywhere near this much gunpowder, or they would have blown the whole ship into splinters.
The hold. In keeping with Victory's museum-ship setup, they let you go all the way down in the ship to see this.