I am working on a story in which I wanted to include a character who was pressed into the British Navy in 1790's England, and ended up on a ship headed to the Caribbean. This is a pretty integral part of the story, so I want to make sure that it was even something that would have happened. Thank you in advance for your time.

  • @justCal: Villeneuve and Nelson chased each other to the Caribbean and back en route to Trafalgar, as Villeneuve attempted to shake Nelson off his tail Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 22:57
  • Linebaugh & Redikers "The multi headed Hydra" has a chapter or three on these kinds of transatlantic travels, IIRC - maybe your library has the book.
    – mart
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


Sure, I see no problems with this, press gangs for the Royal Navy were still active, not ending until sometime between 1814 and 1853.

The British had a Naval presence in the Carribean. In the early part of the century for instance, mainly to deter the pirate threat, there were

Royal Naval vessels in the Caribbean, numbering 124 by 1718

The Royal Navy was engaged in war throughout the last half of the 18th century with every major power with colonies or interests in the Caribbean, the French, Spanish and Americans. The British also had their own colonies there as well, the British West Indies, so finding British vessels in the Caribbean is also historically accurate.

In fact if your sailor needs to be 'out' of the navy in the Caribbean, there is even history to back that up : The Hermione Mutiny


Yep, this is fine. In addition to mainland-based press gangs, the Royal Navy pressed merchant sailors including American sailors until the end of the War of 1812. The Carribean, of course, lies between Europe and North America, so perhaps an American pressed man would be particularly likely to end up there.

  • 8
    The Caribbean does not really lie between Europe and North America, especially not between Britain and the 13 ex-colonies
    – Henry
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 18:50
  • 3
    @Henry If you follow the trade winds from Europe to North America then the Caribbean is 'between' the two in terms of travel.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 22:21
  • 1
    @SteveBird: Running with the wind is a level (un-heeled) and very comfortable point of sail, but the slowest point of sail. The next slowest point of sail is a broad reach just a few degrees off of straight downwind. Anyone in a hurry or not threatened with a marginally unseaworthy vessel will avoid these two points of sail unless they are the straight-as-an-arrow shortest path. The fastest points of sail are a beam reach, with the wind hitting the beam near a 90 degree angle. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 22:55
  • I suppose it depends if you call Central America part of North America. It is, or that's how North America is usually defined.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:29
  • @NeMo "The Carribean, of course, lies between Europe and North America" that must have been a massive earthquake .... Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 13:59

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