The Riskies welcome back Harlequin Historicals author Julia Justiss as our guest blogger today! Julia is giving away not one but two copies of The Smuggler and the Society Bride to 2 lucky commenters….

When The Road To Adventure Is Aboard Ship: The Smuggling Lugger Versus The Royal Navy Cutter by Julia Justiss

My hero, Gabe Hawksworth, grew up on the Irish coast, sailing his passion from the time he was strong enough to grasp a tiller. So when the good army friend who saved his life asks him to take over a smuggling lugger until its injured captain recovers, Gabe cannot refuse. Not to mention, after kicking his heels at home under the scrutiny of his insufferable elder brother while he recovered from wounds suffered at the battle of Orthes, he’s ripe for a new adventure. Pitting his wits against the sea and the revenue agents sounds like just the thing.

During the heyday of smuggling in the 18th and 19th centuries, the small fishing vessels that had always toiled on the Cornish coast were adapted into swift vessels that could be up to 75 feet in length, stepped with 3 masts whose massive sails allowed the fastest to journey the one hundred miles from Cornwall to Brittany in eight hours. The luggers were worked by a crew of 30 and might be armed with 12 to 16 cannon, plus swivel guns loaded with grapeshot to ferociously resist any government vessels that attempted to capture the ship and its valuable cargo.

Given that hanging or transportation was the punishment for anyone convicted of smuggling, their fierce resistance is understandable. However, considering that a crewman would earn ten pounds for a successful run to Guernsey or Roscoff–more than a fisherman earned in 3 months–one can understand why captains had no difficulty manning their ships. It didn’t hurt either that the smugglers’ neighbors were usually more sympathetic to the men who braved the sea and the revenue patrols to bring them desirable goods than to the king’s men, and a Cornish journey would almost never bring a guilty verdict against anyone on trial for smuggling.

Ranged against the smuggling lugger in this contest was the Royal Navy or revenue service cutter. Built after a design adapted from the smuggling luggers of Folkestone, this craft averaged about 70 feet long and carried a crew of 40. Built for speed, the ships could deploy fore, aft, and square sails on their single mast and carried an armament of up to 10 18-pounder guns. However, since they had a deeper draft than the smugglers’ vessels they couldn’t operate close in to shore and so depended on finding their prey at sea, in transit between the supplier in France and the base in England.

A battle of wits and sailing skill would result, with the variables of wind, sea, and storm to make things interesting. The worst fate for the smuggling lugger was to be becalmed, sitting helpless on the windless sea, unable to escape while the revenue cutter lowered small boats to row over and search his vessel. Then a battle not of wits but of cutlasses and muskets would likely result. Just the kind of ruckus a hot-blooded soldier like my hero Gabe enjoyed!

What’s your transportation of choice when you want to set off on the road to adventure? So you drive to the shore or mountains? Fly to some exotic destination? Cruise to Bermuda or the Caribbean? Or are you an “armchair traveler” transported to adventure in the pages of your favorite book?