|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and Franco-Spanish Fleets
Biche and Sardinia ; a passage so narrow that the ships had to proceed in line ahead, each, except the Victory who undertook to lead the fleet, being guided by the stern-lights of her second ahead. At 6 p.m. the Victory was clear, and at 7 p.m. every ship in her train. Lord Nelson then despatched the Seahorse round the southern extremity of Sardinia, to look into St.-Pietro for the French fleet, and to return immediately. At 8 h. 30 m. p.m. the fleet, with now only one frigate attending it, bore away along the island of Sardinia. On the following day, the 20th, the vice-admiral appointed the Spencer and Leviathan, as the two fastest-sailing ships, to be a detached squadron ; directing Captain Stopford to keep on the Victory's weather beam, to be ready to act as occasion might require. During the latter part of this, and the whole of the succeeding day, the fleet encountered very hard gales from south-south-west to south-west ; and, for a great part of the time, the ships were under their storm-staysails.
On the 22d, at 10 a.m., the Seahorse rejoined, having, on the preceding afternoon, been chased by the French 40-gun frigate Cornélie, standing in for Pulla. The gale was so heavy and the weather so thick, that the Seahorse could not see the anchorage either in that bay or in Cagliari, and, from the same cause, lost sight of the French frigate in the night, The Seahorse, accompanied by the Active, was sent back to Cagliari, but no French ships were lying there ; and a message to the viceroy and consul at that port, carried by the Active, and for a reply to which Lord Nelson waited off the island of Serpentina, produced no better intelligence. The Seahorse was then sent with despatches to Naples, and the Active directed to cruise for three days to the eastward, about five or six leagues from Serpentina, to speak any British ship that might be in search of the British admiral.
On the 25th, at noon, Cape Carbonara, island of Sardinia, bore from the Victory north-north-east half-east distant three and a half league; and on the next day, the 26th, the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Phoebe, Captain the Honourable Thomas Bladen Capel, joined company. On the 19th, at 4 p.m., when sailing down the west coast of Corsica with a strong west-north-west wind, the Phoebe discovered a disabled line-of-battle ship, the Indomptable, one of M. Villeneuve's fleet, standing in for the land, under courses only, having carried away her topmasts. The frigate immediately hauled up towards, and at 4 h. 45 m. passed within hail of, the Indomptable, who had previously hoisted French colours. Having ascertained that the dismasted ship was an enemy's two-docker, bound apparently for Ajaccio bay, the Phoebe did not, as it appears, make any attempt to molest her, but bore up for the Magdalena islands, where Captain Capel expected to find Lord Nelson. It was owing to this circuitous route that the frigate was so many days in joining the fleet
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