The craft was clean at the bottom, but uncoppered. She was a round-bowed contrivance, with a spring aft which gave a kind of mulish, kick-up look to the run of her. "One of the two visible men, a broad-chested, thick-set fellow, in a black coat and a wide, white straw hat, got upon the bulwark, and stood holding on by a backstay, watching our approach, but he did not offer to hail.
During the eighteen days when the British remained in and near the Straits, no attempt was made by Cordova to take revenge for the disaster, or to reap the benefit of superior force. The inaction was due, probably, to the poor condition of the Spanish ships in point of efficiency and equipment, and largely to their having uncoppered bottoms.
On his next voyage he took the command of a vessel, and before he arrived at the age of 21, he sailed for the East Indies in a vessel, which, at this day, would scarcely be deemed suitable for a coasting craft, uncoppered, without the improved nautical instruments and science which now universally prevail, trusting only to his dead reckoning, his eyes, and his head, not one on board having attained to the age of his majority.
The greater speed of the French as a body is somewhat hard to account for, because, though undoubtedly with far better lines, the practice of coppering the bottom had not become so general in France as in England, and among the French there were several uncoppered and worm-eaten ships.
In the old days, when docks were rare, and long voyages would be made in regions without local resources, a ship would be hove down two or three times in a cruise, to clean her uncoppered bottom or to see what damage worms might be effecting. When frequently done, familiarity doubtless made it comparatively easy; but by 1859 it had become very exceptional. I have never seen another instance.