All at sea – travelling the Mediterranean in the early 19th Century

640px-French_ship_under_atack_by_barbary_piratesI’ve been researching times for sea travel. I began because I had a soldier to get home wounded from a battle in Alexandria. The times didn’t work, so I had to have him injured elsewhere.

It’s a tricky question, because it depended so much on the type of ship, the time of year (and therefore the prevailing wind), which direction they were travelling (trips towards the west were slower than trips towards the east) and the weather encountered along the way.

But I’ve managed to come up with a table showing what I think are reasonable timings for a medium-sized sailing ship – a brigantine or a frigate – in the early 19th.

A fast ship given perfect conditions would do better, and bad conditions could mean the trip took a lot longer. And pirates could mean you didn’t finish it at all.

I’d be delighted if any of you naval buffs want to correct my figures. Just comment below.

Embarkation port Destination port Nautical miles Time spent on the voyage
Rome (Ostia) Gibraltar 935 7-10 days
Gibraltar Rome 935 7-10 days
Tunis Gibraltar 820 6-9 days
Gibraltar Tunis 820 6-8 days
Istanbul Rhodes 445 5-6 days
Rhodes Istanbul 445 5-6 days
Rhodes Marsala (in Sicily) 760 30-50 days
Marsala Rhodes 760 20-30 days
Gibraltar Marsala 857 7-10 days
Marsala Gibraltar 857 7-10 days
Marsala Alexandria 1175 20-30 days
Alexandria Marsala 1175 45-65 days

Add 1374 miles from London to Gibraltar, and you begin to have a sense of the distances.


6 thoughts on “All at sea – travelling the Mediterranean in the early 19th Century

  1. Pingback: Tide, Wind, and Timeline | History Imagined

    • It was just the overall distance. The battle was in Alexandria in March. The earliest he could have been wounded was 18 March, and he needed to be in London by 25 April. Even with the best of weather and the most fortunate of winds, he couldn’t have done it in much under two months. Less than that going to Alexandria, but that wasn’t much help to me! So I had him seconded as honour guard to a diplomat and sent to Russia. He accompanied his Very Important Person to observe the battle at Ulm, and was injured there in February, with plenty of time to get back to England.

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