Under Bare Poles, This Golden Hind painting explained.

Golden Hind, Francis Drake off Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire

76 x 50 cm (30″ x 20″), 2050 £, available.

The Golden Hind is not an anonymous galleon, she is one of England’s most famous ships, a Painting by Gordon Frickers ©

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Under Bare Poles, a detail.

Golden Hind, Captain Francis Drake, a dramatic story and painting from the second circumnavigation, 1577/80, Plymouth to Plymouth by Gordon Frickers 05.10.23 ©

‘Under Bare Poles’ is a salute to one of the all time finest seamen, most daring and best navigators of all time, a man whom men like James Cook and Horatio Nelson have admired, rivalled but none have bettered, Sir Francis Drake.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

The ship sinking storms lead to the greatest geographical discovery of Francis Drake and the Golden Hind.

Charles Darwin wrote: “One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death.”

Drake made the discovery of a wide ocean passage South of the Patagonian islands dispelled the long-held belief in a continent below the Magellan Strait.

That continent, ‘armchair’ geographers named Terra Incognita.

To this day on most charts the strait honour’s Francis Drake with the name ‘Drake’s Passage’.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

This year 2023 is the fiftieth year for excellent the replica of the Golden Hind built at the Hinks shipyard, Appledore.

This newer Golden Hinde featured in the TV award winning mini series Shogun while making her own circumnavigation.

Today the ‘new’ Golden Hinde is open to the public in London at Saint Mary Overie’s Dock, Cathedral St, London SE1 9DE.

Golden Hinde paintings
Golden Hinde the replica

Francis Drake, captain of the Golden Hind was sailing with inaccurate charts, primitive navigational aids into waters none on board had ever seen.

Far worse for them, the men of the Golden Hind were blissfully unaware of the fearsome reputation the Southern Ocean was to acquire in subsequent decades.

Painting Under Bare Poles, details explained.

This painting and its rich fine detail as described here give you many clues as to how a ship of this type, a sixteenth century ‘English Race Galleon’ could ‘swim’ and is best handled in ‘heavy weather’.

Drake could have described Golden Hind in this painting as storm rigged ‘running under bare poles’.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

The Golden Hind is off the most most southerly islands of South America now known as Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire and severe storms.

As a seaman and artist I can imagine her accompanied by the roaring winds and crashing waves, the Golden Hind struggling to survive off the Tierra del Fuego islands.

The Golden Hind was driven 400 miles southward from where she exited the Magellan Strait. After three weeks much of it under bare poles, the Golden Hind took refuge amongst some small rock strewn storm lashed islands, finally driven to the “utmost island” on October 28th and departing thence on the 7 of November.

The weather for most of two months had been awesome and terrifying with the

Golden Hind surviving freezing conditions of rain, sleet and snow under skies as black and grey as charcoal.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

She struggled and swam on heaving grey-green mountainous seas.

A craggy, desolate coast often loomed through the spray and gloom.

It is likely that the Golden Hind’s hull was in very good condition during the great storms, she having been given an extensive over haul, repainted and reconditioning as recently as the seventeenth of August during her long sojourn at Port Saint Julian, the same remote bay Magellan had named and used some 50 years earlier.

Golden Hind having passed through the Magellan Straits in record time experienced severe storms, at times hurricane force in the inappropriately named Pacific Ocean.

Significantly, Francis Drake made light of those terrifying days and nights considering them as destiny rather than blind chance.

Golden Hind was specially built for this adventure.

According to her contemporaries she is said to have been a good sailor, manoeuvrable, quick and agile, responsive to her helm.

She was though they said, inclined to take seas over her stern and in her waist.

This dangerous tendency I’ve dramatically shown in this painting.

Golden Hind shared this tendency with ships of her class as recorded in contemporary accounts.

Rigging, 16th century

The ship’s rigging is based upon known systems used on English sixteenth century ships and on rigging systems used on modern sixteenth century replica ships.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

In particular the beautifully preserved Golden Hinde now permanently in Saint Mary Overie’s Dock, Cathedral St, London SE1 9DE and open to the public.

My most noticeable rigging deviation from this well researched Golden Hinde is I’ve not shown any foot ropes under the yards.

This innovation was not invented until 100 years after Drake’s Golden Hind.

This particular Golden Hinde made her own circumnavigation and while in Japan, starred in the award winning TV mini series ‘Shogun’.

Main yards, 16th century

In the Golden Hind’s day sails were still mostly handled on deck in the medieval manner, with techniques men from Greek or even earlier times would recognise.

Under Bare Poles, a detail. of painting
Golden Hind, main yards storm lashed & secured

This means the fore, main and the mizzen yards were lowered to the deck for sail handling and the spritsail would be run in board to be handled from the ship’s ‘beak’.

At that time men went aloft as little as possible.

In Drake’s day main yards were lowered to the deck when crew wanted to work on the sails, just as yards had been lowered at least as far back as on Viking ships and those of King Alfred the Great during the 9th century and probably way back before then.

In this painting the yards are shown as lowered and lashed to reduce windage and increase stability during the heigh of a storm.

Another notable absentee to modern seaman’s eyes in this noteworthy painting is the absence of any jib or fore staysail.

In Drake’s age a large square sail was set under the bowsprit, a spitsail.

When the ship was working to windward the yard would be canted rather like a lateen sail.

I can assure you from my own practical experience this arrangement works rather better than we expected adding a knot to our speed when we tried a spitsail on the old (now lost) Maria Asumpta.

Built 1858 in Spain she was when I sailed with her, the oldest working merchant sailing ship in the world and rigged accordingly.

Topsails yards 16th century

The topsail yards are shown ‘cock a’ bill’

The painting shows severe storm conditions so I’ve shown the topsail yards lashed ‘cock a bill’ to the topmasts and tops, that is made as snug as possible without sending the yards down.

The topsails were worked from ‘The Tops’, sometimes comically misnamed ‘crows-nests’.

Thus a topsail yard was limited to be just wide enough for the sails to be reached and handled from the tops with the yard lowered.

Golden Hind, topsail yards storm lashed cock a bill & secured.

Consequently sixteenth century topsails have a distinctive shape when set as compared to the more rectangular or ‘square rig’ shape as we say at sea, on modern topsail rigged ships.

Golden Hind Crew

There are crew on deck and aloft but only those who are essential as look outs and for the safe handing of the ship.

Under such severely testing and exhausting conditions I’ve allowed most of the watch to take shelter; provided they remain ready for a possible call.

Under Bare Poles, a detail including crew on deck.

Other observations, Golden Hind’s anchors are hidden from our sight by foam. As she is under bare poles, she might have been trailing a sea anchor, a nice detail again though hidden in the foaming brinie deep sea.

The Coast

If you know the islands and rocks of Tierra del Fuego, then you will recognise that under ‘artistic licence’, you are seeing Cape Horn.

The waves really can be that large and steep, particularly near Cape Horn where the vast Southern Ocean currents are compressed between South America and Antarctica.

I have studied and painted the Southern Ocean many times for its veterans, my most widely known painting being ‘Roaring Forties’ painted for the first man to complete a single handed non stop circumnavigation, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Under Bare Poles, a detail of the Patagonia coast .

In this painting the sky is beginning to hint at calmer weather to come and visibility is despite the flying spume, good enough to see open ocean either side of the most awesome of all capes, unknown until Drake arrived and today known as Cape Horn.

Under Bare Poles, Golden Hind and the great storm, an Historical Perspective

Two days after exiting the dangerous Magellan Strait on the 6th of September, navigated in a record time of 14 days, Drake’s squadron had sailed some 70 leagues (about 241.66 miles) North West bound for Peru.

The ships were intent on exploration, discovery, trade and most of all, attacking the Spanish of the West Americas.

Drake was later to confirm the charts were wrong, that the true bearing from the strait for Chile was North.

Very important though this was, this was not Drake’s greatest discovery.

Under Bare Poles, a detail of Drake’s Passage.

The mariners of the Golden Hind, Elizabeth and Marigold were among the very first European seamen to enter the Pacific from the West.

Their charts were inaccurate and far worse, they were blissfully unaware of the reputation the Southern Ocean was to be given in subsequent decades.

Inevitably the English ships sailed into a strong storm which soon became so very violent the ships were frequently reduced to run before the wind and waves “under bare poles”, that is with all sails struck and as much top hamper as possible lowered to reduce windage and improve ship stability.

Terrible weeks followed as the little squadron tried to weather a series of great southern Ocean storms.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

For over a month the little squadron were in mortal danger, driven South, unable to sail clear of the tempests and barely able to keep clear the uninviting coast.

From Nuno di Silva’s log book, and the account of Parson Francis Fletcher, source, New Light:

“October 7, 1578, Made land in 51 degrees and came to anchor for one hour in 40 fathoms of water.” Nuno di Silva was on board the Golden Hind serving as a pilot.

“October 7. God by a contrary wind and intolerable tempest…forcing us…to alter our course”

Oct 13. “At midnight we neared the coast”.

Oct 14. “Came to anchor in 54.5 degrees, three leagues from the land”.

Oct 15. “Set sail and came to anchor among some islands”.

Oct 18. “Came to anchor amongst some islands and landing with difficulty, obtained water and wood, and parleyed with the natives”.

Oct 30th. “Landed and brought back many birds and “sea wolves”

The storm or rather an unrelenting series of hurricane force winds and enormous seas some running higher than the Golden Hind’s mainmast forced the little squadron to run for their lives in the direction opposite to their intended course.

Under Bare Poles, a detail.

Under black skies on heaving grey green mountainous seas with the craggy, desolate coast sometimes looming through the gloom and spray, accompanied by the roaring winds and crashing waves the ships struggled to survive.

On a dark and stormy night among huge seas the little Marigold was overwhelmed and lost with all twenty nine hands.

Several of the men of the Golden Hind later reported they briefly heard shrieks and cries of distress.

The Elizabeth became separated and controversially gave up the attempt by returning to the Magellan Straits and thence sailed to England arriving at Plymouth in June 1579.

John Winter, second in command and Captain of the Elizabeth wrote, never had he lived through such a storm.

Under Bare Poles, a sky detail.

Golden Hind was alone, trying by sight and sound to keep off the wave lashed rock fanged islands while occasionally finding brief but unsafe anchorages as she was forced down the archipelago of what is today call Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire.

Golden Hind/e

The beautiful Golden Hinde replica upon which my ship is based made her own circumnavigation including stopping at Japan to star in the award winning TV mini series Shogun.

As very little is known of the original Golden Hind but quite a lot about her type, the ‘English Race Galleon’.

The dimensions and appearance of Golden Hind are not given us in surviving contemporary documents and paintings.

The Black Book of Plymouth tells us she was built at Coxside, Plymouth.

Some people claim London for her build.

We know for certain she was specially built for this voyage and included a double planked hull to allow for the ravages of teredo worms and other parasitic marine borers.

The Black Book says Plymouth so it’s likely she went to the royal arsenal at The Tower of London to receive her ‘great guns’, her cannons.

This was the growing practice at that time hence the confusion over where she was built.

Plymouth also makes sense in that Drake as a Plymouth man would have known and been known to the craftsmen who were building the latest types of “Western Ocean’ ships.

This Golden Hinde replica was built after extensive research by time served craftsmen and master shipwrights at the Hinks yard of Appledore, North Devon.

Golden Hind maritime paintings
Golden Hinde, Tall Ships Race, Falmouth July 1982

For this and other reasons outlined here, this Golden Hind is portrayed by the splendid Golden Hinde built after extensive research at the J. Hinks & Son yard at Appledore North Devon in 1973, now open to the public in St Mary Overie’s Dock, London.

Golden Hinde
Onboard Golden Hinde, the sailing dinghy is my beloved Wayfarer, ‘Wellington’.

The Lloyds Number one surveyor for the build was Mr. Sydney Yeo who at that time was nearing retirement and employed as senior master shipwright at Falmouth Technical College, Ship and Boat building Department..

It was then that I got to know Sid Yeo quite well as I was studying ship and boat building at Falmouth Tech.

By order of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake’s Golden Hind made on the one epic voyage after which she was laid up in a London dock in the South bank of the river Thames.

Drake’s of Cape Horn adventure during his circumnavigation shows us one of the most exceptional seamen of all time at his very best.

Golden Hinde Red Arrows
Golden Hinde takes a Red Arrows salute

It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” A quote attributed to Sir Francis Drake.

This year 2023 is the fiftieth year for the replica of the Golden Hind built at the Hinks shipyard, Appledore and featured in TV award winning mini series Shogun.

Today the ‘new’ Golden Hinde is open to the public in a London at St Mary Overie’s Dock, Cathedral St, London SE1 9DE.

Drake and Nelson

Anyone thoroughly familiar with English naval history can tell us, before Nelson, Drake was by far the most famous, most distinguished English seaman bar none, not even George Anson or James Cook could eclipse Sir Francis Drake.

In an age when England is short of superheroes this painting draws attention to the worthy character of one of England’s finest men and one of England’s most famous ships, the Golden Hind.

Drake is known to have kept a journal of the voyage, which he presented to Queen Elizabeth I. This work was declared a state secret and lost in a fire some 200 years later.

Samuel Pepys said he had a copy but it’s whereabouts are a mystery.

Considering the resources available for Drake and the Golden Hind, to describe the success of the voyage and with relatively little loss of lives of the crew as superlative is putting the case mildly.

Gordon Frickers 06.10.23 ©

Under Bare Poles, a detail.


* “Golden Hinde” replica ship in London, the owner and his very helpful staff.

* My research at and photos of Buckland Abbey from my 2002 UK sortie with special thanks to the very helpful staff.

* My photos of the “Golden Hinde” replica ship from my 2002 UK vacation.

* For an entertaining, well balanced account of this remarkable man try ‘Sir Francis Drake by John Sugden ISBN 978 1 84413 762 6.

* The remarks of Francis Fletcher indicated in his logbook.

He sailed with Drake and his journal was compiled by Drake’s nephew. Chaplain Francis Fletcher was priest to the voyage and not an admirer of Drake.

Fletcher was not an admirer of or very friendly to Drake.

Drake’s nephew appears to have edited Fletcher’s account, as can be seen in a comparison between Fletcher’s original account (an unpublished version of which has survived in the British Library) the account by Drake’s nephew.

* The World Encompassed, Sir Francis Drake, printed at London for Nicholas Bourne, 1652, “both for the honour of the actor, but especially for the stirring up of heroicke spirits, to benefit their countrey, and eternized their names by like noble attempts”. The first collected edition of these four pamphlets on Francis Drake.

* New Light, The first collected edition of the four pamphlets on Francis Drake, (c1540-1595), the pamphlets are recorded as four different OCLC numbers, they were issued together as this first collected edition in 1652 and 1653.

* New Light on Drake, pub 1914 Zelia Nuttall. New Light on Drake, published in 1914 by Zelia Nuttall. His notes and quotations are taken from New Light on Drake, “A Collection of Documents Relating to His Voyage of Circumnavigation, 1577-1580” by Zelia Nuttall (1914), in turn based largely upon The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake (1628) by Drake’s nephew, also named Francis Drake.

* Sir Francis Drake Revived for another entertaining, well balanced account of this remarkable man try ‘Sir Francis Drake, ‘Drake’s Venture’ (1980) Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6XVXPEo44s

* 1998 biography on Drake! “SFD, The Queen’s Pirate” by H. Kelsey. A good read! Now in paperback!

* Chaplain Francis Fletcher’s sketches drawn during 1577-1580 Voyage.

* Michael Turner, Horn Island as drawn on the voyage, http://www.indrakeswake.co.uk/index.htm, Michael Turner Email: michael@nullindrakeswake.com

* http://www.solarnavigator.net/history/francis_drake.htm

Under Bare Poles, Gordon Frickers said, 3for this painting I thought I should wear my storm jacket !

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