I've been following this with a lot of interest. Where you live Colin probably makes you one of the most Landlocked of all the game players so it’s good to see you taking an interest in stuff Nautical and being a Generous sort of Bloke, just to help foster this, here’s a link for some Technical detail for you
You are quite correct re your supposition of an Inshore Squadron & an Offshore Squadron (ie just over the Horizon) it would be the norm for Blockading operations although the prevailing weather conditions may (and did, see Blockades of Brest & Cadiz for further info) well alter that somewhat.
Now I hope to Hell I can get the Map to download as it will give a pictorial image of the size of the prob facing your 14 ships of the Plymouth Blockading fleet, if not I’ll try and spell it out now.
Given my already alluded to “Generous Nature” I’m going to set a range of 40 Nautical miles (more than a standard mile, see, generosity abounds) range with perfect Visibility for ships to sight each other on the Horizon; and as a base for distance its 160 nautical miles between Lands End & Cork in Southern Ireland, so under perfect conditions the spotting range is a ¼ of that distance (see Map if it comes through). Edit, it has, see bottom of Post.
To refresh the eg, my 4th Rate is sailing up from the Med and is promptly intercepted by your Plymouth Blockading Fleet, now given that its planned route was to end up in the top left Sea zone of the Atlantic Ocean it would no more than skirt the edge of the Atlantic/Celtic sea zone where the action took place, lets guess here a day maybe 2 days worth at Max, so we now have a picture of the your Blockading fleet intercepting my 4th Rate some 480 Nautical miles from its Offshore station Blockading for Plymouth ... !?!?!?!!!!
OK so lets have a really really patronising bit just to offset my earlier self proclaimed Generosity, “Cough, Cough”, having sailed in these waters many times during my time a Sea, the one thing I can guarantee is that “Perfect Visibility” is phenomenally rare occurrence (it’s got lots to do with High Pressure areas over the Azores and or Iceland/Mid Atlantic set against the prevailing Wind patterns and Depressions and lots of Metrological stuff like that), suffice to say with the Atlantic sending in Billions of tons worth of cloud bourn water, quite often from Sea level upwards, on the prevailing Westerly winds towards these Islands then perfect visibility is something you just aint gonna get, ergo the earlier 40 Nautical miles range should be slashed to 20, if you are extremely lucky!
So given that your 14 ships (minus whatever you are assigning to the Inshore squadron) has several thousand square miles of Ocean to patrol + beating against the Westerly winds (which can slow up modern Power driven Vessels, never mind Sailing ships) then sorry Colin but interception by your fleet would be a phenomenon of such staggeringly high proportions that you are looking at the figures involved with Number of Stars in the Universe sort of thing (ish) ie, it just aint gonna happen
Transpose the e.g. we have been using to Blockades in general and I’m sure you can see the nature of the prob, i.e. Blockading fleets should not also be able to intercept Ships/fleets as well as keeping a Blockade in place, itself a very difficult operation in those days, as witness the number of fleets that escaped, or, maybe to add another perspective think of the probs the RN had in WWII, with all the benefits of Radar, Radio communication, Air observation & Shore based spotters etc finding the Bismarck and other surface raiders.
All the Best
< Message edited by Kingmaker -- 8/21/2010 7:30:29 PM >