Shipping lanes in Europe, 2014

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Not exactly. In fact, it was the British Royal Navy that blockaded Imperial France (which basically amounted to mainland Europe), rather than Imperial France blockading Europe.

Most of the big fleet engagements of the Napoleonic wars wars went down when a powerful offshore wind blew the British blockading fleets off station thus allowing the French or Spanish (or both) to come out and fight in line of battle. Obviously there were exceptions such as at the Nile, but for the most part the rule was that the Royal Navy kept the sea managing years of blockades while the French (and sometimes Spanish) stayed in port.

It was viewed as something of a hardship station since ships would often be in the line sailing an exact station for months at a time with little mail from home, little in the way of fresh provisions –no fresh water to wash clothes, for example– and always the harsh exacting discipline of staying exactly abreast and abaft the ships behind and ahead, to say nothing of the fact that the ships themselves would be slowly wearing out, rotting, ironsick, with rigging twice and triple-laid and gingerbread work that was more putty than wood.

The trade-off is traditionally thought of as being that while the French were in far better condition, had much nicer ships, guns, spars and general supplies, the British, by keeping to sea at all times were much better seamen and could man their guns better and with greater effect.

Whether or not that is factually the case across the board, the larger point remains that in general, it was Imperial France that was blockaded and the British Royal Navy that did the blockading.

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