This image shows a misty, windless morning in 1803 as a lone figure on the small, yacht-like revenue cutter VIXEN, her name faintly visible on her transom, contemplates an 80 gun third-rate raising anchor across the water. Vixen is at anchor drying sails while the third-rate’s starboard anchor has just cleared the water and is being secured to the rail as she awaits the wind.
Seen hanging limply at the top of the third-rate’s mainmast is the independent command pennant, the Cross of St. George at the hoist with a red, white and blue tricolor fly. This designates the vessel is not assigned specifically to any squadron. Although indistinct, the hoist of the red pennant at VIXEN’s masthead also appears to bear the cross of St. George, signifying she is under admiralty control.
Small cutters such as VIXEN were used for service as both coast guard vessels and revenue (customs) cruisers in harbors and protected waters just off-shore. Many were temporarily placed under control of the admiralty and occasionally transferred permanently to the navy.
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