While these warships are among the most powerful vessels afloat, they are poor sailors, being both slow and unresponsive. This is not a serious shortcoming because, armed with around 100 cannons firing 32-, 24- and 18-pounder balls on their three decks, they can fire a terrible and destructive broadside. They carry a crew of over 800 sailors, gunners and marines and have more artillery than most land armies. Their cost, however, is a drawback and few navies can afford to build or maintain more than a handful of them. Their great size, however, means that an admiral and his staff can be carried with little disruption to the normal working of the ship.
One first rate flagship never even reached the sea! The British Royal Navy’s HMS St Lawrence was built, launched and served only on Lake Ontario. Shallow rapids meant that few vessels could reach the lake from the sea, and Niagara Falls prevented any ship from leaving the lake in the other direction.