Each year a convoy of Hudson’s Bay Company ships (never more than half a dozen and sometimes only two) sailed from the Nore around the north of Scotland and across the North Atlantic to Hudson’s Bay. In wartime they were usually escorted by one of HM ships as far as about 300 miles west of the Orkneys and, on their return journey, were met by an escort at the Orkneys. The ships timed their voyage to reach Canada after the ice melted and left again before being frozen-in. The HBC had a rule that their ships always broke ground on the 29th May, although they did not nescessarily sail from the River on this date. THe HBC ships usually arrived back at the Nore in November.
In 1813 HM Sloop BRAZEN 18 accompanied the North-westers all the way to Hudson's Bay and in 1814 the same service was performed by HM Ship ROSAMOND 20, which had the distinction, whilst awaiting the HBC ships at the Nore, of having her gunner face a Court Martial as a result of the firing, at Spithead, of a signal gun which proved to be shotted and killed a man. Because of ice damage, the ROSAMOND was subsequently sold out of the Service.
The convoys called at Stromness in the Orkneys where their arrival was announced by a gun salute and was the occasion for what amounted to a fair as the ships there purchased their requirements for the long voyage (poultry, beef, vegetables etc.).
In 1782 the French made an attempt to capture the annual HBC ships by sending de la Perouse with a line of battle ship and two frigates into Hudson's Bay. They were unsuccessful due to the skill of the Company's Masters.
For a description of the voyage of the ROSAMOND see:
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=u0w ... =1#PPP5,M1