Together with Ferrol and San Fernando near Cadiz, the other great naval stations of Spain, it is governed by an admiral with the title of captain-general.
He had a squadron at Brest, ships at L'Orient and Rochefort, some of his vessels had taken refuge at Ferrol on their way back from San Domingo when war broke out, one was at Cadiz, and he had a squadron at Toulon.
On the 1st of June he was joined by a frigate and two line-of-battle ships sent with orders from Rochefort, and was told to remain in the West Indies till the 5th of July, and if not joined by Ganteaume to steer for Ferrol, pick up the French and Spanish ships in the port, and come on to the Channel.
Nelson, who reached Gibraltar on the very day the action off Ferrol was fought, was too far away to interfere with him.
Vivero Bay and the Ria del Barquero y Vares are of a similar character; while the harbour of Ferrol ranks among the best in Europe, and is the chief naval station on the northern coast of Spain.