Time and again throughout the war came the tale of masts split open and tumbled into the sea. The explanation was that since Cromwell's time the navy had depended on New Hampshire and Maine for its great masts; the colonists had cut off the supply at the opening of the war; and Sandwich neglected to seek substitutes elsewhere. When France entered the war, she dispatched a fleet to America. Admiral Byron, the poet's grandfather, was sent with thirteen ships to head them off. A mild gale struck his squadron in mid-Atlantic, the rotten masts broke, the ships limped away in every direction, and only one reached New York ahead of the French. So it went throughout the war.
(from A History of England and the British Empire)