After only a few months Horatio had shown such a willingness to learn that he was sent to the West Indies in a merchantman, to return after a year understanding more of the practicable side of running a ship and controlling men.
Suckling had so much confidence in him that at fourteen Horatio was put in command of his uncles ship Triumph to navigate along the Thames.
Nelson joined the Carcass as coxswain on 4th June 1773 and with the Racehorse traveled to the Arctic in search of the Northeast Passage, the trip was not successful but Nelson was learning fast. His next hip the Seahorse was his first chance to witness naval engagement and the harsh discipline given to the sailors, in under two years he saw over 200 floggings. He was sent home with a fever and was very depressed.
He took his Lietenant exam and passed on 9th April 1777, he joined the Lowestoft, captained by Captain William Locker. Trips to the West Indies followed and on the 11th June 1779 was appointed post-captain. His first chance to command came with the command of Hinchinbrooke and he fought at Nicaragua against the Spaniards. Unfortunately out of his 200 men only 10 men survived mainly due to yellow fever. Nelson returned home ill himself with dysentery to convaless Burnham Thorpe.
On 23rd August 1781 he sailed once more for North America in the frigate Albemarle, an uneventful commission concluded in July 1783 with an unsucceeful attempt to capture Turks Island in the Bahamas from the French. He had a short holiday in France and then took command of the Boreas and sailed for the West Indies, the Americans were now independent and it annoyed him because they still got the same privelliges as they had under British Sovereinty and he said so. He met Frances Nisbet and returned home after marrying her in 1787, his best man was Duke of Clarence (later William IV). He found he was not in favour with the admiralty because of his stance over the Americans and was taken off the Boreas on half pay. The couple lived at the Parsonage House at Burnham Thorpe but as their backgrounds were completely different the marriage soon faulte, after five years in Norfolk.