I've always been fascinated by naval warfare - particularly old-style, age-of-sail naval warfare fought with cannon, shot and sword (or arrows, rams, and spears as the era allows). This was one of the big draws for me towards Empire: Total War, the chance to finally control some of those battles that I've always had to just heavily-outnumber-and-autocalc before.
However this is posing a problem for me. After several attempts I finally found that in order to win reliably you have to either outweigh your foe, or use broadsides; the latter requires insane levels of micromanagement. And even then, a superior ship or superior numbers almost always wins anyways. On land I can win some pretty absurd battles through careful deployment and cavalry charges to the flank (works like a charm); no such luck at sea. And the auto-calc function causes me to suffer terrible losses, on the order of 3/7 ships, plus damage to the rest, to sink 1 of 2 and drive the other off, despite the individual ships being equivalent.
Is there a trick to winning naval engagements and controlling the seas? It's becoming quite a problem - there's a rather large fleet that keeps sailing up and down my coast, wrecking my shipyards, blockading my shipping routes, and playing absolute havoc with my economy. I'd like them gone. (As an aside, is there a way to deal with such fleets without directly confronting them?)