smooth predestinate curves

From Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander":
A gentle push from above heeled the Sophie over, then another and another, each more delightfully urgent until it was one steady thrust; she was under way, and all along her side there sang a run of living water.
'The only feelings I have--for what they are--are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.’
‘Patriotism will not do?’
‘My dear creature, I have done with all debate. But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either *my country, right or wrong*, which is infamous, or *my country is always right*, which is imbecile.’
There was great activity aboard her: there was great activity aboard the three other vessels of the convoy –men racing up and down, shouts, whistles, the distant beating of a drum –but in this gentle breeze, and with so little canvas abroad, they all of them moved with a dream-like slowness, quietly following smooth predestinate curves.
‘THERE ARE TIMES,’ said James quietly, ‘when I understand your partiality for your friend. He derives a greater pleasure from a smaller stream of wit than any man I have ever known.’
‘What a romantic creature you are, to be sure,’ said Stephen. ‘A ball fired from a privateer’s cannon makes the same hole as a king’s.’
‘Me, romantic?’ cried James with real indignation, an angry light coming into his green eyes.
‘Yes, my dear,’ said Stephen, taking snuff. ‘You will be telling me next about their divine right.’
‘Well, at least even you, with your wild enthusiastic levelling notions, will not deny that the King is the sole fount of honour?’
‘Not I,’ said Stephen. ‘Not for a moment.’
I really liked the phrase "smooth predestinate curves."...