In terms of single ship engagements, those tend to either be cruiser sized ships, or ships from a blockaded force being forced to leave a harbor.
Once capital ships (battleships) became so expensive that their numbers were measured in one or two dozen rather than the scores like they were pre-armored ship era, the frequency of sorties without a substantial fleet escort basically fell to zero.
Based on the episode, though, it seemed pretty clear that Enterprise
was relatively isolated. If reinforcements were close enough that they could arrive in time to help defend the Enterprise
-C we certainly didn't get that impression.
's sortie was essentially one of desperation from a navy that had ceded maritime superiority from the start. The Kriegsmarine was outnumbered pretty substantially in battleship tonnage, with only 4 capital ships (Scharnhorst
) opposed to the Royal Navy which had 9 battleships in the Atlantic and 7 fleet carriers.
That is to say, if Starfleet's putting Enterprise
out there like the Kriegsmarine was using Bismarck
, it was in a LOT of trouble.