|Table of Contents|
|Online Editor's Notes|
|N. M. Penzer's Preface|
|Sir Albert Gray's Introduction|
|1||Return Out of the South Seas|
|2||From the South to North Sea|
|3||Cruising with the Privateers|
|4||To the Isle of John Fernando|
|5||Departure from John Fernando|
|6||Depart from Amapalla|
|7||Leave the Isle of Plata|
|8||Set Out from Tobago|
|9||Set Out from Guatulco|
|10||Departure from Cape Corrientes|
|12||Of the Isle of Mindanao|
|13||Coasting Along the Isle of Mindanao|
|14||Depart from the River of Mindinao|
|15||Leave Pulo Condore|
|16||Depart from the Bashee Islands|
|17||Leaving New Holland|
|18||The Author Puts to Sea|
|19||Departure from Bencouli|
|20||Inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope|
The third day of September 1684 we sent the friar ashore and left the Indians in possession of the prize which we brought in hither, though she was still half laden with flour, and we sailed out with the land-wind, passing between Amapalla and Mangera. When we were a league out we saw a canoa coming with sail and oars after us; therefore we shortened sail and stayed for her. She was a canoa sent by the governor of St. Michael's Town to our captain, desiring him not to carry away the friar. The messenger being told that the friar was set ashore again at Amapalla he returned with joy, and we made sail again, having the wind at west-north-west.
We steered towards the coast of Peru; we had tornadoes every day till we made Cape San Francisco, which from June to November are very common on these coasts; and we had with the tornadoes very much thunder, lightning, and rain. When the tornadoes were over the winds, which while they lasted was most from the south-east, came about again to the west, and never failed us till we were in sight of Cape San Francisco, where we found the wind at south with fair weather.
This cape is in latitude 01 degrees 00 north. It is a high bluff, or full point of land, clothed with tall great trees. Passing by this point, coming from the north, you will see a small low point which you might suppose to be the cape; but you are then past it, and presently afterwards it appears with three points. The land in the country within this cape is very high, and the mountains commonly appear very black.
When we came in with this cape we overtook Captain Eaton, plying under the shore: he in his passage from Amapalla, while he was on that coast, met with such terrible tornadoes of thunder and lightning that, as he and all his men related, they had never met with the like in any place. They were very much affrighted by them, the air smelling very much of sulphur, and they apprehending themselves in great danger of being burnt by the lightning. He touched at the island Cocos, and put ashore 200 packs of flour there, and loaded his boat with coconuts, and took in fresh water. In the evening we separated again from Captain Eaton; for he stood off to sea and we plied up under the shore, making our best advantage both of sea and land-winds. The sea-winds are here at south, the land-winds at south-south-east, but sometimes when we came abreast of the river we should have the wind at south-east.
The 20th day of September we came to the island Plata, and anchored in 16 fathom. We had very good weather from the time that we fell in with Cape San Francisco; and were now fallen in again with the same places from whence I begin the account of this voyage in the first chapter, having now compassed in the whole continent of the South America.
The island Plata, as some report, was so named by the Spaniards after Sir Francis Drake took the Cacafoga, a ship chiefly laden with plate, which they say he brought hither and divided it here with his men.* It is about four mile long, and a mile and a half broad, and of a good height. It is bounded with high steep cliffs clear round, only at one place on the east side. The top of it is flat and even, the soil sandy and dry: the trees it produces are but small-bodied, low, and grow thin; and there are only three or four sorts of trees, all unknown to us. I observed they were much overgrown with long moss. There is good grass, especially in the beginning of the year. There is no water on this island but at one place on the east side, close by the sea; there it drills slowly down from the rocks, where it may be received into vessels. There was plenty of goats but they are now all destroyed. There is no other sort of land-animal that I did ever see: here are plenty of boobies and men-of-war-birds. The anchoring-place is on the east side near the middle of the island close by the shore, within 2 cables' length of the sandy bay: there is about 18 or 20 fathom good fast oazy ground and smooth water; for the south-east point of the island shelters from the south winds which constantly blow here. From the south-east point there strikes out a small shoal a quarter of a mile into the sea, where there is commonly a great rippling or working of short waves during all the flood. The tide runs pretty strong, the flood to the south and the ebb to the north. There is good landing on the sandy bay against the anchoring-place, from whence you may go up into the island, and at no place besides. There are 2 or 3 high, steep, small rocks at the south-east point, not a cable's length from the island; and another much bigger at the north-east end: it is deep water all round, but at the anchoring-place, and at the shoal at the south-east point. This island lies in latitude 01 degrees 10 minutes south. It is distant from Cape San Lorenzo 4 or 5 leagues, bearing from it west-south-west and half a point westerly. At this island are plenty of those small sea-turtle spoken of in my last chapter.
* Drake captured the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción—called Cacafuego by an unknown English witness—near Cabo de San Francisco, north of Guayaquil. Dampier does not identify his source, and there is no known evidence that Drake ever stopped, or even approached, Isla de la Plata. Nevertheless, the legend associating Drake with the island persists to this day.—JW.
The 21st day Captain Eaton came to an anchor by us: he was very willing to have consorted with us again; but Captain Davis's men were so unreasonable that they would not allow Captain Eaton's men an equal share with them in what they got: therefore Captain Eaton stayed here but one night, and the next day sailed from hence, steering away to the southward. We stayed no longer than the day ensuing, and then we sailed towards Point Santa Helena, intending there to land some men purposely to get prisoners for intelligence.
Point Santa Helena bears south from the island Plata. It lies in latitude 2 degrees 15 minutes south. The point is pretty high, flat, and even at top, overgrown with many great thistles, but no sort of tree; at a distance it appears like an island because the land within it is very low.
This point strikes out west into the sea, making a pretty large bay on the north side. A mile within the point on the sandy bay close by the sea there is a poor small Indian village called Santa Helena; the land about it is low, sandy and barren, there are no trees nor grass growing near it; neither do the Indians produce any fruit, grain, or plant but watermelons only, which are large and very sweet. There is no fresh water at this place nor near it; therefore the inhabitants are obliged to fetch all their water from the river Colanche, which is in the bottom of the bay, about 4 leagues from it.
Not far from this town, on the bay close by the sea, about 5 paces from high-water mark, there is a sort of bituminous matter boils out of a little hole in the earth; it is like thin tar: the Spaniards call it algatrane. By much boiling it becomes hard like pitch. It is frequently used by the Spaniards instead of pitch; and the Indians that inhabit here save it in jars. It boils up most at high water; and then the Indians are ready to receive it. These Indians are fishermen and go out to sea on bark-logs. Their chief subsistence is maize, most of which they get from ships that come hither from Algatrane. There is good anchoring to leeward of the point right against the village: but on the west side of the point it is deep water and no anchoring.
The Spaniards do report that there was once a very rich ship driven ashore here in calm for want of wind to work her. As soon as ever she struck she heeled off to sea, 7 or 8 fathom water, where she lies to this day; none having attempted to fish for her, because she lies deep, and there falls in here a great high sea.
When we were abreast of this point, we sent away our Canoas in the night to take the Indian village. They landed in the morning betimes close by the town and took some prisoners. They took likewise a small bark which the Indians had set on fire, but our men quenched it and took the Indians that did it; who being asked wherefore he set the bark on fire said that there was an order from the viceroy lately set out commanding all seamen to burn their vessels if attacked by us, and betake themselves to their boats. There was another bark in a small cove a mile from the village, thither our men went, thinking to take her, but the seamen that were aboard set her in flames and fled: in the evening our men came aboard and brought the small bark with them, the fire of which they had quenched; and then we returned again towards Plata; where we arrived the 26th day of September.
In the evening we sent out some men in our bark lately taken, and Canoas, to an Indian village called Manta, two or three leagues to the westward of Cape San Lorenzo; hoping there to get other prisoners, for we could not learn from those we took at Point Santa Helena the reason why the viceroy should give such orders to burn the ships. They had a fresh sea-breeze till about 12 a clock at night, and then it proved calm; wherefore they rowed away with their Canoas as near to the town as they thought convenient, and lay still till day.
Manta is a small Indian village on the Main, distant from the island Plata 7 or 8 leagues. It stands so advantageously to be seen, being built on a small ascent, that it makes a very fair prospect to the sea; yet but a few poor scattering Indian houses. There is a very fine church, adorned with a great deal of carved work. It was formerly a habitation for Spaniards, but they are all removed from hence now. The land about it is dry and sandy, bearing only a few shrubby trees. These Indians plant no manner of grain or root, but are supplied from other places; and commonly keep a stock of provision to relieve ships that want; for this is the first settlement that ships can touch at which come from Panama bound to Lima, or any other port in Peru. The land, being dry and sandy, is not fit to produce crops of maize; which is the reason they plant none. There is a spring of good water between the village and the sea.
On the back of the town, a pretty way up in the country, there is a very high mountain, towering up like a sugar-loaf, called Monte Christo. It is a very good sea-mark, for there is none like it on all the coast. The body of this mountain bears due south from Manta. About a mile and a half from the shore, right against the village, there is a rock, which is very dangerous, because it never appears above water; neither does the sea break on it, because there is seldom any great sea; yet it is now so well known that all ships bound to this place do easily avoid it. A mile within this rock there is good anchoring in 6, 8, or 10 fathom water, good hard sand and clear ground. And a mile from the road on the west side there is a shoal running out a mile into the sea. From Manta to Cape San Lorenzo the land is plain and even, of an indifferent height. [See a farther account of these coasts in the Appendix.]
As soon as ever the day appeared our men landed, and marched towards the village, which was about a mile and a half from their landing-place: some of the Indians who were stirring saw them coming and alarmed their neighbours; so that all that were able got away. They took only two old women who both said that it was reported that a great many enemies were come overland through the country of Darien into the South Seas, and that they were at present in Canoas and periago's: and that the viceroy upon this news had set out the forementioned order for burning their own ships. Our men found no sort of provision here; the viceroy having likewise sent orders to all sea ports to keep no provision, but to just supply themselves. These women also said that the Manta Indians were sent over to the island Plata to destroy all the goats there; which they performed about a month agone. With this news our men returned again, and arrived at Plata the next day.
We lay still at the island Plata, being not resolved what to do; till the 2nd day of October, and then Captain Swan in the Cygnet of London arrived there. He was fitted out by very eminent merchants of that city, on a design only to trade with the Spaniards or Indians, having a very considerable cargo well sorted for these parts of the world; but meeting with divers disappointments and, being out of hopes to obtain a trade in these seas, his men forced him to entertain a company of privateers which he met with near Nicoya, a town whither he was going to seek a trade, and these privateers were bound thither in boats to get a ship. These were the men that we had heard of at Manta; they came overland under the command of Captain Peter Harris, nephew to that Captain Harris who was killed before Panama. Captain Swan was still commander of his own ship, and Captain Harris commanded a small bark under Captain Swan. There was much joy on all sides when they arrived; and immediately hereupon Captain Davis and Captain Swan consorted, wishing for Captain Eaton again. Our little bark, which was taken at Santa Helena, was immediately sent out to cruise, while the ships were fitting; for Captain Swan's ship being full of goods was not fit to entertain his new guest till the goods were disposed of; therefore he by the consent of the supercargo got up all his goods on deck, and sold to anyone that would buy upon trust: the rest was thrown overboard into the sea except fine goods, as silks, muslins, stockings, etc., and except the iron, whereof he had a good quantity, both wrought and in bars: this was saved for ballast.
The third day after our bark was sent to cruise she brought in a prize of 400 tuns, laden with timber: they took her in the Bay of Guiaquil; she came from a town of that name and was bound to Lima. The commander of this prize said that it was generally reported and believed at Guiaquil that the viceroy was fitting out 10 sail of frigates to drive us out of these seas. This news made our unsettled crew wish that they had been persuaded to accept of Captain Eaton's company on reasonable terms. Captain Davis and Captain Swan had some discourse concerning Captain Eaton; they at last concluded to send our small bark towards the coast of Lima, as far as the island Lobos, to seek Captain Eaton. This being approved by all hands she was cleaned the next day and sent away, manned with twenty men, ten of Captain Davis's, and ten of Swan's men, and Captain Swan writ a letter directed to Captain Eaton, desiring his company, and the isle of Plata was appointed for the general rendezvous. When this bark was gone we turned another bark which we had into a fire-ship; having six or seven carpenters who soon fixed her; and while the carpenters were at work about the fire-ship we scrubbed and cleaned our men-of-war as well as time and place would permit.
The 19th day of October we finished our business, and the 20th day we sailed towards the island Lobos, where our bark was ordered to stay for us, or meet us again at Plata. We had but little wind, therefore it was the 23rd day before we passed by Point Santa Helena. The 25th day we crossed over the Bay of Guiaquil.
The 30th day we doubled Cape Blanco. This cape is in latitude 3 degrees 45 minutes. It is counted the worst cape in all the South Seas to double, passing to the southward; for in all other places ships may stand off to sea 20 or 30 leagues off if they find they cannot get anything under the shore; but here they dare not do it: for, by relation of the Spaniards, they find a current setting north-west which will carry a ship off more in two hours than they can run in again in five. Besides, setting to the northward they lose ground: therefore they always beat up in under the shore, which ofttimes they find very difficult because the wind commonly blows very strong at south-south-west or south by W. without altering; for here are never any land-winds. This cape is of an indifferent height: it is fenced with white rocks to the sea; for which reason, I believe, it has this name. The land in the country seems to be full of high, steep, rugged and barren rocks.
The 2nd day of November we got as high as Payta: we lay about six leagues off shore all the day, that the Spaniards might not see us; and in the evening sent our Canoas ashore to take it, manned with 110 men.
Payta is a small Spanish sea port town in the latitude of 5 degrees 15 minutes. It is built on the sand, close by the sea, in a nook, elbow, or small bay, under a pretty high hill. There are not above 75 or 80 houses and two churches. The houses are but low and ill built.
The building in this country of Peru is much alike on all the sea-coast. The walls are built of brick made with earth and straw kneaded together: they are about three foot long, two foot broad, and a foot and a half thick: they never burn them, but lay them a long time in the sun to dry before they are used in building. In some places they have no roofs, only poles laid across from the side walls and covered with mats; and then those walls are carried up to a considerable height. But where they build roofs upon their houses the walls are not made so high, as I said before. The houses in general all over this kingdom are but meanly built, one chief reason, with the common people especially, is the want of materials to build withal; for however it be more within land, yet here is neither stone nor timber to build with, nor any materials but such brick as I have described; and even the stone which they have in some places is so brittle that you may rub it into sand with your fingers. Another reason why they build so meanly is because it never rains; therefore they only endeavour to fence themselves from the sun. Yet their walls, which are built but with an ordinary sort of brick in comparison with what is made in other parts of the world, continue a long time as firm as when first made, having never any winds nor rains to rot, moulder, or shake them. However, the richer sort have timber, which they make use of in building; but it is brought from other places.
This dry country commences to the northward, from about Cape Blanco to Coquimbo, in about 30 degrees south, having no rain that I could ever observe or hear of; nor any green thing growing in the mountains: neither yet in the valleys, except where here and there watered with a few small rivers dispersed up and down. So that the northermost parts of this tract of land are supplied with timber from Guiaquil, Gallo, Tornato, and other places that are watered with rains; where there are plenty of all sorts of timber. In the south parts, as about Guasco and Coquimbo, they fetch their timber from the island Chiloe, or other places thereabouts. The walls of churches and rich men's houses are whitened with lime, both within and without; and the doors and posts are very large, and adorned with carved work, and the beams also in the churches: the inside of the houses are hung round with rich embroidered or painted cloths. They have likewise abundance of fine pictures, which adds no small ornament to their houses: these, I suppose, they have from Old Spain. But the houses of Payta are none of them so richly furnished. The churches were large and fairly carved: at one end of the town there was a small fort close by the sea, but no great guns in it. This fort, only with muskets, will command all the bay so as to hinder any boats from landing. There is another fort on the top of the hill, just over the town, which commands both it and the lower fort.
There is neither wood nor water to be had there: they fetch their water from an Indian town called Colan, about two leagues north-north-east from Payta: for at Colan there is a small river of fresh water which runs out into the sea; from whence ships that touch at Payta are supplied with water and other refreshments, as fowls, hogs, plantains, yams, and maize: Payta being destitute of all these things, only as they fetch them from Colan, as they have occasion.
The Indians of Colan are all fishermen: they go out to sea and fish from bark-logs. Bark-logs are made of many round logs of wood, in manner of a raft, and very different according to the use that they are designed for, or the humour of the people that make them, or the matter that they are made of. If they are made for fishing then they are only 3 or 4 logs of light wood, of 7 or 8 foot long, placed by the side of each other, pinned fast together with wooden pins and bound hard with withes. The logs are so placed that the middlemost are longer than those by the sides, especially at the head or fore part, which grows narrower gradually into an angle or point, the better to cut through the water. Others are made to carry goods: the bottom of these is made of 20 or 30 great trees of about 20, 30, or 40 foot long, fastened like the other, side to side, and so shaped: on the top of these they place another shorter row of trees across them, pinned fast to each other and then pinned to the undermost row: this double row of planks makes the bottom of the float, and of a considerable breadth. From this bottom the raft is raised to about 10 foot higher, with rows of posts sometimes set upright, and supporting a floor or two: but those I observed were raised by thick trees laid across each other, as in wood-piles; only not close together as in the bottom of the float, but at the ends and sides only, so as to leave the middle all hollow like a chamber; except that here and there a beam goes across it to keep the float more compact. In this hollow at about 4 foot height from the beams at the bottom they lay small poles along and close together to make a floor for another room, on the top of which also they lay another such floor made of poles; and the entrances into both these rooms is only by creeping between the great traverse trees which make the walls of this sea-house. The lowest of these storeys serves as a cellar: there they lay great stones for ballast, and their jars of fresh water closed up, and whatever may bear being wet; for, by the weight of the ballast and cargo, the bottom of this room, and of the whole vessel, is sunk so deep as to lie 2 or 3 feet within the surface of the water. The second story is for the seamen and their necessaries. Above this second story the goods are stowed to what height they please, usually about 8 or 10 feet, and kept together by poles set upright quite round: only there is a little space abaft for the steersmen (for they have a large rudder) and afore for the fire-hearth, to dress their victuals, especially when they make long voyages, as from Lima to Truxillo, or Guiaquil, or Panama, which last voyage is 5 or 600 leagues. In the midst of all, among the goods, rises a mast, to which is fastened a large sail, as in our West Country barges in the Thames. They always go before the wind, being unable to ply against it; and therefore are fit only for these seas, where the wind is always in a manner the same, not varying above a point or two all the way from Lima, till such time as they come into the Bay of Panama: and even there they meet with no great sea; but sometimes northerly winds; and then they lower their sails, and drive before it, waiting a change. All their care then is only to keep off from shore; for they are so made that they cannot sink at sea. These rafts carry 60 or 70 tuns of goods and upwards; their cargo is chiefly wine, oil, flour, sugar, Quito-cloth, soap, goat-skins dressed, etc. The float is managed usually by 3 or 4 men, who, being unable to return with it against the trade-wind, when they come to Panama dispose of the goods and bottom together; getting a passage back again for themselves in some ship or boat bound to the port they came from; and there they make a new bark-log for their next cargo.
The smaller sort of bark-logs, described before, which lie flat on the water and are used for fishing, or carrying water to ships, or the like (half a tun or a tun at a time) are more governable than the other, though they have masts and sails too. With these they go out at night by the help of the land-wind (which is seldom wanting on this coast) and return back in the daytime with the sea-wind.
This sort of floats are used in many places both in the East and West Indies. On the coast of Coromandel in the East Indies they call them catamarans. These are but one log, or two sometimes of a sort of light wood, and are made without sail or rudder, and so small that they carry but one man, whose legs and breech are always in the water, and he manages his log with a paddle, appearing at a distance like a man sitting on a fish's back.
The country about Payta is mountainous and barren like all the rest of the Kingdom of Peru. There is no town of consequence nearer it than Piura, which is a large town in the country 40 miles distant. It lies, by report of our Spanish prisoners, in a valley which is watered with a small river that disembogues itself into the Bay of Chirapee, in about 7 degrees of north latitude. This bay is nearer to Piura than Payta; yet all goods imported by sea for Piura are landed at Payta, for the bay of Chirapee is full of dangerous shoals, and therefore not frequented by shipping.
The road of Payta is one of the best on the coast of Peru. It is sheltered from the south-west by a point of land which makes a large bay and smooth water for ships to ride in. There is room enough for a good fleet of ships, and good anchoring in any depth, from 6 fathom water to 20 fathom. Right against the town, the nearer the town, the shallower the water and the smoother the riding, it is clean sand all over the bay. Most ships passing either to the north or the south touch at this place for water, for, though here is none at the town, yet those Indian fishermen of Colan will, and do, supply all ships very reasonably; and good water is much prized on all this coast through the scarcity of it.
November the 3rd at 6 a clock in the morning our men landed about 4 miles to the south of the town and took some prisoners that were sent thither to watch for fear of us; and these prisoners said that the governor of Piura came with 100 armed men to Payta the night before, purposely to oppose our landing there if we should attempt it.
Our men marched directly to the fort on the hill, and took it without the loss of one man. Hereupon the governor of Piura with all his men and the inhabitants of the town ran away as fast as they could. Then our men entered the town and found it emptied both of money and goods; there was not so much as a meal of victuals left for them.
The prisoners told us a ship had been here a little before and burnt a great ship in the road, but did not land their men; and that here they put ashore all their prisoners and pilots. We knew this must be Captain Eaton's ship which had done this, and by these circumstances we supposed he was gone to the East Indies, it being always designed by him. The prisoners told us also that, since Captain Eaton was here, a small bark had been off the harbour and taken a pair of bark-logs a-fishing, and made the fishermen bring aboard 20 or 30 jars of fresh water. This we supposed was our bark that was sent to the Lobos to seek Captain Eaton.
In the evening we came in with our ships and anchored before the town in 10 fathom water, near a mile from the shore. Here we stayed till the sixth day, in hopes to get a ransom from the town. Our captains demanded 300 packs of flour, 3000 pound of Sugar, 25 jars of wine, and 1000 jars of water to be brought off to us; but we got nothing of it. Therefore Captain Swan ordered the town to be fired, which was presently done. Then all our men came aboard, and Captain Swan ordered the bark which Captain Harris commanded to be burnt because she did not sail well.
At night, when the land-wind came off, we sailed from hence towards Lobos. The 10th day in the evening we saw a sail bearing N. W. by north as far as we could well discern her on our deck. We immediately chased, separating ourselves the better to meet her in the night; but we missed her. Therefore the next morning we again trimmed sharp and made the best of our way to Lobos de la Mar.
The 14th day we had sight of the island Lobos de Terra: it bore east from us; we stood in towards it, and betwixt 7 and 8 a clock in the night came to an anchor at the north-east end of the island, in 4 fathom water. This island at sea is of an indifferent height, and appears like Lobos de la Mar. About a quarter of a mile from the north end there is a great hollow rock, and a good channel between, where there is 7 fathom water. The 15th day we went ashore and found abundance of penguins and boobies, and seal in great quantities. We sent aboard of all these to be dressed, for we had not tasted any flesh in a great while before; therefore some of us did eat very heartily. Captain Swan, to encourage his men to eat this coarse flesh, would commend it for extraordinary food, comparing the seal to a roasted pig, the boobies to hens, and the penguins to ducks: this he did to train them to live contentedly on coarse meat, not knowing but we might be forced to make use of such food before we departed out of these seas; for it is generally seen among privateers that nothing emboldens them sooner to mutiny than want, which we could not well suffer in a place where there are such quantities of these animals to be had if men could be persuaded to be content with them.
In the afternoon we sailed from Lobos de Terra with the wind at south by east and arrived at Lobos de la Mar on the 19th day. Here we found a letter, left by our bark that was sent to seek Captain Eaton, by which we understood that Captain Eaton had been there but was gone before they arrived, and had left no letter to advise us which way he was gone; and that our bark was again returned to Plata in hopes to find us there, or meet us by the way, else resolving to stay for us there. We were sorry to hear that Captain Eaton was gone, for now we did not expect to meet with him any more in these seas.
The 21st day we sent out our Moskito strikers for turtle, who brought aboard enough to serve both ships' companies; and this they did all the time that we abode here. While we lay at this island Captain Swan made new yards, squarer than those he had before, and made his sails larger, and our ship's company in the meantime split plank for firewood, and put aboard as many planks as we could conveniently stow for other uses: here being plank enough of all sorts which we had brought hither in the first prize that we took and left here.
The 26th day in the evening we saw a small bark about 3 leagues north-north-west from the island, but, we supposing her to be our own bark, did not go after her. The next morning she was two leagues south of the island, standing off to sea; but we did not now chase her neither, although we knew she was not our bark; for, being to windward of us, she could have made her escape if we had chased her. This bark, as we were afterwards informed, was sent out purposely to see if we were at this island. Her orders were not to come too near, only to appear in sight; they supposing that if we were here we should soon be after her; as indeed it was a wonder we had not chased her: but our not doing so, and lying close under the island undiscerned by them, was a great occasion of our coming upon Puna afterwards unexpectedly, they being now without fear of any enemy so near them.
The 28th day we scrubbed our ship's bottom, intending to sail the next day towards Guiaquil; it being concluded upon to attempt that town before we returned again to Plata. Accordingly, on the 29th day in the morning, we loosed from hence, steering directly for the Bay of Guiaquil. This bay runs in between Cape Blanco on the south side, and Point Chandy on the north.
About 25 leagues from Cape Blanco, near the bottom of the bay, there is a small island called Santa Clara, which lies east and west: it is of an indifferent length, and it appears like a dead man stretched out in a shroud. The east end represents the head, and the west end the feet. Ships that are bound into the river of Guiaquil pass on the south side to avoid the shoals which lie on the north side of it; whereon formerly ships have been lost.
It is reported by the Spaniards that there is a very rich wreck lies on the north side of that island, not far from it; and that some of the plate has been taken up by one who came from Old Spain, with a patent from the king to fish in those seas for wrecks; but he dying, the project ceased, and the wreck still remains as he left it; only the Indians by stealth do sometimes take up some of it; and they might have taken up much more if it were not for the cat-fish which swarms hereabouts.
The cat-fish is much like a whiting, but the head is flatter and bigger. It has a great wide mouth, and certain small strings pointing out from each side of it, like cat's whiskers; and for that reason it is called a cat-fish. It has three fins; one growing on the top of his back, and one on either side. Each of these fins has a stiff sharp bone which is very venomous if it strikes into a man's flesh; therefore it is dangerous diving where many of these fish are. The Indians that adventured to search this wreck have to their sorrow experienced it; some having lost their lives, others the use of their limbs by it: this we were informed of by an Indian who himself had been fishing on it by stealth. I myself have known some white men that have lost the use of their hands only by a small prick with the fin of these fish: therefore when we catch them with a hook we tread on them to take the hook out of their mouths, or otherwise, in flurting about (as all fish will when first taken) they might accidentally strike their sharp fins into the hands of those that caught them. Some of the fish are seven or eight pound weight: some again, in some particular places, are none of them bigger than a man's thumb, but their fins are all alike venomous. They use to be at the mouths of rivers, or where there is much mud and oaze, and they are found all over the American coast, both in the North and South Sea, at least in the hot countries, as also in the East Indies: where, sailing with Captain Minchin among certain islands near the Straits of Malacca, he pointed to an island at which he told me he lost the use of his hand by one of these only in going to take the hook out of its mouth. The wound was scarce visible yet his hand was much swollen, and the pain lasted about 9 weeks; during most part of which the raging heat of it was almost ready to distract him. However, though the bony fins of these fish are so venomous, yet the bones in their bodies are not so; at least we never perceived any such effect in eating the fish; and their flesh is very sweet, delicious and wholesome meat.
From the island Santa Clara to Punta Arena is 7 leagues east-north-east. This Punta Arena, or Sandy Point, is the westermost point of the island Puna. Here all ships bound into the river of Guiaquil anchor, and must wait for a pilot, the entrance being very dangerous for strangers.
The island Puna is a pretty large flat low island, stretching east and west about 12 or 14 leagues long, and about four or five leagues wide. The tide runs very strong all about this island, but so many different ways, by reason of the branches, creeks, and rivers that run into the sea near it, that it casts up many dangerous shoals on all sides of it. There is in the island only one Indian town on the south side of it, close by the sea, and seven leagues from Punta Arena, which town is also called Puna. The Indians of this town are all seamen, and are the only pilots in these seas, especially for this river. Their chiefest employment when they are not at sea is fishing. These men are obliged by the Spaniards to keep good watch for ships that anchor at Punta Arena; which, as I said before, is 7 leagues from the town Puna. The place where they keep this watch is at a point of land on the island Puna that starts out into the sea; from whence they can see all ships that anchor at Punta Arena. The Indians come thither in the morning, and return at night on horseback. From this watching point to Punta Arena it is 4 leagues, all drowned mangrove-land: and in the midway between these two points is another small point, where these Indians are obliged to keep another watch when they fear an enemy. The sentinel goes thither in a canoa in the morning, and returns at night; for there is no coming thither by land through that mangrove marshy ground. The middle of the island Puna is savannah or pasture.
There are some ridges of good woodland which is of a light yellow or sandy mould, producing large tall trees, most unknown even to travellers: but there are plenty of palmetto-trees which, because I am acquainted with, I shall describe. The palmetto-tree is about the bigness of an ordinary ash: it is about 30 foot high; the body straight, without any limb, or branch, or leaf, except at the head only, where it spreads forth into many small branches, not half so big as a man's arm, some no bigger than one's finger: these branches are about three or four foot long, clear from any knot: at the end of the branch there grows one broad leaf, about the bigness of a large fan. This, when it first shoots forth, grows in folds, like a fan when it is closed; and still as it grows bigger so it opens, till it becomes like a fan spread abroad. It is strengthened towards the stalk with many small ribs springing from thence, and growing into the leaf; which as they grow near the end of the leaf, grow thinner and smaller. The leaves that make the brush part of the flag-brooms which are brought into England grow just in this manner; and are indeed a small kind of palmetto; for there are of them of several dimensions. In Bermuda and elsewhere they make hats, baskets, brooms, fans to blow the fire instead of bellows, with many other house implements, of palmetto leaves. On the ridges where these trees grow the Indians have here and there plantations of maize, yams, and potatoes.
There are in the town of Puna about 20 houses and a small church. The houses stand all on posts, 10 or 12 foot high, with ladders on the outside to go up into them. I did never see the like building anywhere but among the Malayans in the East Indies. They are thatched with palmetto-leaves, and their chambers well boarded, in which last they exceed the Malayans. The best place for ships to lie at an anchor is against the middle of the town. There is five fathom water within a cables' length of the shore, and good soft deep oaze where ships may careen or haul ashore; it stows 15 or 16 foot water up and down.
From Puna to Guiaquil is reckoned 7 leagues. It is 1 league before you come to the river of Guiaquil's mouth, where it is about two mile wide; from thence upwards the river lies pretty straight without any considerable turnings. Both sides of the river are low swampy land, overgrown with red mangroves, so that there is no landing.
Four mile before you come to the town of Guiaquil there's a low island standing in the river. This island divides the river into two parts, making two very fair channels for ships to pass up and down. The south-west channel is the widest, the other is as deep, but narrower and narrower yet, by reason of many trees and bushes which spread over the river, both from the main and from the island; and there are also several great stumps of trees standing upright in the water on either side. The island is above a mile long. From the upper part of the island to the town of Guiaquil is almost a league, and near as much from one side of the river to the other. In that spacious place ships of the greatest burden may ride afloat; but the best place for ships is nearest to that part of the land where the town stands; and this place is seldom without ships. Guiaquil stands facing the island, close by the river, partly on the side and partly at the foot of a gentle hill declining towards the river, by which the lower part of it is often overflown. There are two forts, one standing on the low ground, the other on the hill. This town makes a very fine prospect, it being beautified with several churches and other good buildings. Here lives a governor who, as I have been informed, has his patent from the king of Spain.
Guiaquil may be reckoned one of the chiefest sea ports in the South Seas: the commodities which are exported from hence are Cacoa, hides, tallow, sarsaparilla, and other drugs, and woollen cloth, commonly called cloth of Quito.
The Cacoa grows on both sides of the river above the town. It is a small nut, like the Campeachy nut: I think, the smallest of the two; they produce as much Cacoa here as serves all the kingdom of Peru; and much of it is sent to Acapulco and from thence to the Philippine Islands.
Sarsaparilla grows in the water by the sides of the river, as I have been informed.
The Quito-cloth comes from a rich town in the country within land called Quito. There is a great deal made, both serges and broadcloth. This cloth is not very fine, but it is worn by the common sort of people throughout the whole kingdom of Peru. This and all other commodities which come from Quito are shipped off at Guiaquil for other parts; and all imported goods for the city of Quito pass by Guiaquil: by which it may appear that Guiaquil is a place of no mean trade.
Quito, as I have been informed, is a very populous city, seated in the heart of the country. It is inhabited partly by Spaniards; but the major part of its inhabitants are Indians, under the Spanish government.
It is environed with mountains of a vast height, from whose bowels many great rivers have their rise. These mountains abound in gold, which by violent rains is washed with the sand into the adjacent brooks where the Indians resort in troops, washing away the sand and putting up the gold dust in their calabashes or gourd-shells: but for the manner of gathering the gold I refer you to Mr. Wafer's book: only I shall remark here that Quito is the place in all the kingdom of Peru that abounds most with this rich metal, as I have been often informed.
The country is subject to great rains and very thick fogs, especially the valleys. For that reason it is very unwholesome and sickly. The chiefest distempers are fevers, violent headache, pains in the bowels, and fluxes. I know no place where gold is found but what is very unhealthy, as I shall more particularly relate when I come to speak of Achin in the isle of Sumatra in the East Indies. Guiaquil is not so sickly as Quito and other towns farther within land; yet in comparison with the towns that are on the coast of Mare Pacifico, south of Cape Blanco, it is very sickly.
It was to this town of Guiaquil that we were bound; therefore we left our ships off Cape Blanco and ran into the Bay of Guiaquil with our bark and Canoas, steering in for the island Santa Clara, where we arrived the next day after we left our ships, and from thence we sent away two Canoas the next evening to Punta Arena. At this point there are abundance of oysters and other shellfish, as cockles and mussels; therefore the Indians of Puna often come hither to get these fish. Our Canoas got over before day and absconded in a creek to wait for the coming of the Puna Indians. The next morning some of them, according to their custom, came thither on bark-logs at the latter part of the ebb, and were all taken by our men. The next day, by their advice, the two watchmen of the Indian town Puna were taken by our men, and all its inhabitants, not one escaping. The next ebb they took a small bark laden with Quito-cloth. She came from Guiaquil that tide and was bound to Lima, they having advice that we were gone off the coast by the bark which I said we saw while we lay at the island Lobos. The master of this cloth-bark informed our men that there were three barks coming from Guiaquil, laden with Negroes: he said they would come from thence the next tide. The same tide of ebb that they took the cloth-bark they sent a canoa to our bark, where the biggest part of the men were, to hasten them away with speed to the Indian town. The bark was now riding at Punta Arena; and the next flood she came with all the men and the rest of the Canoas to Puna. The tide of flood being now far spent we lay at this town till the last of the ebb and then rowed away, leaving five men aboard our bark who were ordered to lie still till eight a clock the next morning, and not to fire at any boat or bark, but after that time they might fire at any object: for it was supposed that before that time we should be masters of Guiaquil. We had not rowed above two mile before we met and took one of the three barks laden with Negroes; the master of her said that the other two would come from Guiaquil the next tide of ebb. We cut her main-mast down and left her at an anchor. It was now strong flood, and therefore we rowed with all speed towards the town in hopes to get thither before the flood was down, but we found it farther than we did expect it to be, or else our Canoas, being very full of men, did not row so fast as we would have them. The day broke when we were two leagues from the town, and then we had not above an hour's flood more; therefore our captains desired the Indian pilot to direct us to some creek where we might abscond all day, which was immediately done, and one canoa was sent toward Puna to our bark to order them not to move nor fire till the next day. But she came too late to countermand the first orders; for the two barks before mentioned laden with Negroes come from the town the last quarter of the evening tide, and lay in the river close by the shore on one side, and we rowed upon the other side and missed them; neither did they see nor hear us. As soon as the flood was spent the two barks weighed and went down with the ebb towards Puna. Our bark, seeing them coming directly towards them and both full of men, supposed that we by some accident had been destroyed, and that the two barks were manned with Spanish soldiers and sent to take our ships, and therefore they fired three guns at them a league before they came near. The two Spanish barks immediately came to an anchor, and the masters got into their boats and rowed for the shore; but our canoa that was sent from us took them both. The firing of these three guns made a great disorder among our advanced men, for most of them did believe they were heard at Guiaquil, and that therefore it could be no profit to lie still in the creek; but either row away to the town or back again to our ships. It was now quarter ebb, therefore we could not move upwards if we had been disposed so to do. At length Captain Davis said he would immediately land in the creek where they lay, and march directly to the town, if but forty men would accompany him: and without saying more words he landed among the mangroves in the marshes. Those that were so minded followed him, to the number of forty or fifty. Captain Swan lay still with the rest of the party in the creek, for they thought it impossible to do any good that way. Captain Davis and his men were absent about four hours, and then returned all wet and quite tired, and could not find any passage out into the firm land. He had been so far that he almost despaired of getting back again: for a man cannot pass through those red mangroves but with very much labour. When Captain Davis was returned we concluded to be going towards the town the beginning of the next flood; and, if we found that the town was alarmed, we purposed to return again without attempting anything there. As soon as it was flood we rowed away and passed by the island through the north-east channel, which is the narrowest. There are so many stumps in the river that it is very dangerous passing in the night (and that is the time we always take for such attempts) for the river runs very swift, and one of our Canoas stuck on a stump and had certainly overset if she had not been immediately rescued by others. When we were come almost to the end of the island, there was a musket fired at us out of the bushes on the Main. We then had the town open before us, and presently saw lighted torches, or candles, all the town over; whereas before the gun was fired there was but one light: therefore we now concluded we were discovered: yet many of our men said that it was a holy day the next day, as it was indeed, and that therefore the Spaniards were making fireworks, which they often do in the night against such times. We rowed therefore a little farther, and found firm land, and Captain Davis pitched his canoa ashore and landed with his men. Captain Swan and most of his men did not think it convenient to attempt anything, seeing the town was alarmed; but at last, being upbraided with cowardice, Captain Swan and his men landed also. The place where we landed was about two mile from the town: it was all overgrown with woods so thick that we could not march through in the night; and therefore we sat down, waiting for the light of the day. We had two Indian pilots with us; one that had been with us a month, who, having received some abuses from a gentleman of Guiaquil, to be revenged offered his service to us, and we found him very faithful: the other was taken by us not above two or three days before, and he seemed to be as willing as the other to assist us. This latter was led by one of Captain Davis's men, who showed himself very forward to go to the town, and upbraided others with faint-heartedness: yet this man (as he afterwards confessed) notwithstanding his courage, privately cut the string that the guide was made fast with, and let him go to the town by himself, not caring to follow him; but when he thought the guide was got far enough from us, he cried out that the pilot was gone, and that somebody had cut the cord that tied him. This put every man in a moving posture to seek the Indian, but all in vain; and our consternation was great, being in the dark and among woods; so the design was wholly dashed, for not a man after that had the heart to speak of going farther. Here we stayed till day and then rowed out into the middle of the river, where we had a fair view of the town; which, as I said before, makes a very pleasant prospect. We lay still about half an hour, being a mile or something better from the town. They did not fire one gun at us, nor we at them. Thus our design on Guiaquil failed: yet Captain Townley and Captain Francois Gronet took it a little while after this. When we had taken a full view of the town we rowed over the river, where we went ashore to a beef estancia or farm and killed a cow, which we dressed and ate. We stayed there till the evening tide of ebb, and then rowed down the river, and the 9th day in the morning arrived at Puna. In our way thither we went aboard the three barks laden with Negroes, that lay at their anchor in the river, and carried the barks away with us. There were 1000 Negroes in the three barks, all lusty young men and women. When we came to Puna we sent a canoa to Punta Arena to see if the ships were come thither. The 12th day she returned again with tidings that they were both there at anchor. Therefore in the afternoon we all went aboard of our ships and carried the cloth-bark with us, and about forty of the stoutest Negro men, leaving their three barks with the rest; and out of these also Captain Davis and Captain Swan chose about 14 or 15 apiece, and turned the rest ashore.
There was never a greater opportunity put into the hands of men to enrich themselves than we had to have gone with these Negroes and settled ourselves at Santa Maria, on the Isthmus of Darien, and employed them in getting gold out of the mines there. Which might have been done with ease: for about six months before this Captain Harris (who was now with us) coming overland from the North Seas with his body of Privateers, had routed the Spaniards away from the town and gold-mines of Santa Maria, so that they had never attempted to settle there again since: add to this that the Indian neighbourhood, who were mortal enemies to the Spaniards and had been flushed by their successes against them, through the assistance of the privateers, for several years, were our fast friends and ready to receive and assist us. We had, as I have said, 1000 Negroes to work for us, we had 200 tun of flour that lay at the Gallapagos, there was the river of Santa Maria, where we could careen and fit our ships; and might fortify the mouth so that if all the strength the Spaniards have in Peru had come against us we could have kept them out. If they lay with guard-ships of strength to keep us in, yet we had a great country to live in, and a great nation of Indians that were our friends: besides, which was the principal thing, we had the North Seas to befriend us; from whence we could export ourselves, or effects, or import goods or men to our assistance; for in a short time we should have had assistance from all parts of the West Indies; many thousands of privateers from Jamaica and the French islands especially would have flocked over to us; and long before this time we might have been masters not only of those mines (the richest gold-mines ever yet found in America) but of all the coast as high as Quito: and much more than I say might then probably have been done.
But these may seem to the reader but golden dreams: to leave them therefore; the 13th day we sailed from Punta Arena towards Plata to seek our bark that was sent to the island Lobos in search of Captain Eaton. We were two ships in company and two barks; and the 16th day we arrived at Plata, but found no bark there, nor any letter. The next day we went over to the main to fill water, and in our passage met our bark: she had been a second time at the island Lobos and, not finding us, was coming to Plata again. They had been in some want of provision since they left us, and therefore they had been at Santa Helena, and taken it; where they got as much maize as served them three or four days; and that, with some fish and turtle which they struck, lasted them till they came to the island Lobos de Terra. They got boobies' and penguins' eggs, of which they laid in a store; and went from thence to Lobos de la Mar where they replenished their stock of eggs, and salted up a few young seal, for fear they should want: and, being thus victualled, they returned again towards Plata. When our water was fill'd we went over again to the island Plata. There we parted the cloths that were taken in the cloth-bark into two lots or shares; Captain Davis and his men had one part and Captain Swan and his men had the other part. The bark which the cloth was in Captain Swan kept for a tender. At this time here were at Plata a great many large turtles, which I judge came from the Gallapagos, for I had never seen any here before though I had been here several times. This was their coupling-time, which is much sooner in the year here than in the West Indies, properly so called. Our strikers brought aboard every day more than we could eat. Captain Swan had no striker, and therefore had no turtle but what was sent him from Captain Davis; and all his flour too he had from Captain Davis: but since our disappointment at Guiaquil Captain Davis's men murmured against Captain Swan, and did not willingly give him any provision, because he was not so forward to go thither as Captain Davis. However at last these differences were made up and we concluded to go into the Bay of Panama, to a town called La Velia; but, because we had not Canoas enough to land our men, we were resolved to search some rivers where the Spaniards have no commerce, there to get Indian Canoas.
The 23rd day of December 1684 we sailed from the island Plata towards the Bay of Panama: the wind at south-south-east a fine brisk gale and fine weather.
The next morning we passed by Cape Passao. This cape is in latitude 00 degrees 08 minutes south of the Equator. It runs out into the sea with a high round point which seems to be divided in the midst. It is bald against the sea, but within land and on both sides it is full of short trees. The land in the country is very high and mountainous and it appears to be very woody.
Between Cape Passao and Cape San Francisco the land by the sea is full of small points, making as many little sandy bays between them; and is of an indifferent height covered with trees of divers sorts; so that sailing by this coast you see nothing but a vast grove or wood; which is so much the more pleasant because the trees are of several forms, both in respect to their growth and colour.
Our design was, as I said in my first chapter, to search for Canoas in some river where the Spaniards have neither settlement or trade with the native Indians. We had Spanish pilots, and Indians bred under the Spaniards, who were able to carry us into any harbour or river belonging to the Spaniards, but were wholly unacquainted with those rivers which were not frequented by the Spaniards. There are many such unfrequented rivers between Plata and Panama: indeed all the way from the Line to the Gulf of St. Michaels, or even to Panama itself, the coast is not inhabited by any Spaniards, nor are the Indians that inhabit there any way under their subjection: except only near the isle Gallo, where, on the banks of a gold river or two, there are some Spaniards who work there to find gold.
Now our pilots being at a loss on these less-frequented coasts, we supplied that defect out of the Spanish pilot-books, which we took in their ships; these we found by experience to be very good guides. Yet nevertheless the country in many places by the sea being low, and full of openings, creeks and rivers, it is somewhat difficult to find any particular river that a man designs to go to, where he is not well acquainted.
This however could be no discouragement to us; for one river might probably be as well furnished with Indian Canoas as another; and, if we found them, it was to us indifferent where, yet we pitched on the river St. Jago, not because there were not other rivers as large and as likely to be inhabited with Indians as it; but because that river was not far from Gallo, an island where our ships could anchor safely and ride securely. We passed by Cape San Francisco, meeting with great and continued rains. The land by the sea to the north of the cape is low and extraordinary woody; the trees are very thick and seem to be of a prodigious height and bigness. From Cape San Francisco the land runs more easterly into the Bay of Panama. I take this cape to be its bounds on the south side, and the isles of Cobaya or Quibo to bound it on the north side. Between this cape and the isle Gallo there are many large and navigable rivers. We passed by them all till we came to the river St. Jago.
This river is near 2 degrees north of the Equator. It is large and navigable some leagues up, and seven leagues from the sea it divides itself into two parts, making an island that is four leagues wide against the sea. The widest branch is that on the south-west side of the island. Both branches are very deep, but the mouth of the narrower is so choked with shoals that at low water even Canoas can't enter. Above the island it is a league wide, and the stream runs pretty straight and very swift. The tide flows about three leagues up the river, but to what height I know not. Probably the river has its original from some of the rich mountains near the city Quibo, and it runs through a country as rich in soil as perhaps any in the world, especially when it draws within 10 or 12 leagues of the sea. The land there, both on the island and on both sides of the river, is of a black deep mould, producing extraordinary great tall trees of many sorts, such as usually grow in these hot climates. I shall only give an account of the cotton and cabbage-trees, whereof there is great plenty; and they are as large of their kinds as ever I saw.
There are two sorts of cotton-trees, one is called the red, the other the white cotton-tree. The white cotton-tree grows like an oak, but generally much bigger and taller than our oaks: the body is straight and clear from knots or boughs to the very head: there it spreads forth many great limbs just like an oak. The bark is smooth and of a grey colour: the leaves are as big as a large plum-leaf, jagged at the edge; they are oval, smooth, and of a dark green colour. Some of these trees have their bodies much bigger 18 or 20 foot high than nearer the ground, being big-bellied like ninepins. They bear a very fine sort of cotton, called silk-cotton. When this cotton is ripe the trees appear like our apple-trees in England when full of blossoms. If I do not mistake the cotton falls down in November or December: then the ground is covered white with it. This is not substantial and continuous, like that which grows upon the cotton-shrubs in plantations, but like the down of thistles; so that I did never know any use made of it in the West Indies, because it is not worth the labour of gathering it: but in the East Indies the natives gather and use it for pillows. It has a small black seed among it. The leaves of this tree fall off the beginning of April; while the old leaves are falling off the young ones spring out, and in a week's time the tree casts off her old robes and is clothed in a new pleasant garb. The red cotton-tree is like the other, but hardly so big: it bears no cotton, but its wood is somewhat harder of the two, yet both sorts are soft spongy wood, fit for no use that I know but only for Canoas, which, being straight and tall, they are very good for; but they will not last long, especially if not drawn ashore often and tarred; otherwise the worm and the water soon rot them. They are the biggest trees, or perhaps weeds rather, in the West Indies. They are common in the East and West Indies in good fat land.
As the cotton is the biggest tree in the woods, so the cabbage-tree is the tallest: the body is not very big, but very high and straight. I have measured one in the Bay of Campeachy 120 feet long as it lay on the ground, and there are some much higher. It has no limbs nor boughs, but at the head there are many branches bigger than a man's arm. These branches are not covered but flat with sharp edges; they are 12 or 14 foot long. About two foot from the trunk the branches shoot forth small long leaves about an inch broad, which grow so regularly on both sides of the branch that the whole branch seems to be but one leaf made up of many small ones. The cabbage-fruit shoots out in the midst of these branches from the top of the tree; it is invested with many young leaves or branches which are ready to spread abroad as the old branches drop and fall down. The cabbage itself, when it is taken out of the leaves which it seems to be folded in, is as big as the small of a man's leg and a foot long; it is as white as milk and as sweet as a nut if eaten raw, and it is very sweet and wholesome if boiled. Besides the cabbage itself there grow out between the cabbage and the large branches small twigs, as of a shrub, about two foot long from their stump. At the end of those twigs (which grow very thick together) there hang berries hard and round and as big as a cherry. These the trees shed every year, and they are very good for hogs: for this reason the Spaniards fine any who shall cut down any of these in their woods. The body of the tree is full of rings round it, half a foot asunder from the bottom to the top. The bark is thin and brittle; the wood is black and very hard, the heart or middle of the tree is white pith. They do not climb to get the cabbage but cut them down; for should they gather it off the tree as it stands, yet its head being gone it soon dies. These trees are much used by planters in Jamaica to board the sides of the houses, for it is but splitting the trunk into four parts with an axe, and there are so many planks. Those trees appear very pleasant, and they beautify the whole wood, spreading their green branches above all other trees.
All this country is subject to very great rains, so that this part of Peru pays for the dry weather which they have about Lima and all that coast. I believe that is one reason why the Spaniards have made such small discoveries in this and other rivers on this coast. Another reason may be because it lies not so directly in their way; for they do not coast it along in going from Panama to Lima, but first go westward as far as to the keys or isles of Cobaya, for a westerly wind, and from thence stand over towards Cape San Francisco, not touching anywhere usually till they come to Manta near Cape San Lorenzo. In their return indeed from Lima to Panama they may keep along the coast hereabouts; but then their ships are always laden; whereas the light ships that go from Panama are most at leisure to make discoveries. A third reason may be the wildness and enmity of all the natives on this coast, who are naturally fortified by their rivers and vast woods, from whence with their arrows they can easily annoy any that shall land there to assault them. At this river particularly there are no Indians live within 6 leagues of the sea, and all the country so far is full of impassable woods; so that to get at the Indians, or the mines and mountains, there is no way but by rowing up the river; and if any who are enemies to the natives attempt this (as the Spaniards are always hated by them) they must all the way be exposed to the arrows of those who would lie purposely in ambush in the woods for them. These wild Indians have small plantations of maize and good plantain-gardens; for plantains are their chiefest food. They have also a few fowls and hogs.
It was to this river that we were bound to seek for Canoas, therefore the 26th, supposing ourselves to be abreast of it, we went from our ships with 4 Canoas. The 27th day in the morning we entered at half flood into the smaller branch of that river, and rowed up six leagues before we met any inhabitants. There we found two small huts thatched with palmetto-leaves. The Indians, seeing us rowing towards their houses, got their wives and little ones, with their household stuff, into their Canoas, and paddled away faster than we could row; for we were forced to keep in the middle of the river because of our oars, but they with their paddles kept close under the banks, and so had not the strength of the stream against them, as we had. These huts were close by the river on the east side of it, just against the end of the island. We saw a great many other houses a league from us on the other side of the river; but the main stream into which we were now come seemed to be so swift that we were afraid to put over for fear we should not be able to get back again. We found only a hog, some Fowls and plantains in the huts: we killed the hog and the Fowls, which were dressed presently. Their hogs they got (as I suppose) from the Spaniards by some accident, or from some neighbouring Indians who converse with the Spaniards; for this that we took was of their European kind, which the Spaniards have introduced into America very plentifully, especially into the islands Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Cuba above all, being very largely stored with them; where they feed in the woods in the daytime, and at night come in at the sounding of a conch-shell, and are put up in their crauls or pens, and yet some turn wild, which nevertheless are often decoyed in by the other, which being all marked, whenever they see an unmarked hog in the pen, they know it is a wild one, and shoot him presently. These crauls I have not seen on the Continent where the Spaniards keep them tame at home. Among the wild Indians, or in their woods, are no hogs, but peccary and warree, a sort I have mentioned before.
After we had refreshed ourselves we returned toward the mouth of the river. It was the evening when we came from thence, and we got to the river's mouth the next morning before day: our ships when we left them were ordered to go to Gallo, where they were to stay for us.
Gallo is a small uninhabited island lying in between two and three degrees north latitude. It lies in a wide bay about three leagues from the mouth of the river Tomaco; and four leagues and a half from a small Indian village called Tomaco: the island Gallo is of an indifferent height; it is clothed with very good timber-trees, and is therefore often visited with barks from Guiaquil and other places: for most of the timber carried from Guiaquil to Lima is first fetched from Gallo. There is a spring of good water at the north-east end: at that place there is a fine small sandy bay, where there is good landing. The road for ships is against this bay, where there is good secure riding in six or seven fathom water; and here ships may careen. It is but shoal water all about this island; yet there is a channel to come in at, where there is no less than four fathom water: you must go in with the tide of flood and come out with ebb, sounding all the way.
Tomaco is a large river that takes its name from an Indian village so called: it is reported to spring from the rich mountains about Quito. It is thick inhabited with Indians; and there are some Spaniards that live there who traffic with the Indians for gold. It is shoal at the mouth of the river yet barks may enter.
This village Tomaco is but small, and is seated not far from the mouth of the river. It is a place to entertain the Spanish merchants that come to Gallo to load timber, or to traffic with the Indians for gold. At this place one Doleman, with seven or eight men more, once of Captain Sharp's crew, were killed in the year 1680. From the branch of the river St. Jago, where we now lay, to Tomaco is about five leagues; the land low and full of creeks so that Canoas may pass within land through those creeks, and from thence into Tomaco River.
The 28th day we left the river of St. Jago, crossing some creeks in our way with our Canoas; and came to an Indian house where we took the man and all his family. We stayed here till the afternoon, and then rowed towards Tomaco, with the man of this house for our guide. We arrived at Tomaco about 12 a clock at night. Here we took all the inhabitants of the village and a Spanish knight called Don Diego de Pinas. This knight came in a ship from Lima to lade timber. The ship was riding in a creek about a mile off, and there were only one Spaniard and 8 Indians aboard. We went in a canoa with 7 men and took her; she had no goods but 12 or 13 jars of good wine, which we took out, and the next day let the ship go. Here an Indian canoa came aboard with three men in her. These men could not speak Spanish, neither could they distinguish us from Spaniards; the wild Indians usually thinking all white men to be Spaniards. We gave them 3 Or 4 calabashes of wine, which they freely drank. They were straight-bodied and well-limbed men of a mean height; their hair black, long-visaged, small noses and eyes; and were thin-faced, ill-looked men, of a very dark copper colour. A little before night Captain Swan and all of us returned to Tomaco and left the vessel to the seamen. The 31st day two of our Canoas who had been up the river of Tomaco returned back again to the village. They had rowed seven or eight leagues up and found but one Spanish house, which they were told did belong to a lady who lived at Lima; she had servants here that traded with the Indians for gold; but they seeing our men coming ran away: yet our men found there several ounces of gold in Callabashes.
The first day of January 1685 we went from Tomaco towards Gallo. We carried the knight with us and two small Canoas which we took there, and while we were rowing over one of our Canoas took a packet-boat that was sent from Panama to Lima. The Spaniards threw the packet of letters overboard with a line and a buoy to it, but our men seeing it took it up, and brought the letters and all the prisoners aboard our ships that were then at an anchor at Gallo. Here we stayed till the 6th day, reading the letters, by which we understood that the armada from Old Spain was come to Portobello: and that the president of Panama had sent this packet on purpose to hasten the Plate fleet thither from Lima.
We were very joyful of this news, and therefore sent away the packet-boat with all her letters; and we altered our former resolutions of going to Lavelia. We now concluded to careen our ships as speedily as we could, that we might be ready to intercept this fleet. The properest place that we could think on for doing it was among the King's Islands or Pearl Keys, because they are near Panama and all ships bound to Panama from the coast of Lima pass by them; so that being there we could not possibly miss the fleet. According to these resolutions we sailed the next morning, in order to execute what we designed. We were two ships and three barks in company, namely, Captain Davis, Captain Swan, a fire-ship, and two small barks as tenders; one on Captain Davis's ship, the other on Captain Swan's. We weighed before day and got out all but Captain Swan's tender, which never budged; for the men were all asleep when we went out and, the tide of flood coming on before they waked, we were forced to stay for them till the next day.
The 8th day in the morning we descried a sail to the west of us; the wind was at south and we chased her and before noon took her. She was a ship of about 90 tun laden with flour; she came from Truxillo and was bound to Panama. This ship came very opportunely to us for flour began to grow scarce, and Captain Davis's men grudged at what was given to Captain Swan; who, as I said before, had none but what he had from Captain Davis.
We jogged on after this with a gentle gale towards Gorgona, an island lying about 25 leagues from the island Gallo. The 9th day we anchored at Gorgona, on the west side of the island in 38 fathom clean ground, not two cables' length from the shore. Gorgona is an uninhabited island in latitude about three degrees north: it is a pretty high island, and very remarkable by reason of two saddles, or risings and fallings on the top. It is about 2 leagues long and a league broad; and it is four leagues from the Main: at the west end is another small island. The land against the anchoring-place is low; there is a small sandy bay and good landing. The soil or mould of it is black and deep in the low ground, but on the side of the high land it is a kind of a red clay. This island is very well clothed with large trees of several sorts that are flourishing and green all the year. It's very well watered with small brooks that issue from the high land. Here are a great many little black monkeys, some Indian conies, and a few snakes, which are all the land animals that I know there. It is reported of this island that it rains on every day in the year more or less; but that I can disprove: however, it is a very wet coast, and it rains abundantly here all the year long. There are but few fair days; for there is little difference in the seasons of the year between the wet and dry; only in that season which should be the dry time the rains are less frequent and more moderate than in the wet season, for then it pours as out of a sieve. It is deep water and no anchoring anywhere about this island, only at the west side: the tide rises and falls seven or eight foot up and down. Here are a great many periwinkles and mussels to be had at low water. Then the monkeys come down by the seaside and catch them; digging them out of their shells with their claws.
Here are pearl-oysters in great plenty: they grow to the loose rocks in 4, 5, or 6 fathom water by beards, or little small roots, as a mussel: these oysters are commonly flatter and thinner than other oysters; otherwise much alike in shape. The fish is not sweet nor very wholesome; it is as slimy as a shell-snail; they taste very copperish if eaten raw, and are best boiled. The Indians who gather them for the Spaniards hang the meat of them on strings like jews-ears, and dry them before they eat them. The pearl is found at the head of the oyster lying between the meat and the shell. Some will have 20 or 30 small seed-pearl, some none at all, and some will have one or two pretty large ones. The inside of the shell is more glorious than the pearl itself. I did never see any in the South Seas but here. It is reported there are some at the south end of California. In the West Indies, the Rancho Reys, or Rancheria, spoken of in Chapter 3, is the place where they are found most plentifully. It is said there are some at the island Margarita, near St. Augustin, a town in the Gulf of Florida, etc. In the East Indies the island Ainam, near the south end of China, is said to have plenty of these oysters, more productive of large round pearl than those in other places. They are found also in other parts of the East Indies, and on the Persian coast.
At this island Gorgona we rummaged our prize and found a few boxes of marmalade and three or four jars of brandy, which were equally shared between Captain Davis and Captain Swan and their men. Here we filled all our water and Captain Swan furnished himself with flour: afterward we turned ashore a great many prisoners but kept the chiefest to put them ashore in a better place.
The 13th day we sailed from hence towards the King's Islands. We were now six sail, two men-of-war, two tenders, a fire-ship, and the prize. We had but little wind but what we had was the common trade at south.
The land we sailed by on the Main is very low towards the seaside, but in the country there are very high mountains.
The 16th day we passed by Cape Corrientes. This cape is in latitude 5 degrees 10 minutes. It is high bluff land with three or four small hillocks on the top. It appears at a distance like an island. Here we found a strong current running to the north, but whether it be always so I know not. The day after we passed by the cape we saw a small white island which we chased, supposing it had been a sail, till coming near we found our error.
The 21st day we saw Point Garachina. This point is in latitude 7 degrees 20 minutes north; it is pretty high land, rocky, and destitute of trees; yet within land it is woody. It is fenced with rocks against the sea. Within the point by the sea at low water you may find store of oysters and mussels.
The King's Islands, or Pearl Keys, are about twelve leagues distant from this point.
Between Point Garachina and them there is a small low flat barren island called Gallera, at which Captain Harris was sharing with his men the gold he took in his pillaging Santa Maria, which I spoke of a little before, when on a sudden five Spanish barks fitted out on purpose at Panama came upon him; but he fought them so stoutly with one small bark he had and some few Canoas, boarding their admiral particularly, that they were all glad to leave him. By this island we anchored and sent our boats to the King's Islands for a good careening-place.
The King's Islands are a great many low woody islands lying N. W. by north and south-east by south. They are about 7 leagues from the Main and 14 leagues in length, and from Panama about 12 leagues. Why they are called the King's Islands I know not; they are sometimes, and mostly in maps, called the Pearl Islands. I cannot imagine wherefore they are called so, for I did never see one pearl-oyster about them, nor any pearl-oyster-shells; but on the other oysters I have made many a meal there: the northermost island of all this range is called Pacheca, or Pacheque. This is but a small island distant from Panama 11 or 12 leagues. The southermost of them is called St. Paul's. Besides these two I know no more that are called by any particular name, though there are many that far exceed either of the two in bigness. Some of these islands are planted with plantains and bananas; and there are fields of rice on others of them. The gentlemen of Panama, to whom they belong, keep Negroes there to plant, weed, and husband the plantations. Many of them, especially the largest, are wholly untilled, yet very good fat land full of large trees. These unplanted islands shelter many runaway Negroes, who abscond in the woods all day, and in the night boldly pillage the plantain-walks. Betwixt these islands and the Main is a channel of 7 or 8 leagues wide; there is good depth of water, and good anchoring all the way. The islands border thick on each other; yet they make many small narrow deep channels, fit only for boats to pass between most of them. At the south-east end, about a league from St. Pauls Island, there is a good place for ships to careen, or haul ashore. It is surrounded with the land, and has a good deep channel on the north side to go in at. The tide rises here about ten foot perpendicular.
We brought our ships into this place the 25th day but were forced to tarry for a spring-tide before we could have water enough to clean them; therefore we first cleaned our barks that they might cruise before Panama while we lay here. The 27th day our barks being clean we sent them out with 20 men in each. The 4th day after they returned with a prize laden with maize, or Indian corn, salt-beef, and fowls. She came from Lavelia and was bound to Panama.
Lavelia is a town we once designed to attempt. It is pretty large, and stands on the bank of a river on the north side of the Bay of Panama, six or seven leagues from the sea.
Nata is another such town, standing in a plain near another branch of the same river. In these towns, and some others on the same coast, they breed hogs, fowls, bulls, and cows, and plant maize purposely for the support of Panama, which is supplied with provision mostly from other towns and the neighbouring islands.
The beef and fowl our men took came to us in a good time, for we had eaten but little flesh since we left the island Plata. The harbour where we careen'd was encompassed with three islands, and our ships rode in the middle. That on which we hauled our ships ashore was a little island on the north side of the harbour. There was a fine small sandy bay, but all the rest of the island was environed with rocks on which at low water we did use to gather oysters, clams, mussels, and limpets. The clam is a sort of oyster which grows so fast to the rock that there is no separating it from thence, therefore we did open it where it grows, and take out the meat, which is very large, fat, and sweet. Here are a few common oysters such as we have in England, of which sort I have met with none in these seas but here, at Point Garachina, at Puna, and on the Mexican coast, in the latitude of 23 degrees north. I have a manuscript of Mr. Teat, Captain Swan's chief mate, which gives an account of oysters plentifully found in Port St. Julian, on the east side and somewhat to the north of the Straits of Magellan; but there is no mention made of what oysters they are. Here are some Guanos, but we found no other sort of land-animal. Here are also some pigeons and turtle-doves. The rest of the islands that encompass this harbour had of all these sorts of creatures. Our men therefore did every day go over in Canoas to them to fish, fowl, or hunt for Guanos; but, having one man surprised once by some Spaniards lying there in ambush, and carried off by them to Panama, we were after that more cautious of straggling.
The 14th day of February 1685 we made an end of cleaning our ship, filled all our water, and stocked ourselves with firewood. The 15th day we went out from among the islands and anchored in the channel between them and the Main, in 25 fathom water, soft oazy ground. The Plate fleet was not yet arrived; therefore we intended to cruise before the city of Panama, which is from this place about 25 leagues. The next day we sailed towards Panama, passing in the channel between the King's Islands and the Main.
It is very pleasant sailing here, having the Main on one side, which appears in divers forms. It is beautified with many small hills, clothed with woods of divers sort of trees, which are always green and flourishing. There are some few small high islands within a league of the Main, scattering here and there one: these are partly woody, partly bare; and they as well as the Main appear very pleasant. The King's Islands are on the other side of this channel, and make also a lovely prospect as you sail by them. These, as I have already noted, are low and flat, appearing in several shapes, according as they are naturally formed by many small creeks and branches of the sea. The 16th day we anchored at Pacheca in 17 fathom water about a league from the island, and sailed from thence the next day, with the wind at north-north-east directing our course towards Panama.
When we came abreast of Old Panama we anchored and sent our canoa ashore with our prisoner Don Diego de Pinas, with a letter to the governor to treat about an exchange for our man they had spirited away, as I said; and another Captain Harris left in the river of Santa Maria the year before, coming overland. Don Diego was desirous to go on this errand in the name and with the consent of the rest of our Spanish prisoners; but by some accident he was killed before he got ashore, as we heard afterwards.
Old Panama was formerly a famous place, but it was taken by Sir Henry Morgan about the year 1673, and at that time great part of it was burned to ashes, and it was never re-edified since.
New Panama is a very fair city, standing close by the sea, about four miles from the ruins of the old town. It gives name to a large bay which is famous for a great many navigable rivers, some whereof are very rich in gold; it is also very pleasantly sprinkled with islands that are not only profitable to their owners, but very delightful to the passengers and seamen that sail by them; some of which I have already described. It is encompassed on the back side with a pleasant country which is full of small hills and valleys, beautified with many groves and spots of trees that appear in the savannahs like so many little islands. This city is all compassed with a high stone wall; the houses are said to be of brick. Their roofs appear higher than the top of the city wall. It is beautified with a great many fair churches and religious houses besides the president's house and other eminent buildings; which altogether make one of the finest objects that I did ever see, in America especially. There are a great many guns on her walls, most of which look toward the land. They had none at all against the sea when I first entered those seas with Captain Sawkins, Captain Coxon, Captain Sharp, and others; for till then they did not fear any enemy by sea: but since that they have planted guns clear round.
This is a flourishing city by reason it is a thoroughfare for all imported or exported goods and treasure, to and from all parts of Peru and Chile; whereof their store-houses are never empty. The road also is seldom or never without ships. Besides, once in three years, when the Spanish armada comes to Portobello, then the Plate fleet also from Lima comes hither with the King's treasure, and abundance of merchant-ships full of goods and Plate; at that time the city is full of merchants and gentlemen; the seamen are busy in landing the treasure and goods, and the carriers, or caravan masters, employed in carrying it overland on mules (in vast droves every day) to Portobello, and bringing back European goods from thence: though the city be then so full yet during this heat of business there is no hiring of an ordinary slave under a piece-of-eight a day; houses, also chambers, beds and victuals, are then extraordinary dear.
Now I am on this subject I think it will not be amiss to give the reader an account of the progress of the armada from Old Spain, which comes thus every three years into the Indies. Its first arrival is at Cartagene, from whence, as I have been told, an express is immediately sent overland to Lima, through the southern continent, and another by sea to Portobello with two Pacquets of letters, one for the viceroy of Lima, the other for the viceroy of Mexico. I know not which way that of Mexico goes after its arrival at Portobello, whether by land or sea: but I believe by sea to La Vera Cruz. That for Lima is sent by land to Panama and from thence by sea to Lima.
Upon mention of these Pacquets I shall digress yet a little further and acquaint my reader that before my first going over into the South Seas with Captain Sharp (and indeed before any privateers, at least since Drake and Oxenham had gone that way which we afterwards went, except La Sound, a French captain, who by Captain Wright's instructions had ventured as far as Cheapo Town with a body of men but was driven back again) I being then on board Captain Coxon, in company with three or four more privateers, about four leagues to the east of Portobello, we took the Pacquets bound thither from Cartagene. We opened a great quantity of the merchants' letters and found the contents of many of them to be very surprising, the merchants of several parts of Old Spain thereby informing their correspondents of Panama and elsewhere of a certain prophecy that went about Spain that year, the tenor of which was that there would be English privateers that year in the West Indies, who would make such great discoveries as to open a door into the South Seas; which they supposed was fastest shut: and the letters were accordingly full of cautions to their friends to be very watchful and careful of their coasts.
This door they spoke of we all concluded must be the passage overland through the country of the Indians of Darien, who were a little before this become our friends, and had lately fallen out with the Spaniards, breaking off the intercourse which for some time they had with them: and upon calling also to mind the frequent invitations we had from those Indians a little before this time to pass through their country and fall upon the Spaniards in the South Seas, we from henceforward began to entertain such thoughts in earnest, and soon came to a resolution to make those attempts which we afterwards did with Captain Sharp, Coxon, etc., so that the taking these letters gave the first life to those bold undertakings: and we took the advantage of the fears the Spaniards were in from that prophecy, or probable conjecture, or whatever it were; for we sealed up most of the letters again, and sent them ashore to Portobello.
The occasion of this our late friendship with those Indians was thus: about 15 years before this time, Captain Wright being cruising near that coast and going in among the Samballoes Isles to strike fish and turtle, took there a young Indian lad as he was paddling about in a canoa. He brought him aboard his ship and gave him the name of John Gret, clothing him and intending to breed him among the English. But his Moskito strikers, taking a fancy to the boy, begged him of Captain Wright, and took him with them at their return into their own country, where they taught him their art, and he married a wife among them and learnt their language, as he had done some broken English while he was with Captain Wright, which he improved among the Moskitos, who, corresponding so much with us, do all of them smatter English after a sort; but his own language he had almost forgot. Thus he lived among them for many years; till, about six or eight months before our taking these letters, Captain Wright being again among the Samballoes, took thence another Indian boy about 10 or 12 years old, the son of a man of some account among those Indians; and, wanting a striker, he went away to the Moskito's country, where he took John Gret, who was now very expert at it. John Gret was much pleased to see a lad there of his own country, and it came into his mind to persuade Captain Wright upon this occasion to endeavour a friendship with those Indians; a thing our privateers had long coveted but never durst attempt, having such dreadful apprehensions of their numbers and fierceness: but John Gret offered the captain that he would go ashore and negotiate the matter; who accordingly sent him in his canoa till he was near the shore, which of a sudden was covered with Indians standing ready with their bows and arrows. John Gret, who had only a clout about his middle as the fashion of the Indians is, leapt then out of the boat and swam, the boat retiring a little way back; and the Indians ashore, seeing him in that habit and hearing him call to them in their own tongue (which he had recovered by conversing with the boy lately taken) suffered him quietly to land, and gathered all about to hear how it was with him. He told them particularly that he was one of their countrymen, and how he had been taken many years ago by the English, who had used him very kindly; that they were mistaken in being so much afraid of that nation who were not enemies to them but to the Spaniards: to confirm this he told them how well the English treated another young lad of theirs they had lately taken, such a one's son; for this he had learnt of the youth, and his father was one of the company that was got together on the shore. He persuaded them therefore to make a league with these friendly people, by whose help they might be able to quell the Spaniards; assuring also the father of the boy that, if he would but go with him to the ship which they saw at anchor at an island there (it was Golden Island, the eastermost of the Samballoes, a place where there is good striking for turtle) he should have his son restored to him and they might all expect a very kind reception. Upon these assurances 20 or 30 of them went off presently in two or three Canoas laden with plantains, bananas, fowls, etc. And, Captain Wright having treated them on board, went ashore with them, and was entertained by them, and presents were made on each side. Captain Wright gave the boy to his father in a very handsome English dress which he had caused to be made purposely for him; and an agreement was immediately struck up between the English and these Indians who invited the English through their country into the South Seas.
Pursuant to this agreement the English, when they came upon any such design, or for traffic with them, were to give a certain signal which they pitched upon, whereby they might be known. But it happened that Mr. La Sound, the French captain spoken of a little before, being then one of Captain Wright's men, learnt this signal, and, staying ashore at Pettit Guavos upon Captain Wright's going thither soon after, who had his commission from thence, he gave the other French there such an account of the agreement before mentioned, and the easiness of entering the South Seas thereupon, that he got at the head of about 120 of them who made that unsuccessful attempt upon Cheapo, as I said; making use of the signal they had learnt for passing the Indians' country, who at that time could not distinguish so well between the several nations of the Europeans as they can since.
From such small beginnings arose those great stirs that have been since made over the South Seas, namely, from the letters we took, and from the friendship contracted with these Indians by means of John Gret. Yet this friendship had like to have been stifled in its infancy; for within a few months after an English trading sloop came on this coast from Jamaica, and John Gret, who by this time had advanced himself as a grandee among these Indians, together with five or six more of that quality, went off to the sloop in their long gowns, as the custom is for such to wear among them. Being received aboard they expected to find everything friendly, and John Gret talked to them in English; but these Englishmen, having no knowledge at all of what had happened, endeavoured to make them slaves (as is commonly done) for upon carrying them to Jamaica they could have sold them for 10 or 12 pound apiece. But John Gret and the rest perceiving this, leapt all overboard, and were by the others killed every one of them in the water. The Indians on shore never came to the knowledge of it; if they had it would have endangered our correspondence. Several times after, upon our conversing with them, they enquired of us what was become of their countrymen: but we told them we knew not, as indeed it was a great while after that we heard this story; so they concluded the Spaniards had met with them and killed or taken them.
But to return to the account of the progress of the armada which we left at Cartagene. After an appointed stay there of about 60 days, as I take it, it goes thence to Portobello, where it lies 30 days and no longer. Therefore the viceroy of Lima, on notice of the armada's arrival at Cartagene, immediately sends away the King's treasure to Panama, where it is landed and lies ready to be sent to Portobello upon the first news of the armada's arrival there. This is the reason partly of their sending expresses so early to Lima, that upon the armada's first coming to Portobello, the treasure and goods may lie ready at Panama to be sent away upon the mules, and it requires some time for the Lima fleet to unlade, because the ships ride not at Panama but at Perica, which are three small islands 2 leagues from thence. The King's treasure is said to amount commonly to about 24,000,000 of pieces-of-eight: besides abundance of merchants' money. All this treasure is carried on mules, and there are large stables at both places to lodge them. Sometimes the merchants to steal the custom pack up money among goods and send it to Venta de Cruzes on the river Chagre; from thence down the river, and afterwards by sea to Portobello; in which passage I have known a whole fleet of periago's and Canoas taken. The merchants who are not ready to sail by the thirteenth day after the armada's arrival are in danger to be left behind, for the ships all weigh the 30th day precisely, and go to the harbour's mouth: yet sometimes, on great importunity, the admiral may stay a week longer; for it is impossible that all the merchants should get ready, for want of men. When the armada departs from Portobello it returns again to Cartagene, by which time all the King's revenue which comes out of the country is got ready there. Here also meets them again a great ship called the Pattache, one of the Spanish galleons, which before their first arrival at Cartagene goes from the rest of the armada on purpose to gather the tribute of the coast, touching at the Margaritas and other places in her way thence to Cartagene, as Punta de Guaira Moracaybo, Rio de la Hacha, and Santa Martha; and at all these places takes in treasure for the king. After the set stay at Cartagene the armada goes away to the Havana in the isle of Cuba, to meet there the flota, which is a small number of ships that go to La Vera Cruz, and there takes in the effects of the city and country of Mexico, and what is brought thither in the ship which comes thither every year from the Philippine Islands; and, having joined the rest at the Havana, the whole armada sets sail for Spain through the Gulf of Florida. The ships in the South Seas lie a great deal longer at Panama before they return to Lima. The merchants and gentlemen which come from Lima stay as little time as they can at Portobello, which is at the best but a sickly place, and at this time is very full of men from all parts. But Panama, as it is not overcharged with men so unreasonably as the other, though very full, so it enjoys a good air, lying open to the sea-wind which rises commonly about 10 or 11 a clock in the morning, and continues till 8 or 9 a clock at night: then the land-wind comes and blows till 8 or 9 in the morning.
There are no woods nor marshes near Panama, but a brave dry champion land, not subject to fogs nor mists. The wet season begins in the latter end of May and continues till November. At that time the sea-breezes are at south-south-west and the land-winds at north. At the dry season the winds are most betwixt the east-north-east and the north. Yet off in the bay they are commonly at south; but of this I shall be more particular in my Chapter of Winds in the Appendix. The rains are not so excessive about Panama itself as on either side of the bay; yet in the months of June, July, and August, they are severe enough. Gentlemen that come from Peru to Panama, especially in these months, cut their hair close to preserve them from fevers; for the place is sickly to them, because they come out of a country which never has any rains or fogs but enjoys a constant serenity; but I am apt to believe this city is healthy enough to any other people. Thus much for Panama.
The 20th day we went and anchored within a league of the islands Perico (which are only 3 little barren rocky islands) in expectation of the president of Panama's answer to the letter I said we sent him by Don Diego, treating about exchange of prisoners; this being the day on which he had given us his parole to return with an answer. The 21st day we took another bark laden with hogs, fowls, salt-beef and molasses; she came from Lavelia, and was going to Panama. In the afternoon we sent another letter ashore by a young Mestizo (a mixed brood of Indians and Europeans) directed to the president, and 3 or 4 copies of it to be dispersed abroad among the common people. This letter, which was full of threats, together with the young man's managing the business, wrought so powerfully among the common people that the city was in an uproar. The president immediately sent a gentleman aboard, who demanded the flour-prize that we took off of Gallo and all the prisoners for the ransom of our two men: but our captains told him they would exchange man for man. The gentleman said he had not orders for that, but if we would stay till the next day he would bring the governors' answer. The next day he brought aboard our two men and had about 40 prisoners in exchange.
The 24th day we ran over to the island Tabago. Tabago is in the bay and about six leagues south of Panama. It is about 3 mile long and 2 broad, a high mountainous island. On the north side it declines with a gentle descent to the sea. The land by the sea is of a black mould and deep; but towards the top of the mountain it is strong and dry. The north side of this island makes a very pleasant show, it seems to be a garden of fruit enclosed with many high trees; the chiefest fruits are plantains and bananas. They thrive very well from the foot to the middle of it; but those near the top are but small, as wanting moisture. Close by the sea there are many coconut-trees, which make a very pleasant sight.
Within the coconut-trees there grow many mammee-trees. The mammee is a large, tall, and straight-bodied tree, clean without knots or limbs for 60 or 70 foot or more. The head spreads abroad into many small limbs which grow pretty thick and close together. The bark is of a dark grey colour, thick and rough, full of large chops. The fruit is bigger than a quince; it is round and covered with a thick rind of a grey colour: when the fruit is ripe the rind is yellow and tough; and it will then peel off like leather; but before it is ripe it is brittle: the juice is then white and clammy; but when ripe not so. The ripe fruit under the rind is yellow as a carrot, and in the middle are two large rough stones, flat, and each of them much bigger than an almond. The fruit smells very well and the taste is answerable to the smell. The south-west end of the island has never been cleared but is full of firewood and trees of divers sorts. There is a very fine small brook of fresh water that springs out of the side of the mountain and, gliding through the grove of fruit-trees, falls into the sea on the north side.
There was a small town standing by the sea with a church at one end, but now the biggest part of it is destroyed by the privateers. There is good anchoring right against the town about a mile from the shore, where you may have 16 or 18 fathom water, soft oazy ground. There is a small island close by the north-west end of this called Tabogilla, with a small channel to pass between. There is another woody island about a mile on the north-east side of Tabago, and a good channel between them: this island has no name that ever I heard.
While we lay at Tabago we had like to have had a scurvy trick played us by a pretended merchant from Panama, who came as by stealth to traffic with us privately; a thing common enough with the Spanish merchants, both in the North and South Seas, notwithstanding the severe prohibition of the governors; who yet sometimes connive at it and will even trade with the privateers themselves.
Our merchant was by agreement to bring out his bark laden with goods in the night, and we to go and anchor at the south of Perico. Out he came, with a fire-ship instead of a bark, and approached very near, hailing us with the watch-word we had agreed upon. We, suspecting the worst, called to them to come to an anchor, and upon their not doing so fired at them; when immediately their men, going out into the Canoas, set fire to their ship, which blew up, and burnt close by us so that we were forced to cut our cables in all haste and scamper away as well as we could.
The Spaniard was not altogether so politick in appointing to meet us at Perico for there we had sea-room; whereas, had he come thus upon us at Tabago, the land-wind bearing hard upon us as it did, we must either have been burnt by the fire-ship or, upon loosing our cables, have been driven ashore: but I suppose they chose Perico rather for the scene of their enterprise, partly because they might there best skulk among the islands, and partly because, if their exploit failed, they could thence escape best from our Canoas to Panama, but two leagues off.
During this exploit Captain Swan (whose ship was less than ours, and so not so much aimed at by the Spaniards) lay about a mile off, with a canoa at the buoy of his anchor, as fearing some treachery from our pretended merchant; and a little before the bark blew up he saw a small float on the water and, as it appeared, a man on it making towards his ship; but the man dived and disappeared of a sudden, as thinking probably that he was discovered.
This was supposed to be one coming with some combustible matter to have stuck about the rudder. For such a trick Captain Sharp was served at Coquimbo, and his ship had like to have been burnt by it if, by mere accident, it had not been discovered: I was then aboard Captain Sharp's ship. Captain Swan, seeing the blaze by us, cut his cables as we did, his bark did the like; so we kept under sail all the night, being more scared than hurt. The bark that was on fire drove burning towards Tabago; but after the first blast she did not burn clear, only made a smother, for she was not well made, though Captain Bond had the framing and management of it.
This Captain Bond was he of whom I made mention in my 4th chapter. He, after his being at the isles of Cape Verde, stood away for the South Seas at the instigation of one Richard Morton who had been with Captain Sharp in the South Seas. In his way he met with Captain Eaton and they two consorted a day or two: at last Morton went aboard Captain Eaton and persuaded him to lose Captain Bond in the night, which Captain Eaton did, Morton continuing aboard of Captain Eaton, as finding his the better ship. Captain Bond thus losing both his consort Eaton, and Morton his pilot, and his ship being but an ordinary sailer, he despaired of getting into the South Seas; and had played such tricks among the Caribbean Isles, as I have been told, that he did not dare to appear at any of the English islands. Therefore he persuaded his men to go to the Spaniards and they consented to anything that he should propose: so he presently steered away into the West Indies and the first place where we came to an anchor was at Portobello. He presently declared to the governor that there were English ships coming into the South Seas, and that if they questioned it, he offered to be kept a prisoner till time should discover the truth of what he said; but they believed him and sent him away to Panama where he was in great esteem. This several prisoners told us.
The Spaniards of Panama could not have fitted out their fire-ship without this Captain Bond's assistance; for it is strange to say how grossly ignorant the Spaniards in the West Indies, but especially in the South Seas, are of sea-affairs. They build indeed good ships, but this is a small matter: for any ship of a good bottom will serve for these seas on the south coast. They rig their ships but untowardly, have no guns but in 3 or 4 of the king's ships, and are meanly furnished with warlike provisions, and much at a loss for the making any fire-ships or other less useful machines. Nay, they have not the sense to have their guns run within the sides upon their discharge, but have platforms without for the men to stand on to charge them; so that when we come near we can fetch them down with small shot out of our boats. A main reason of this is that the native Spaniards are too proud to be seamen, but use the Indians for all those offices: one Spaniard, it may be, going in the ship to command it, and himself of little more knowledge than those poor ignorant creatures: nor can they gain much experience, seldom going far off to sea, but coasting along the shores.
But to proceed: in the morning when it was light we came again to anchor close by our buoys and strove to get our anchors again; but our buoy-ropes, being rotten, broke. While we were puzzling about our anchors we saw a great many Canoas full of men pass between Tabago and the other island. This put us into a new consternation: we lay still some time till we saw that they came directly towards us, then we weighed and stood towards them: and when we came within hail we found that they were English and French privateers come out of the North Seas through the Isthmus of Darien. They were 280 men in 28 Canoas; 200 of them French, the rest English. They were commanded by Captain Gronet and Captain Lequie. We presently came to an anchor again and all the Canoas came aboard. These men told us that there were 180 English men more, under the command of Captain Townley, in the country of Darien, making Canoas (as these men had been) to bring them into these seas. All the Englishmen that came over in this party were immediately entertained by Captain Davis and Captain Swan in their own ships, and the French men were ordered to have our flour-prize to carry them, and Captain Gronet being the eldest commander was to command them there; and thus they were all disposed of to their hearts' content. Captain Gronet, to retaliate this kindness, offered Captain Davis and Captain Swan each of them a new commission from the governor of Pettit Guavos.
It has been usual for many years past for the governor of Pettit Guavos to send blank commissions to sea by many of his captains with orders to dispose of them to whom they saw convenient. Those of Pettit Guavos by this means making themselves the sanctuary and asylum of all people of desperate fortunes; and increasing their own wealth and the strength and reputation of their party thereby. Captain Davis accepted of one, having before only an old commission, which fell to him by inheritance at the decease of Captain Cook; who took it from Captain Tristian, together with his bark, as is before mentioned. But Captain Swan refused it, saying he had an order from the Duke of York neither to give offence to the Spaniards nor to receive any affront from them; and that he had been injured by them at Valdivia, where they had killed some of his men and wounded several more; so that he thought he had a lawful commission of his own to right himself. I never read any of these French commissions while I was in these seas, nor did I then know the import of them; but I have learnt since that the tenor of them is to give a liberty to fish, fowl, and hunt. The occasion of this is that the island Hispaniola, where the garrison of Pettit Guavos is, belongs partly to the French and partly to the Spaniards; and in time of peace these commissions are given as a warrant to those of each side to protect them from the adverse party: but in effect the French do not restrain them to Hispaniola, but make them a pretence for a general ravage in any part of America, by sea or land.
Having thus disposed of our associates we intended to sail toward the Gulf of St. Michael to seek Captain Townley; who by this time we thought might be entering into these seas. Accordingly the second day of March 1685 we sailed from hence towards the Gulf of St. Michael. This gulf lies near 30 leagues from Panama towards the south-east. The way thither from Panama is to pass between the King's Islands and the Main. It is a place where many great rivers having finished their courses are swallowed up in the sea. It is bounded on the south with Point Garachina, which lies in north latitude 6 degrees 40 minutes, and on the north side with Cape San Lorenzo. Where, by the way, I must correct a gross error in our common maps; which, giving no name at all to the south cape which yet is the most considerable, and is the true Point Garachina, do give that name to the north cape, which is of small remark only for those whose business is into the gulf; and the name San Lorenzo, which is the true name of this northern point, is by them wholly omitted; the name of the other point being substituted into its place. The chief rivers which run into this Gulf of St. Michael are Santa Maria, Sambo, and Congos. The river Congos (which is the river I would have persuaded our men to have gone up as their nearest way in our journey overland, mentioned Chapter 1) comes directly out of the country, and swallows up many small streams that fall into it from both sides; and at last loses itself on the north side of the gulf, a league within Cape San Lorenzo. It is not very wide, but deep, and navigable some leagues within land. There are sands without it; but a channel for ships. It is not made use of by the Spaniards because of the neighbourhood of Santa Maria River; where they have most business on account of the mines.
The River of Sambo seems to be a great River for there is a great tide at its mouth; but I can say nothing more of it, having never been in it.
This river falls into the sea on the south side of the gulf near Point Garachina. Between the mouths of these two rivers on either side the gulf runs in towards the land somewhat narrower; and makes five or six small islands which are clothed with great trees, green and flourishing all the year, and good channels between the islands. Beyond which, further in still, the shore on each side closes so near with two points of low mangrove land as to make a narrow or strait, scarce half a mile wide. This serves as a mouth or entrance to the inner part of the gulf, which is a deep bay two or three leagues over every way, and about the east end thereof are the mouths of several rivers, the chief of which is that of Santa Maria. There are many outlets or creeks besides this narrow place I have described, but none navigable besides that. For this reason the Spanish guard-ship mentioned in Chapter 1 chose to lie between these two points as the only passage they could imagine we should attempt; since this is the way that the privateers have generally taken as the nearest between the North and South Seas. The river of Santa Maria is the largest of all the rivers of this gulf. It is navigable eight or nine leagues up; for so high the tide flows. Beyond that place the river is divided into many branches which are only fit for Canoas. The tide rises and falls in this river about 18 foot.
About six leagues from the river's mouth, on the south side of it, the Spaniards about 20 years ago, upon their first discovery of the gold-mines here, built the town Santa Maria, of the same name with the river. This town was taken by Captain Coxon, Captain Harris and Captain Sharp, at their entrance into these seas; it being then but newly built. Since that time it is grown considerable; for when Captain Harris, the nephew of the former, took it (as is said in Chapter 6) he found in it all sorts of tradesmen, with a great deal of flour, and wine, and abundance of iron crows and pickaxes. These were instruments for the slaves to work in the gold-mines; for besides what gold and sand they take up together, they often find great lumps wedged between the rocks, as if it naturally grew there. I have seen a lump as big as a hen's egg, brought by Captain Harris from thence (who took 120 pound there) and he told me that there were lumps a great deal bigger: but these they were forced to beat in pieces that they might divide them. These lumps are not so solid, but that they have crevices and pores full of earth and dust. This town is not far from the mines, where the Spaniards keep a great many slaves to work in the dry time of the year: but in the rainy season when the rivers do overflow they cannot work so well. Yet the mines are so nigh the mountains that, as the rivers soon rise, so they are soon down again; and presently after the rain is the best searching for gold in the sands. for the violent rains do wash down the gold into the rivers, where much of it settles to the bottom and remains. Then the native Indians who live hereabouts get most; and of them the Spaniards buy more gold than their slaves get by working. I have been fold that they get the value of five shillings a day, one with another. The Spaniards withdraw most of them with their slaves during the wet season to Panama. At this town of St. Maria Captain Townley was lying with his party, making Canoas, when Captain Gronet came into these seas; for it was then abandoned by the Spaniards.
There is another small new town at the mouth of the river called the Scuchadero: it stands on the north side of the open place, at the mouth of the river of Santa Maria, where there is more air than at the mines, or at Santa Maria Town, where they are in a manner stifled with heat for want of air.
All about these rivers, especially near the sea, the land is low, it is deep black earth, and the trees it produces are extraordinary large and high. Thus much concerning the Gulf of St. Michael, whither we were bound.
The second day of March, as is said before, we weighed from Perico, and the same night we anchored again at Pacheca. The third day we sailed from thence steering towards the Gulf. Captain Swan undertook to fetch off Captain Townley and his men: therefore he kept near the Main; but the rest of the ships stood nearer the King's Islands. Captain Swan desired this office because he intended to send letters overland by the Indians to Jamaica, which he did; ordering the Indians to deliver his letters to any English vessel in the other seas. At two a clock we were again near the place where we cleaned our ships. There we saw two ships coming out who proved to be Captain Townley and his men. They were coming out of the river in the night and took 2 barks bound for Panama: the one was laden with flour, the other with wine, brandy, sugar, and oil. The prisoners that he took declared that the Lima fleet was ready to sail.
We went and anchored among the King's Islands, and the next day Captain Swan returned out of the river of Santa Maria, being informed by the Indians that Captain Townley was come over to the King's Islands. At this place Captain Townley put out a great deal of his goods to make room for his men.
He distributed his wine and brandy some to every ship that it might be drank out, because he wanted the jars to carry water in. The Spaniards in these seas carry all their wine, brandy, and oil in jars that hold 7 or 8 gallons. When they lade at Pisco (a place about 40 leagues to the southward of Lima, and famous for wine) they bring nothing else but jars of wine, and they stow one tier at the top of another so artificially that we could hardly do the like without breaking them: yet they often carry in this manner 1500 or 2000 or more in a ship, and seldom break one. The 10th day we took a small bark that came from Guiaquil: she had nothing in her but ballast. The 12th day there came an Indian canoa out of the river of Santa Maria and told us that there were 300 English and Frenchmen more coming overland from the North Seas.
The 15th day we met a bark with five or six Englishmen in her that belonged to Captain Knight, who had been in the South Seas five or six months, and was now on the Mexican coast. There he had espied this bark; but, not being able to come up with her in his ship, he detached these five or six men in a canoa, who took her, but, when they had done, could not recover their own ship again, losing company with her in the night, therefore they came into the Bay of Panama intending to go overland back into the North Seas, but that they luckily met with us: for the Isthmus of Darien was now become a common road for privateers to pass between the North and South Seas at their pleasure. This bark of Captain Knight's had in her 40 or 50 jars of brandy: she was now commanded by Mr. Henry More; but Captain Swan, intending to promote Captain Harris, caused Mr. More to be turned out, alleging that it was very likely these men were run away from their commander. Mr. More willingly resigned her, and went aboard of Captain Swan and became one of his men.
It was now the latter end of the dry season here; and the water at the King's, or Pearl Islands, of which there was plenty when we first came hither, was now dried away. Therefore we were forced to go to Point Garachina, thinking to water our ships there.
Captain Harris, being now commander of the new bark, was sent into the river of Santa Maria to see for those men that the Indians told us of, whilst the rest of the ships sailed towards Point Garachina; where we arrived the 21st day, and anchored two mile from the point, and found a strong tide running out of the river Sambo. The next day we ran within the point and anchored in four fathom at low water. The tide rises here eight or nine foot: the flood sets north-north-east, the ebb south-south-west. The Indians that inhabit in the river Sambo came to us in Canoas and brought plantains and bananas. They could not speak nor understand Spanish; therefore I believe they have no commerce with the Spaniards. We found no fresh water here neither; so we went from hence to Port Pinas, which is seven leagues south by W. from hence.
Porto Pinas lies in latitude 7 degrees north. It is so called because there are many pine-trees growing there. The land is pretty high, rising gently as it runs into the country. This country near the sea is all covered with pretty high woods: the land that bounds the harbour is low in the middle, but high and rocky on both sides. At the mouth of the harbour there are two small high islands, or rather barren rocks. The Spaniards in their pilot-books commend this for a good harbour; but it lies all open to the south-west winds, which frequently blow here in the wet season: beside, the harbour within the islands is a place of but small extent, and has a very narrow going in; what depth of water there is in the harbour I know not.
The 25th day we arrived at this Harbour of Pines but did not go in with our ship, finding it but an ordinary place to lie at. We sent in our boats to search it, and they found a stream of good water running into the sea; but there were such great swelling surges came into the harbour that we could not conveniently fill our water there. The 26th day we returned to Point Garachina again. In our way we took a small vessel laden with Cacoa: she came from Guiaquil. The 29th day we arrived at Point Garachina: there we found Captain Harris, who had been in the river of Santa Maria; but he did not meet the men that he went for: yet he was informed again by the Indians that they were making Canoas in one of the branches of the river of Santa Maria. Here we shared our Cacoa lately taken.
Because we could not fill our water here we designed to go to Tabago again, where we were sure to be supplied. Accordingly on the 30th day we set sail, being now nine ships in company; and had a small wind at south-south-east. The first day of April, being in the channel between the King's Islands and the Main, we had much Thunder, lightning, and some rain: this evening we anchored at the island Pacheca, and immediately sent four Canoas before us to the island Tabago to take some prisoners for information, and we followed the next day. The 3rd day in the evening we anchored by Perica, and the next morning went to Tabago where we found our four Canoas. They arrived there in the night, and took a canoa that came (as is usual) from Panama for plantains. There were in the canoa four Indians and a Mulatto. The Mulatto, because he said he was in the fire-ship that came to burn us in the night, was immediately hanged. These prisoners confirmed that one Captain Bond, an Englishman, did command her.
Here we filled our water and cut firewood; and from hence we sent four Canoas over to the Main with one of the Indians lately taken to guide them to a sugar-work: for now we had Cacoa we wanted sugar to make chocolate. But the chiefest of their business was to get coppers, for, each ship having now so many men, our pots would not boil victuals fast enough though we kept them boiling all the day. About two or three days after they returned aboard with three coppers.
While we lay here Captain Davis's bark went to the island Otoque. This is another inhabited island in the Bay of Panama; not so big as Tabago, yet there are good plantain-walks on it, and some Negroes to look after them. These Negroes rear fowls and hogs for their masters, who live at Panama; as at the King's Islands.
It was for some fowls or hogs that our men went thither; but by accident they met also with an express that was sent to Panama with an account that the Lima fleet was at sea. Most of the letters were thrown overboard and lost; yet we found some that said positively that the fleet was coming with all the strength that they could make in the kingdom of Peru; yet were ordered not to fight us except they were forced to it: (though afterwards they chose to fight us, having first landed their treasure at Lavelia) and that the pilots of Lima had been in consultation what course to steer to miss us.
For the satisfaction of those who may be curious to know I have here inserted the resolutions taken by the Committee of Pilots, as one of our company translated them out of the Spanish of two of the letters we took. The first letter as follows:
Having been with his Excellency, and heard the letter of Captain Michael Sanches de Tena read; wherein he says there should be a meeting of the pilots of Panama in the said city, they say it is not time, putting for objection the Gallapagos: to which I answered that it was fear of the enemy, and that they might well go that way, I told this to his Excellency, who was pleased to command me to write this course, which is as follows.
The day for sailing being come, go forth to the west-south-west; from that to the west till you are forty leagues off at sea; then keep at the same distance to the north-west till you come under the Line: from whence the pilot must shape his course for Moro de Porco, and for the coast of Lavelia and Natta: where you may speak with the people, and according to the information they give, you may keep the same course for Otoque, from thence to Tabago, and so to Panama: this is what offers as to the course.
The letter is obscure: but the reader must make what he can of it. The directions in the other letter were to this effect:
The surest course to be observed going forth from Malabrigo is thus: you must sail west by south that you may avoid the sight of the islands of Lobos; and if you should chance to see them, by reason of the breezes, and should fall to leeward of the latitude of Malabrigo, keep on a wind as near as you can and, if necessary, go about and stand in for the shore; then tack and stand off, and be sure keep your latitude; and when you are 40 leagues to the westward of the island Lobos keep that distance till you come under the Line; and then, if the general wind follow you farther, you must sail north-north-east till you come into 3 degrees north. And if in this latitude you should find the breezes, make it your business to keep the coast, and so sail for Panama. If in your course you should come in sight of the land before you are abreast of Cape San Francisco, be sure to stretch off again out of sight of land, that you may not be discovered by the enemy.
The last letter supposes the fleet's setting out from Malabrigo in about 8 degrees South latitude (as the other does its going immediately from Lima, 4 degrees further south) and from hence is that caution given of avoiding Lobos, as near Malabrigo, in their usual way to Panama, and hardly to be kept out of sight, as the winds are thereabouts; yet to be avoided by the Spanish fleet at this time, because, as they had twice before heard of the privateers lying at Lobos de la Mar, they knew not but at that time we might be there in expectation of them.
The 10th day we sailed from Tabago towards the King's Islands again because our pilots told us that the king's ships did always come this way. The 11th day we anchored at the place where we careen'd. Here we found Captain Harris, who had gone a second time into the river of Santa Maria, and fetched the body of men that last came overland, as the Indians had informed us: but they fell short of the number they told us of. The 29th day we sent 250 men in 15 Canoas to the river Cheapo to take the town of Cheapo. The 21st day all our ships but Captain Harris, who stayed to clean his ships, followed after.
The 22nd day we arrived at the island Chepelio.
Chepelio is the pleasantest island in the Bay of Panama: it is but seven leagues from the city of Panama and a league from the Main. This island is about a mile long and almost so broad; it is low on the north side, and rises by a small ascent towards the south side. The soil is yellow, a kind of clay. The high side is stony; the low land is planted with all sorts of delicate fruits, namely, sapadillos, avocado-pears, mammees, mammee-sapotas, star-apples, etc. The midst of the island is planted with plantain-trees, which are not very large, but the fruit extraordinary sweet.
The sapadillo-tree is as big as a large pear-tree, the fruit much like a bergamot-pear both in colour, shape and size; but on some trees the fruit is a little longer. When it is green or first gathered, the juice is white and clammy, and it will stick like glue; then the fruit is hard, but after it has been gathered two or three days, it grows soft and juicy, and then the juice is clear as spring-water and very sweet; in the midst of the fruit are two or three black stones or seeds, about the bigness of a pumpkin-seed: this is an excellent fruit.
The avocado-pear-tree is as big as most pear-trees, and is commonly pretty high; the skin or bark black, and pretty smooth; the leaves large, of an oval shape, and the fruit as big as a large lemon. It is of a green colour till it is ripe, and then it is a little yellowish. They are seldom fit to eat till they have been gathered two or three days; then they become soft and the skin or rind will peel off. The substance in the inside is green, or a little yellowish, and as soft as butter. Within the substance there is a stone as big as a horse-plum. This fruit has no taste of itself, and therefore it is usually mixed with sugar and lime-juice and beaten together in a plate; and this is an excellent dish. The ordinary way is to eat it with a little salt and a roasted plantain; and thus a man that's hungry may make a good meal of it. It is very wholesome eaten any way. It is reported that this fruit provokes to lust, and therefore is said to be much esteemed by the Spaniards: and I do believe they are much esteemed by them, for I have met with plenty of them in many places in the North Seas where the Spaniards are settled, as in the Bay of Campeachy, on the coast of Cartagene, and the coast of Caraccos; and there are some in Jamaica, which were planted by the Spaniards when they possessed that island.
The mammee-sapota-tree is different from the mammee described at the island Tabago in this chapter. It is not so big or so tall, neither is the fruit so big or so round. The rind of the fruit is thin and brittle; the inside is a deep red, and it has a rough flat long stone. This is accounted the principal fruit of the West Indies. It is very pleasant and wholesome. I have not seen any of these on Jamaica but in many places in the West Indies among the Spaniards. There is another sort of mammee-tree which is called the wild mammee: this bears a fruit which is of no value, but the tree is straight, tall, and very tough, and therefore principally used for making masts.
The star-apple-tree grows much like the quince-tree, but much bigger. It is full of leaves, and the leaf is broad of an oval shape, and of a very dark green colour. The fruit is as big as a large apple, which is commonly so covered with leaves that a man can hardly see it. They say this is a good fruit; I did never taste any but have seen both of the trees and fruit in many places on the Main, on the north side of the continent, and in Jamaica. When the Spaniards possessed that island they planted this and other sorts of fruit, as the sapadillo, avocado-pear, and the like; and of these fruits there are still in Jamaica in those plantations that were first settled by the Spaniards, as at the Angels, at 7-mile Walk, and 16-mile Walk. There I have seen these trees which were planted by the Spaniards, but I did never see any improvement made by the English, who seem in that little curious. The road for ships is on the north side, where there is good anchoring half a mile from the shore. There is a well close by the sea on the north side, and formerly there were three or four houses close by it, but now they are destroyed. This island stands right against the mouth of the river Cheapo.
The river Cheapo springs out of the mountains near the north side of the country and, it being penned up on the south side by other mountains, bends its course to the westward between both till, finding a passage on the south-west, it makes a kind of a half circle; and, being swelled to a considerable bigness, it runs with a slow motion into the sea seven leagues from Panama. This river is very deep, and about a quarter of a mile broad: but the mouth of it is choked up with sands, so that no ships can enter, but barks may. There is a small Spanish town of the same name within six leagues of the sea: it stands on the left hand going from the sea. This is it which I said Captain La Sound attempted. The land about it is champion, with many small hills clothed with woods; but the biggest part of the country is savannah. On the south side of the river it is all woodland for many leagues together. It was to this town that our 250 men were sent. The 24th day they returned out of the river, having taken the town without any opposition: but they found nothing in it. By the way going thither they took a canoa, but most of the men escaped ashore upon one of the King's Islands: she was sent out well appointed with armed men to watch our motion. The 25th day Captain Harris came to us, having cleaned his ship. The 26th day we went again toward Tabago; our fleet now, upon Captain Harris joining us again, consisted of ten sail. We arrived at Tabago the 28th day: there our prisoners were examined concerning the strength of Panama; for now we thought ourselves strong enough for such an enterprise, being near 1000 men. Out of these, on occasion, we could have landed 900: but our prisoners gave us small encouragement to it, for they assured us that all the strength of the country was there, and that many men were come from Portobello, besides its own inhabitants, who of themselves were more in number than we. These reasons, together with the strength of the place (which has a high wall) deterred us from attempting it. While we lay there at Tabago some of our men burnt the town on the island.
The 4th of May we sailed hence again bound for the King's Islands; and there we continued cruising from one end of these islands to the other: till on the 22nd day, Captain Davis and Captain Gronet went to Pacheca, leaving the rest of the fleet at anchor at St. Paul's Island. From Pacheca we sent two Canoas to the island Chepelio, in hopes to get a prisoner there. The 25th day our Canoas returned from Chepelio with three prisoners which they took there: they were seamen belonging to Panama, who said that provision was so scarce and dear there that the poor were almost starved, being hindered by us from those common and daily supplies of plantains, which they did formerly enjoy from the islands; especially from those two of Chepelio and Tabago that the president of Panama had strictly ordered, that none should adventure to any of the islands for plantains: but necessity had obliged them to trespass against the president's order. They farther reported that the fleet from Lima was expected every day; for it was generally talked that they were come from Lima: and that the report at Panama was that King Charles II of England was dead, and that the Duke of York was crowned King. The 27th day Captain Swan and Captain Townley also came to Pacheca, where we lay, but Captain Swan's bark was gone in among the King's Islands for plantains. The island Pacheca, as I have before related, is the northermost of the King's Islands. It is a small low island about a league round. On the south side of it there are two or three small islands, neither of them half a mile round. Between Pacheca and these islands is a small channel not above six or seven paces wide. and about a mile long. Through this Captain Townley made a bold run, being pressed hard by the Spaniards in the fight I am going to speak of, though he was ignorant whether there was a sufficient depth of water or not. On the east side of this channel all our fleet lay waiting for the Lima fleet, which we were in hopes would come this way.
The 28th day we had a very wet morning, for the rains were come in, as they do usually in May, or June, sooner or later; so that May is here a very uncertain month. Hitherto, till within a few days, we had good fair weather and the wind at north-north-east, but now the weather was altered and the wind at south-south-west.
However about eleven a clock it cleared up, and we saw the Spanish fleet about three leagues west-north-west from the island Pacheca, standing close on a wind to the eastward; but they could not fetch the island by a league. We were riding a league south-east from the island between it and the Main; only Captain Gronet was about a mile to the northward of us near the island: he weighed so soon as they came in sight and stood over for the Main; and we lay still, expecting when he would tack and come to us: but he took care to keep himself out of harm's way.
Captain Swan and Townley came aboard of Captain Davis to order how to engage the enemy, who we saw came purposely to fight us, they being in all 14 sail, besides periago's rowing with 12 and 14 oars apiece. Six sail of them were ships of good force: first the admiral 48 guns, 450 men; the vice-admiral 40 guns, 400 men; the rear-admiral 36 guns, 360 men; a ship of 24 guns, 300 men; one of 18 guns, 250 men; and one of eight guns, 200 men; two great fire-ships, six ships only with small arms having 800 men on board them all; besides 2 or 3 hundred men in periago's. This account of their strength we had afterwards from Captain Knight who, being to the windward on the coast of Peru, took prisoners, of whom he had this information, being what they brought from Lima. Besides these men they had also some hundreds of Old Spain men that came from Portobello, and met them at Lavelia, from whence they now came: and their strength of men from Lima was 3000 men, being all the strength they could make in that kingdom; and for greater security they had first landed their treasure at Lavelia.
Our fleet consisted of ten sail: first Captain Davis 36 guns, 156 men, most English; Captain Swan 16 guns, 140 men, all English: these were the only ships of force that we had; the rest having none but small arms. Captain Townley had 110 men, all English. Captain Gronet 308 men, all French. Captain Harris 100 men, most English. Captain Branly 36 men, some English, some French; Davis's tender eight men; Swan's tender eight men; Townley's bark 80 men; and a small bark of 30 tuns made a fire-ship, with a canoa's crew in her. We had in all 960 men. But Captain Gronet came not to us till all was over, yet we were not discouraged at it, but resolved to fight them, for, being to windward of the enemy, we had it at our choice whether we would fight or not. It was three a clock in the afternoon when we weighed, and being all under sail we bore down right afore the wind on our enemies, who kept close on a wind to come to us; but night came on without anything beside the exchanging of a few shot on each side. When it grew dark the Spanish admiral put out a light as a signal for his fleet to come to an anchor. We saw the light in the admiral's top, which continued about half an hour, and then it was taken down. In a short time after we saw the light again and, being to windward, we kept under sail, supposing the light had been in the admiral's top; but as it proved this was only a stratagem of theirs; for this light was put out the second time at one of their bark's topmast-head, and then she was sent to leeward; which deceived us: for we thought still the light was in the admiral's top, and by that means thought ourselves to windward of them.
In the morning therefore, contrary to our expectation, we found they had got the weather-gage of us, and were coming upon us with full sail; so we ran for it and, after a running fight all day, and having taken a turn almost round the Bay of Panama, we came to an anchor again at the isle of Pacheca, in the very same place from whence we set out in the morning.
Thus ended this day's work, and with it all that we had been projecting for five or six months; when, instead of making ourselves masters of the Spanish fleet and treasure, we were glad to escape them; and owed that too, in a great measure, to their want of courage to pursue their advantage.
The 30th day in the morning when we looked out we saw the Spanish fleet all together three leagues to leeward of us at an anchor. It was but little wind till 10 a clock, and then sprung up a small breeze at south, and the Spanish fleet went away to Panama. What loss they had I know not; we lost but one man: and, having held a consult, we resolved to go to the keys of Quibo or Cobaya, to seek Captain Harris, who was forced away from us in the fight; that being the place appointed for our rendezvous upon any such accident. As for Gronet, he said his men would not suffer him to join us in the fight: but we were not satisfied with that excuse; so we suffered him to go with us to the isles of Quibo, and there cashiered our cowardly companion. Some were for taking from him the ship which we had given him: but at length he was suffered to keep it with his men, and we sent them away in it to some other place.
According to the resolutions we had taken we set out June the 1st 1685, passing between Point Garachina and the King's Islands. The wind was at south-south-west rainy weather, with tornadoes of thunder and lightning.
The 3rd day we passed by the island Chuche, the last remainder of the isles in the Bay of Panama. This is a small, low, round, woody island, uninhabited; lying four leagues south-south-west from Pacheca.
In our passage to Quibo Captain Branly lost his main-mast; therefore he and all his men left his bark, and came aboard Captain Davis's ship. Captain Swan also sprung his main-top-mast, and got up another; but while he was doing it and we were making the best of our way we lost sight of him, and were now on the north side of the bay; for this way all ships must pass from Panama whether bound towards the coast of Mexico or Peru.
The 10th day we passed by Moro de Porcos, or the mountain of hogs. Why so called I know not: it is a high round hill on the coast of Lavelia.
This side of the Bay of Panama runs out westerly to the islands of Quibo: there are on this coast many rivers and creeks but none so large as those on the south side of the bay. It is a coast that is partly mountainous, partly low land, and very thick of woods bordering on the sea; but a few leagues within land it consists mostly of savannahs which are stocked with bulls and cows. The rivers on this side are not wholly destitute of gold though not so rich as the rivers on the other side of the bay. The coast is but thinly inhabited, for except the rivers that lead up to the towns of Nata and Lavelia I know of no other settlement between Panama and Puebla Nova. The Spaniards may travel by land from Panama through all the kingdom of Mexico, as being full of savannahs; but towards the coast of Peru they cannot pass further than the river Cheapo; the land there being so full of thick woods and watered with so many great rivers, besides less rivers and creeks, that the Indians themselves who inhabit there cannot travel far without much trouble.
We met with very wet weather in our voyage to Quibo; and with south-south-west and sometimes south-west winds which retarded our course. It was the 15th day of June when we arrived at Quibo and found there Captain Harris, whom we sought. The island Quibo or Cabaya is in latitude 7 degrees 14 minutes north of the Equator. It is about six or seven leagues long and three or four broad. The land is low except only near the north-east end. It is all over plentifully stored with great tall flourishing trees of many sorts; and there is good water on the east and north-east sides of the island. Here are some deer and plenty of pretty large black monkeys whose flesh is sweet and wholesome: besides a few Guanos, and some snakes. I know no other sort of land-animal on the island. There is a shoal runs out from the south-east point of the island, half a mile into the sea; and a league to the north of this shoal point, on the east side, there is a rock about a mile from the shore, which at the last quarter ebb appears above water. Besides these two places there is no danger on this side, but ships may run within a quarter of a mile of the shore and anchor in 6, 8, 10, or 12 fathom, good clean sand and oaze.
There are many other islands lying some on the south-west side, others on the north and north-east sides of this island; as the island Quicaro, which is a pretty large island south-west of Quibo, and on the north of it is a small island called the Rancheria; on which island are plenty of palma-maria-trees.
The palma-maria is a tall straight-bodied tree, with a small head, but very unlike the palm-tree, notwithstanding the name. It is greatly esteemed for making masts, being very tough, as well as of a good length; for the grain of the wood runs not straight along it, but twisting gradually about it. These trees grow in many places of the West Indies, and are frequently used both by the English and Spaniards there for that use.
The islands Canales and Cantarras are small islands lying on the north-east of Rancheria. These have all channels to pass between, and good anchoring about them; and they are as well stored with trees and water as Quibo. Sailing without them all, they appear to be part of the Main. The island Quibo is the largest and most noted; for although the rest have names yet they are seldom used only for distinction sake: these, and the rest of this knot, passing all under the common name of the keys of Quibo. Captain Swan gave to several of these islands the names of those English merchants and gentlemen who were owners of his ship.
June 16th Captain Swan came to an anchor by us: and then our captains consulted about new methods to advance their fortunes: and because they were now out of hopes to get anything at sea they resolved to try what the land would afford. They demanded of our pilots what towns on the coast of Mexico they could carry us to. The city of Leon being the chiefest in the country (anything near us) though a pretty way within land, was pitched on.
But now we wanted Canoas to land our men, and we had no other way but to cut down trees and make as many as we had occasion for, these islands affording plenty of large trees fit for our purpose. While this was doing we sent 150 men to take Puebla Nova (a town upon the Main near the innermost of these islands) to get provision: it was in going to take this town that Captain Sawkins was killed in the year 1680, who was succeeded by Sharp. Our men took the town with much ease, although there was more strength of men than when Captain Sawkins was killed. They returned again the 24th day, but got no provision there. They took an empty bark in their way, and brought her to us.
The 5th day of July Captain Knight, mentioned in my last chapter, came to us. He had been cruising a great way to the westward but got nothing beside a good ship. At last he went to the southward, as high as the Bay of Guiaquil, where he took a bark-log, or pair of bark-logs as we call it, laden chiefly with flour. She had other goods, as wine, oil, brandy, sugar, soap, and leather of goats' skins: and he took out as much of each as he had occasion for, and then turned her away again. The master of the float told him that the king's ships were gone from Lima towards Panama: that they carried but half the king's treasure with them for fear of us, although they had all the strength that the kingdom could afford: that all the merchant-ships which should have gone with them were laden and lying at Payta, where they were to wait for further orders. Captain Knight, having but few men, did not dare to go to Payta, where, if he had been better provided, he might have taken them all; but he made the best of his way into the Bay of Panama, in hopes to find us there enriched with the spoils of the Lima fleet; but, coming to the King's Islands, he had advice by a prisoner that we had engaged with their fleet, but were worsted, and since that made our way to the westward; and therefore he came hither to seek us. He presently consorted with us, and set his men to work to make Canoas. Every ship's company made for themselves, but we all helped each other to launch them, for some were made a mile from the sea.
The manner of making a canoa is, after cutting down a large long tree, and squaring the uppermost side, and then turning it upon the flat side, to shape the opposite side for the bottom. Then again they turn her, and dig the inside; boring also three holes in the bottom, one before, one in the middle, and one abaft, thereby to gauge the thickness of the bottom; for otherwise we might cut the bottom thinner than is convenient. We left the bottoms commonly about three inches thick, and the sides two inches thick below and one and a half at the top. One or both of the ends we sharpen to a point.
Captain Davis made two very large Canoas; one was 36 foot long and five or six feet wide; the other 32 foot long and near as wide as the other. In a month's time we finished our business and were ready to sail. Here Captain Harris went to lay his ship aground to clean her, but she being old and rotten fell in pieces: and therefore he and all his men went aboard of Captain Davis and Captain Swan. While we lay here we struck turtle every day, for they were now very plentiful: but from August to March here are not many. The 18th day of July John Rose, a Frenchman, and 14 men more belonging to Captain Gronet, having made a new canoa, came in her to Captain Davis, and desired to serve under him; and Captain Davis accepted of them because they had a canoa of their own.
The 20th day of July we sailed from Quibo, bending our course for Ria Lexa, which is the port for Leon, the city that we now designed to attempt. We were now 640 men in eight sail of ships, commanded by Captain Davis, Captain Swan, Captain Townley, and Captain Knight, with a fire-ship and three tenders, which last had not a constant crew. We passed out between the river Quibo and the Rancheria, leaving Quibo and Quicaro on our larboard side, and the Rancheria, with the rest of the islands and the Main on our starboard side. The wind at first was at south-south-west: we coasted along shore, passing by the Gulf of Nicoya, the Gulf of Dulce, and by the island Caneo. All this coast is low land overgrown with thick woods, and there are but few inhabitants near the shore. As we sailed to the westward we had variable winds, sometimes south-west and at west-south-west, and sometimes at east-north-east, but we had them most commonly at south-west. We had a tornado or two every day, and in the evening or in the night we had land-winds at north-north-east.
The 8th day of August, being in the latitude of 11 degrees 20 minutes by observation, we saw a high hill in the country, towering up like a sugar-loaf, which bore north-east by north. We supposed it to be Volcan Vejo by the smoke which ascended from its top; therefore we steered in north and made it plainer, and then knew it to be that volcano, which is the sea-mark for the harbour for Ria Lexa; for, as I said before in Chapter 5, it is a very remarkable mountain. When we had brought this mountain to bear north-east we got out all our Canoas and provided to embark into them the next day.
The 9th day in the morning, being about eight leagues from the shore, we left our ships under the charge of a few men, and 520 of us went away in 31 Canoas, rowing towards the harbour of Ria Lexa.
We had fair weather and little wind till two a clock in the afternoon, then we had a tornado from the shore, with much thunder, lightning and rain, and such a gust of wind that we were all like to be foundered. In this extremity we put right afore the wind, every canoa's crew making what shift they could to avoid the threatening danger. The small Canoas, being most light and buoyant, mounted nimbly over the surges, but the great heavy Canoas lay like logs in the sea, ready to be swallowed by every foaming billow. Some of our Canoas were half full of water yet kept two men constantly heaving it out. The fierceness of the wind continued about half an hour and abated by degrees; and as the wind died away so the fury of the sea abated: for in all hot countries, as I have observed, the sea is soon raised by the wind, and as soon down again when the wind is gone, and therefore it is a proverb among the seamen: Up wind, up sea, down wind, down sea. At seven a clock in the evening it was quite calm, and the sea as smooth as a mill-pond. Then we tugged to get in to the shore, but, finding we could not do it before day, we rowed off again to keep ourselves out of sight. By that time it was day we were five leagues from the land, which we thought was far enough off shore. Here we intended to lie till the evening, but at three a clock in the afternoon we had another tornado, more fierce than that which we had the day before. This put us in greater peril of our lives, but did not last so long. As soon as the violence of the tornado was over we rowed in for the shore and entered the harbour in the night: the creek which leads towards Leon lies on the south-east side of the harbour. Our pilot, being very well acquainted here, carried us into the mouth of it, but could carry us no farther till day because it is but a small creek, and there are other creeks like it. The next morning as soon as it was light we rowed into the creek, which is very narrow; the land on both sides lying so low that every tide it is overflown with the sea. This sort of land produces red mangrove-trees, which are here so plentiful and thick that there is no passing through them. Beyond these mangroves, on the firm land close by the side of the river, the Spaniards have built a breast-work, purposely to hinder an enemy from the landing. When we came in sight of the breast-work we rowed as fast as we could to get ashore: the noise of our oars alarmed the Indians who were set to watch, and presently they ran away towards the city of Leon to give notice of our approach. We landed as soon as we could and marched after them: 470 men were drawn out to march to the town, and I was left with 59 men more to stay and guard the Canoas till their return.
The city of Leon is 20 mile up in the country: the way to it plain and even through a champion country of long grassy savannahs and spots of high woods. About five mile from the landing-place there is a sugar-work, three mile farther there is another, and two mile beyond that there is a fine river to ford, which is not very deep, besides which there is no water in all the way till you come to an Indian town which is two miles before you come to the city, and from thence it is a pleasant straight sandy way to Leon. This city stands in a plain not far from a high peaked mountain which oftentimes casts forth fire and smoke from its top. It may be seen at sea and it is called the volcano of Leon. The houses of Leon are not high built but strong and large, with gardens about them. The walls are stone and the covering of pan-tile: there are three churches and a cathedral which is the head church in these parts. Our countryman Mr. Gage, who travelled in these parts, recommends it to the world as the pleasantest place in all America, and calls it the Paradise of the Indies. Indeed if we consider the advantage of its situation we may find it surpassing most places for health and pleasure in America, for the country about it is of a sandy soil which soon drinks up all the rain that falls, to which these parts are much subject. It is encompassed with savannahs; so that they have the benefit of the breezes coming from any quarter; all which makes it a very healthy place. It is a place of no great trade and therefore not rich in money. Their wealth lies in their pastures, and cattle, and plantations of sugar. It is said that they make cordage here of hemp, but if they have any such manufactory it is at some distance from the town, for here is no sign of any such thing.
Thither our men were now marching; they went from the Canoas about eight a clock. Captain Townley, with 80 of the briskest men, marched before, Captain Swan with 100 men marched next, and Captain Davis with 170 men marched next, and Captain Knight brought up the rear. Captain Townley, who was near two mile ahead of the rest, met about 70 horsemen four miles before he came to the city, but they never stood him. About three a clock Captain Townley, only with his 80 men, entered the town, and was briskly charged in a broad street with 170 or 200 Spanish horsemen, but, two or three of their leaders being knocked down, the rest fled. Their foot consisted of about 500 men, which were drawn up in the parade; for the Spaniards in these parts make a large square in every town, though the town itself be small. The square is called the parade: commonly the church makes one side of it, and the gentlemen's houses, with their galleries about them, the other. But the foot also seeing their horse retire left an empty city to Captain Townley; beginning to save themselves by flight. Captain Swan came in about four a clock, Captain Davis with his men about five, and Captain Knight with as many men as he could encourage to march came in about six, but he left many men tired on the road; these, as is usual, came dropping in one or two at a time, as they were able. The next morning the Spaniards killed one of our tired men; he was a stout old grey-headed man, aged about 84, who had served under Oliver in the time of the Irish rebellion; after which he was at Jamaica, and had followed privateering ever since. He would not accept of the offer our men made him to tarry ashore but said he would venture as far as the best of them: and when surrounded by the Spaniards he refused to take quarter, but discharged his gun amongst them, keeping a pistol still charged, so they shot him dead at a distance. His name was Swan; he was a very merry hearty old man and always used to declare he would never take quarter: but they took Mr. Smith who was tired also; he was a merchant belonging to Captain Swan and, being carried before the governor of Leon, was known by a Mulatta woman that waited on him. Mr. Smith had lived many years in the Canaries and could speak and write very good Spanish, and it was there this Mulatta woman remembered him. He being examined how many men we were said 1000 at the city, and 500 at the Canoas, which made well for us at the Canoas, who straggling about every day might easily have been destroyed. But this so daunted the governor that he did never offer to molest our men, although he had with him above 1000 men, as Mr. Smith guessed. He sent in a flag of truce about noon, pretending to ransom the town rather than let it be burnt, but our captains demanded 300,000 pieces-of-eight for its ransom, and as much provision as would victual 1000 men four months, and Mr. Smith to be ransomed for some of their prisoners; but the Spaniards did not intend to ransom the town, but only capitulated day after day to prolong time, till they had got more men. Our captains therefore, considering the distance that they were from the Canoas, resolved to be marching down. The 14th day in the morning they ordered the city to be set on fire, which was presently done, and then they came away: but they took more time in coming down than in going up. The 15th day in the morning the Spaniards sent in Mr. Smith and had a gentlewoman in exchange.
Then our captains sent a letter to the governor to acquaint him that they intended next to visit Ria Lexa, and desired to meet him there: they also released a gentleman on his promise of paying 150 beefs for his ransom, and to deliver them to us at Ria Lexa; and the same day our men came to their Canoas: where, having stayed all night, the next morning we all entered our Canoas and came to the harbour of Ria Lexa, and in the afternoon our ships came thither to an anchor.
The creek that leads to Ria Lexa lies from the north-west part of the harbour and it runs in northerly. It is about two leagues from the island in the harbour's mouth to the town; two thirds of the way it is broad, then you enter a narrow deep creek, bordered on both sides with red mangrove trees whose limbs reach almost from one side to the other. A mile from the mouth of the creek it turns away west. There the Spaniards have made a very strong breast-work fronting towards the mouth of the creek, in which were placed 100 soldiers to hinder us from landing: and 20 yards below that breast-work there was a chain of great trees placed cross the creek so that 10 men could have kept off 500 or 1000.
When we came in sight of the breast-work we fired but two guns and they all ran away: and we were afterwards near half an hour cutting the boom or chain. Here we landed and marched to the town of Ria Lexa, or Rea Lejo, which is about a mile from hence. This town stands on a plain by a small river. It is a pretty large town with three churches and a hospital that has a fine garden belonging to it: besides many large fair houses, they all stand at a good distance one from another, with yards about them. This is a very sickly place and I believe has need enough of a hospital; for it is seated so nigh the creeks and swamps that it is never free from a noisome smell. The land about it is a strong yellow clay: yet where the town stands it seems to be sand. Here are several sorts of fruits, as guavas, pineapples, melons, and prickly-pears. The pineapple and melon are well known.
The guava fruit grows on a hard scrubbed shrub whose bark is smooth and whitish, the branches pretty long and small, the leaf somewhat like the leaf of a hazel, the fruit much like a pear, with a thin rind; it is full of small hard seeds, and it may be eaten while it is green, which is a thing very rare in the Indies: for most fruit, both in the East or West Indies, is full of clammy, white, unsavoury juice before it is ripe, though pleasant enough afterwards. When this fruit is ripe it is yellow, soft, and very pleasant. It bakes as well as a pear, and it may be coddled, and it makes good pies. There are of divers sorts, different in shape, taste, and colour. The inside of some is yellow, of others red. When this fruit is eaten green, it is binding, when ripe, it is loosening.
The prickly-pear, bush, or shrub, of about four or five foot high, grows in many places of the West Indies, as at Jamaica and most other islands there; and on the Main in several places. This prickly shrub delights most in barren sandy grounds; and they thrive best in places that are near the sea: especially where the sand is saltish. The tree or shrub is three or four foot high, spreading forth several branches; and on each branch two or three leaves. These leaves (if I may call them so) are round, as broad every way as the palm of a man's hand, and as thick; their substance like house-leek: these leaves are fenced round with strong prickles above an inch long. The fruit grows at the farther edge of the leaf. it is as big as a large plum, growing small near the leaf, and big towards the top, where it opens like a medlar. This fruit at first is green like the leaf, from whence it springs with small prickles about it; but when ripe it is of a deep red colour. The inside is full of small black seeds mixed with a certain red pulp, like thick syrup. It is very pleasant in taste, cooling, and refreshing; but if a man eats 15 or 20 of them they will colour his water, making it look like blood. This I have often experienced, yet found no harm by it.
There are many sugar-works in the country, and estancias or beef farms: there is also a great deal of pitch, tar and cordage, made in the country, which is the chief of their trade. This town we approached without any opposition, and found nothing but empty houses; besides such things as they could not, or would not carry away, which were chiefly about 500 packs of flour, brought hither in the great ship that we left at Amapalla, and some pitch, tar and cordage. These things we wanted and therefore we sent them all aboard. Here we received 150 beefs, promised by the gentleman that was released coming from Leon; besides, we visited the beef-farms every day, and the sugar-works, going in small companies of 20 or 30 men, and brought away every man his load; for we found no horses, which if we had, yet the ways were so wet and dirty that they would not have been serviceable to us. We stayed here from the 17th till the 24th day, and then some of our destructive crew set fire to the houses: I know not by whose order, but we marched away and left them burning; at the breast-work we embarked into our Canoas and returned aboard our ships.
The 25th day Captain Davis and Captain Swan broke off consortship; for Captain Davis was minded to return again on the coast of Peru but Captain Swan desired to go farther to the westward. I had till this time been with Captain Davis, but now left him, and went aboard of Captain Swan. It was not from any dislike to my old Captain, but to get some knowledge of the northern parts of this continent of Mexico: and I knew that Captain Swan determined to coast it as far north as he thought convenient, and then pass over for the East Indies; which was a way very agreeable to my inclination. Captain Townley, with his two barks, was resolved to keep us company; but Captain Knight and Captain Harris followed Captain Davis. The 27th day in the morning Captain Davis with his ships went out of the harbour, having a fresh land wind. They were in company, Captain Davis's ship with Captain Harris in her; Captain Davis's bark and fire-ship, and Captain Knight in his own ship, in all four sail. Captain Swan took his last farewell of him by firing fifteen guns, and he fired eleven in return of the civility.
We stayed here some time afterwards to fill our water and cut firewood; but our men, who had been very healthy till now, began to fall down apace in fevers. Whether it was the badness of the water or the unhealthiness of the town was the cause of it we did not know; but of the two I rather believe it was a distemper we got at Ria Lexa; for it was reported that they had been visited with a malignant fever in that town, which had occasioned many people to abandon it; and although this visitation was over with them, yet their houses and goods might still retain somewhat of the infection and communicate the same to us.
I the rather believe this because it afterwards raged very much, not only among us, but also among Captain Davis and his men, as he told me himself since when I met him in England: himself had like to have died, as did several of his and our men. The 3rd day of September we turned ashore all our prisoners and pilots, they being unacquainted further to the west, which was the coast that we designed to visit: for the Spaniards have a very little trade by sea beyond the river Lempa, a little to the north-west of this place.
About 10 a clock in the morning the same day we went from hence, steering westward, being in company four sail, as well as they who left us, namely, Captain Swan and his bark, and Captain Townley and his bark, and about 340 men.
We met with very bad weather as we sailed along this coast: seldom a day passed but we had one or two violent tornadoes and with them very frightful flashes of lightning and claps of thunder; I did never meet with the like before nor since. These tornadoes commonly came out of the north-east. The wind did not last long but blew very fierce for the time. When the tornadoes were over we had the wind at west, sometimes at west-south-west and south-west, and sometimes to the north of the west, as far as the north-west.
We kept at a good distance off shore and saw no land till the 14th day; but then being in latitude 12 degrees 50 minutes the volcano of Guatimala appeared in sight. This is a very high mountain with two peaks or heads appearing like two sugar-loaves. It often belches forth flames of fire and smoke from between the two heads; and this, as the Spaniards do report, happens chiefly in tempestuous weather. It is called so from the city Guatimala, which stands near the foot of it about eight leagues from the South Sea, and by report 40 or 50 leagues from the Gulf of Matique in the Bay of Honduras, in the North Seas. This city is famous for many rich commodities that are produced thereabouts (some almost peculiar to this country) and yearly sent into Europe, especially four rich dyes, indigo, otta or anatta, silvester, and cochineel.
Indigo is made of an herb which grows a foot and a half or two foot high, full of small branches; and the branches full of leaves, resembling the leaves which grow on flax, but more thick and substantial. They cut this herb or shrub and cast it into a large cistern made in the ground for that purpose, which is half full of water. The indigo stalk or herb remains in the water till all the leaves and, I think, the skin, rind, or bark rot off, and in a manner dissolve: but, if any of the leaves should stick fast, they force them off by much labour, tossing and tumbling the mass in the water till all the pulpy substance is dissolved. Then the shrub, or woody part, is taken out, and the water, which is like ink, being disturbed no more, settles, and the indigo falls to the bottom of the cistern like mud. When it is thus settled they draw off the water and take the mud and lay it in the sun to dry: which there becomes hard, as you see it brought home.
Otta, or anatta, is a red sort of dye. It is made of a red flower that grows on shrubs 7 or 8 foot high. It is thrown into a cistern of water as the indigo is, but with this difference that there is no stalk, nor so much as the head of the flower, but only the flower itself pulled off from the head, as you peel rose-leaves from the bud. This remains in the water till it rots, and by much jumbling it dissolves to a liquid substance like the indigo; and, being settled and the water drawn off, the red mud is made up into rolls or cakes, and laid in the sun to dry. I did never see any made but at a place called the Angels in Jamaica, at Sir Thomas Muddiford's plantations, about 20 years since; but was grubbed up while I was there, and the ground otherwise employed. I do believe there is none anywhere else on Jamaica: and even this probably was owing to the Spaniards when they had that island. Indigo is common enough in Jamaica. I observed they planted it most in sandy ground: they sow great fields of it and I think they sow it every year; but I did never see the seeds it bears. Indigo is produced all over the West Indies, on most of the Caribbean Islands as well as the Main; yet no part of the Main yields such great quantities both of indigo and otta as this country about Guatimala. I believe that otta is made now only by the Spaniards; for since the destroying that at the Angels Plantation in Jamaica I have not heard of any improvement made of this commodity by our countrymen anywhere; and as to Jamaica, I have since been informed that it is wholly left off there. I know not what quantities either of indigo or otta are made at Cuba or Hispaniola: but the place most used by our Jamaica sloops for these things is the island Porto Rico, where our Jamaica traders did use to buy indigo for three rials, and otta for four rials the pound, which is but 2 shillings and 3 pence of our money: and yet at the same time otta was worth in Jamaica 5 shillings the pound, and indigo 3 shillings and 6 pence the pound; and even this also paid in goods; by which means alone they got 50 or 60 per cent. Our traders had not then found the way of trading with the Spaniards in the Bay of Honduras; but Captain Coxon went thither (as I take it) at the beginning of the year 1679, under pretence to cut log-wood, and went into the Gulf of Matique which is in the bottom of that bay. There he landed with his Canoas and took a whole store-house full of indigo and otta in chests, piled up in several parcels and marked with different marks ready to be shipped aboard two ships that then lay in the road purposely to take it in; but these ships could not come at him, it being shoal-water. He opened some of the chests of indigo and, supposing the other chests to be all of the same species, ordered his men to carry them away. They immediately set to work, and took the nearest at hand; and having carried out one heap of chests, they seized on another great pile of a different mark from the rest, intending to carry them away next. But a Spanish gentleman, their prisoner, knowing that there was a great deal more than they could carry away, desired them to take only such as belonged to the merchants (whose marks he undertook to show them) and to spare such as had the same mark with those in that great pile they were then entering upon; because, he said, those chests belonged to the ship-captains who, following the seas as themselves did, he hoped they would, for that reason, rather spare their goods than the merchants. They consented to his request; but upon their opening their chests (which was not before they came to Jamaica, where by connivance they were permitted to sell them) they found that the Don had been too sharp for them; the few chests which they had taken of the same mark with the great pile proving to be otta, of greater value by far than the other; whereas they might as well have loaded the whole ship with otta, as with indigo.
The cochineel is an insect bred in a sort of fruit much like the prickly-pear. The tree or shrub that bears it is like the prickly-pear-tree, about five foot high, and so prickly; only the leaves are not quite so big, but the fruit is bigger. On the top of the fruit there grows a red flower: this flower, when the fruit is ripe, falls down on the top of the fruit, which then begins to open, and covers it so that no rain nor dew can wet the inside. The next day, or two days after its falling down, the flower being then scorched away by the heat of the sun, the fruit opens as broad as the mouth of a pint-pot, and the inside of the fruit is by this time full of small red insects with curious thin wings. As they were bred here, so here they would die for want of food, and rot in their husks (having by this time eaten up their mother-fruit) did not the Indians, who plant large fields of these trees, when once they perceive the fruit open, take care to drive them out: for they spread under the branches of the tree a large linen cloth, and then with sticks they shake the branches and so disturb the poor insects that they take wing to be gone, yet hovering still over the head of their native tree, but the heat of the sun so disorders them that they presently fall down dead on the cloth spread for that purpose, where the Indians let them remain two or three days longer till they are thoroughly dry. When they fly up they are red, when they fall down they are black; and when first they are quite dry they are white as the sheet wherein they lie, though the colour change a little after. These yield the much esteemed scarlet. The cochineel-trees are called by the Spaniard toonas: they are planted in the country about Guatimala, and about Cheapo and Guaxaca, all three in the kingdom of Mexico. The silvester is a red grain growing in a fruit much resembling the cochineel-fruit; as does also the tree that bears it. There first shoots forth a yellow flower, then comes the fruit, which is longer than the cochineel-fruit. The fruit being ripe opens also very wide. The inside being full of these small seeds or grains they fall out with the least touch or shake. The Indians that gather them hold a dish under to receive the seed and then shake it down. These trees grow wild; and eight or ten of these fruits will yield an ounce of seed: but of the cochineel fruits three or four will yield an ounce of insects. The silvester gives a colour almost as fair as the cochineel and so like it as to be often mistaken for it, but it is not near so valuable. I often made enquiry how the silvester grows, and of the cochineel; but was never fully satisfied till I met a Spanish gentleman that had lived 30 years in the West Indies, and some years where these grow; and from him I had these relations. He was a very intelligent person and pretended to be well acquainted in the Bay of Campeachy; therefore I examined him in many particulars concerning that bay, where I was well acquainted myself, living there three years. He gave very true and pertinent answers to all my demands, so that I could have no distrust of what he related.
When we first saw the mountain of Guatimala we were by judgment 25 leagues distance from it. As we came nearer the land it appeared higher and plainer, yet we saw no fire but a little smoke proceeding from it. The land by the sea was of a good height yet but low in comparison with that in the country. The sea for about eight or ten leagues from the shore was full of floating trees, or driftwood, as it is called (of which I have seen a great deal but nowhere so much as here) and pumice-stones floating, which probably are thrown out of the burning mountains and washed down to the shore by the rains, which are very violent and frequent in this country; and on the side of Honduras it is excessively wet.
The 24th day we were in latitude 14 degrees 30 minutes north, and the weather more settled. Then Captain Townley took with him 106 men in nine Canoas and went away to the westward where he intended to land and rummage in the country for some refreshment for our sick men, we having at this time near half our men sick, and many were dead since we left Ria Lexa. We in the ships lay still with our topsails furled and our corses or lower sails hauled up this day and the next that Captain Townley might get the start of us.
The 26th day we made sail again, coasting to the westward, having the wind at north and fair weather. We ran along by a tract of very high land which came from the eastward, more within land than we could see; after we fell in with it it bore us company for about 10 leagues, and ended with a pretty gentle descent towards the west.
There we had a perfect view of a pleasant low country which seemed to be rich in pasturage for cattle. It was plentifully furnished with groves of green trees mixed among the grassy savannahs: here the land was fenced from the sea with high sandy hills, for the waves all along this coast run high, and beat against the shore very boisterously, making the land wholly unapproachable in boats or Canoas: so we coasted still along by this low land, eight or nine leagues farther, keeping close to the shore for fear of missing Captain Townley. We lay by in the night and in the day made an easy sail.
The 2nd day of October Captain Townley came aboard; he had coasted along shore in his Canoas, seeking for an entrance, but found none. At last, being out of hopes to find any bay, creek, or river, into which he might safely enter, he put ashore on a sandy bay, but overset all his Canoas: he had one man drowned, and several lost their arms, and some of them that had not waxed up their cartage or cartouche boxes wet all their powder. Captain Townley with much ado got ashore and dragged the Canoas up dry on the bay; then every man searched his cartouche box and drew the wet powder out of his gun, and provided to march into the country but, finding it full of great creeks which they could not ford, they were forced to return again to their Canoas. In the night they made good fires to keep themselves warm; the next morning 200 Spaniards and Indians fell on them but were immediately repulsed, and made greater speed back than they had done forward. Captain Townley followed them, but not far for fear of his Canoas. These men came from Tehuantapec, a town that Captain Townley went chiefly to seek because the Spanish books make mention of a large river there; but whether it was run away at this time, or rather Captain Townley and his men were short-sighted, I know not; but they could not find it.
Upon his return we presently made sail, coasting still westward, having the wind at east-north-east fair weather and a fresh gale. We kept within two mile of the shore, sounding all the way; and found at six miles distance from land 19 fathom; at eight miles distance 21 fathom, gross sand.
We saw no opening nor sign of any place to land at, so we sailed about 20 leagues farther and came to a small high island called Tangola, where there is good anchoring. The island is indifferently well furnished with wood and water, and lies about a league from the shore. The Main against the island is pretty high champion savannah land by the sea; but two or three leagues within land it is higher and very woody.
We coasted a league farther and came to Guatulco. This port is in latitude 15 degrees 30 minutes. It is one of the best in all this kingdom of Mexico. Near a mile from the mouth of the harbour on the east side there is a little island close by the shore; and on the west side of the mouth of the harbour there is a great hollow rock, which by the continual working of the sea in and out makes a great noise, which may be heard a great way. Every surge that comes in forces the water out of a little hole on its top, as out of a pipe, from whence it flies out just like the blowing of a whale; to which the Spaniards also liken it. They call this rock and spout the Buffadore: upon what account I know not. Even in the calmest seasons the sea beats in there, making the water spout at the hole: so that this is always a good mark to find the harbour by. The harbour is about three mile deep and one mile broad; it runs in north-west. But the west side of the harbour is best to ride in for small ships; for there you may ride land-locked: whereas anywhere else you are open to the south-west winds which often blow here. There is good clean ground anywhere, and good gradual soundings from 16 to 6 fathom; it is bounded with a smooth sandy shore, very good to land at; and at the bottom of the harbour there is a fine brook of fresh water running into the sea.
Here formerly stood a small Spanish town or village which was taken by Sir Francis Drake: but now there is nothing remaining of it beside a little chapel standing among the trees about 200 paces from the sea. The land appears in small short ridges parallel to the shore and to each other, the innermost still gradually higher than that nearer the shore; and they are all clothed with very high flourishing trees, that it is extraordinary pleasant and delightful to behold at a distance: I have nowhere seen anything like it.
At this place Captain Swan, who had been very sick, came ashore, and all the sick men with him, and the surgeon to tend them. Captain Townley again took a company of men with him and went into the country to seek for houses or inhabitants. He marched away to the eastward and came to the river Capalita: which is a swift river, yet deep near the mouth, and is about a league from Guatulco. There two of his men swam over the river and took three Indians that were placed there as sentinels to watch for our coming. These could none of them speak Spanish; yet our men by signs made them understand that they desired to know if there was any town or village near; who by the signs which they made gave our men to understand that they could guide them to a settlement: but there was no understanding by them whether it was a Spanish or Indian settlement, nor how far it was thither. They brought these Indians aboard with them, and the next day, which was the 6th day of October, Captain Townley with 140 men (of whom I was one) went ashore again, taking one of these Indians with us for a guide to conduct us to this settlement.
Our men that stayed aboard filled our water, and cut wood, and mended our sails: and our Moskito men struck three or four turtle every day. They were a small sort of turtle, and not very sweet, yet very well esteemed by us all because we had eaten no flesh a great while. The 8th day we returned out of the country, having been about 14 miles directly within land before we came to any settlement. There we found a small Indian village, and in it a great quantity of vinelloes drying in the sun.
The vinello is a little cod full of small black seeds; it is four or five inches long, about the bigness of the stem of a tobacco leaf, and when dried much resembling it: so that our privateers at first have often thrown them away when they took any, wondering why the Spaniards should lay up tobacco stems. This cod grows on a small vine which climbs about and supports itself by the neighbouring trees: it first bears a yellow flower from whence the cod afterwards proceeds. It is first green, but when ripe it turns yellow; then the Indians (whose manufacture it is, and who sell it cheap to the Spaniards) gather it, and lay it in the sun, which makes it soft; then it changes to a chestnut-colour. Then they frequently press it between their fingers, which makes it flat. If the Indians do anything to them beside I know not; but I have seen the Spaniards sleek them with oil.
These vines grow plentifully at Boca Toro, where I have gathered and tried to cure them, but could not: which makes me think that the Indians have some secret that I know not of to cure them. I have often asked the Spaniards how they were cured, but I never could meet with any could tell me. One Mr. Cree also, a very curious person who spoke Spanish well and had been a privateer all his life, and seven years a prisoner among the Spaniards at Portobello and Cartagene, yet upon all his enquiry could not find any of them that understood it. Could we have learnt the art of it several of us would have gone to Boca Toro yearly at the dry season and cured them, and freighted our vessel. We there might have had turtle enough for food, and store of vinelloes. Mr. Cree first showed me those at Boca Toro. At or near a town also, called Caihooca in the Bay of Campeachy, these cods are found. They are commonly sold for three pence a cod among the Spaniards in the West Indies, and are sold by the druggist, for they are much used among chocolate to perfume it. Some will use them among tobacco for it gives a delicate scent. I never heard of any vinelloes but here in this country, about Caihooca, and at Boca Toro.
The Indians of this village could speak but little Spanish. They seemed to be a poor innocent people: and by them we understood that there are very few Spaniards in these parts; yet all the Indians hereabout are under them. The land from the sea to their houses is black earth mixed with some stones and rocks; all the way full of very high trees.
The 10th day we sent four Canoas to the westward who were ordered to lie for us at Port Angels; where we were in hopes that by some means or other they might get prisoners that might give us a better account of the country than at present we could have; and we followed them with our ships, all our men being now pretty well recovered of the fever which had raged amongst as ever since we departed from Ria Lexa.
It was the 12th of October 1685 when we set out of the harbour of Guatulco with our ships. The land here lies along west and a little southerly for about 20 or 30 leagues, and the sea-winds are commonly at west-south-west, sometimes at south-west, the land-winds at north. We had now fair weather and but little wind. We coasted along to the westward, keeping as near the shore as we could for the benefit of the land-winds, for the sea-winds were right against us; and we found a current setting to the eastward which kept us back and obliged us to anchor at the island Sacrificio, which is a small green island about half a mile long. It lies about a league to the west of Guatulco and about half a mile from the Main. There seems to be a fine bay to the west of the island; but it is full of rocks. The best riding is between the island and the Main: there you will have five or six fathom water. Here runs a pretty strong tide; the sea rises and falls five or six foot up and down.
The 18th day we sailed from hence, coasting to the westward after our Canoas. We kept near the shore, which was all sandy bays, the country pretty high and woody, and a great sea tumbling in upon the shore. The 22nd day two of our Canoas came aboard and told us they had been a great way to the westward, but could not find Port Angels. They had attempted to land the day before at a place where they saw a great many bulls and cows feeding, in hopes to get some of them; but the sea ran so high that they overset both Canoas, and wet all their arms, and lost four guns, and had one man drowned, and with much ado got off again. They could give no account of the other two Canoas for they lost company the first night that they went from Guatulco and had not seen them since.
We were now abreast of Port Angels, though our men in the Canoas did not know it; therefore we went in and anchored there. This is a broad open bay with two or three rocks at the west side. Here is good anchoring all over the bay in 30 or 20 or 12 fathom water; but you must ride open to all winds except the land-winds till you come into 12 or 13 fathom water; then you are sheltered from the west-south-west which are the common trade winds. The tide rises here about five foot; the flood sets to the north-east and the ebb to the south-west. The landing in this bay is bad; the place of landing is close by the west side behind a few rocks; here always goes a great swell. The Spaniards compare this harbour for goodness to Guatulco, but there is a great difference between them. For Guatulco is almost landlocked and this an open road, and no one would easily know it by their character of it, but by its marks and its latitude, which is 15 degrees north. For this reason our Canoas, which were sent from Guatulco and ordered to tarry here for us, did not know it (not thinking this to be that fine harbour) and therefore went farther; two of them, as I said before, returned again, but the other two were not yet come to us. The land that bounds this harbour is pretty high, the earth sandy and yellow, in some places red; it is partly woodland, partly savannahs. The trees in the woods are large and tall and the savannahs are plentifully stored with very kindly grass. Two leagues to the east of this place is a beef farm belonging to Don Diego de la Rosa.
The 23rd day we landed about 100 men and marched thither where we found plenty of fat bulls and cows feeding in the savannahs, and in the house good store of salt and maize; and some hogs, and cocks and hens: but the owners or overseers were gone. We lay here two or three days feasting on fresh provision, but could not contrive to carry any quantity aboard because the way was so long and our men but weak, and a great wide river to ford. Therefore we returned again from thence the 26th day and brought everyone a little beef or pork for the men that stayed aboard.
The two nights that we stayed ashore at this place we heard great droves of jackals, as we supposed them to be, barking all night long not far from us. None of us saw these; but I do verily believe they were jackals; though I did never see these creatures in America, nor hear any but at this time. We could not think that there were less than 30 or 40 in a company. We got aboard in the evening; but did not yet hear any news of our two Canoas.
The 27th day in the morning we sailed from hence with the land-wind at north by W. The sea-wind came about noon at west-south-west, and in the evening we anchored in 16 fathom water by a small rocky island which lies about half a mile from the Main and six leagues westward from Port Angels. The Spaniards give no account of this island in their pilot-book. The 28th day we sailed again with the land-wind: in the afternoon the sea-breeze blew hard and we sprung our main-top-mast. This coast is full of small hills and valleys, and a great sea falls in upon the shore. In the night we met with the other two of our Canoas that went from us at Guatulco. They had been as far as Acapulco to seek Port Angels. Coming back from thence they went into a river to get water and were encountered by 150 Spaniards, yet they filled their water in spite of them, but had one man shot through the thigh. Afterward they went into a lagoon, or lake of salt water, where they found much dried fish and brought some aboard. We being now abreast of that place sent in a canoa manned with twelve men for more fish. The mouth of this lagoon is not pistol-shot wide, and on both sides are pretty high rocks, so conveniently placed by nature that many men may abscond behind; and within the rocks and lagoon opens wide on both sides.
The Spaniards, being alarmed by our two Canoas that had been there two or three days before, came armed to this place to secure their fish; and seeing our canoa coming, they lay snug behind the rocks, and suffered the canoa to pass in, then they fired their volley and wounded five of our men. Our people were a little surprised at this sudden adventure, yet fired their guns and rowed farther into the lagoon, for they durst not adventure to come out again through the narrow entrance which was near a quarter of a mile in length. Therefore they rowed into the middle of the lagoon where they lay out of gun-shot and looked about to see if there was not another passage to get out at, broader than that by which they entered, but could see none. So they lay still two days and three nights, in hopes that we should come to seek them; but we lay off at sea about three leagues distant, waiting for their return, supposing by their long absence that they had made some greater discovery and were gone farther than the fish-range; because it is usual with privateers when they enter upon such designs to search farther than they proposed if they meet any encouragement. But Captain Townley and his bark being nearer the shore heard some guns fired in the lagoon. So he manned his canoa and went towards the shore, and, beating the Spaniards away from the rocks, made a free passage for our men to come out of their pound, where else they must have been starved or knocked on the head by the Spaniards. They came aboard their ships again the 31st of October. This lagoon is about the latitude of 16 degrees 40 minutes north.
From hence we made sail again, coasting to the westward, having fair weather and a current setting to the west. The second day of November we passed by a rock called by the Spaniards the Algatross. The land hereabout is of an indifferent height and woody, and more within the country mountainous. Here are seven or eight white cliffs by the sea, which are very remarkable because there are none so white and so thick together on all the coast. They are five or six mile to the west of the Algatross Rock. There is a dangerous shoal lies south by W. from these cliffs, four or five mile off at sea. Two leagues to the west of these cliffs there is a pretty large river which forms a small island at its mouth. The channel on the east side is but shoal and sandy, but the west channel is deep enough for Canoas to enter. On the banks of this channel the Spaniards have made a breast-work to hinder an enemy from landing or filling water.
The 3rd day we anchored abreast of this river in 14 fathom water about a mile and a half off shore. The next morning we manned our Canoas and went ashore to the breast-work with little resistance, although there were about 200 men to keep us off. They fired about twenty or thirty guns at us but seeing we were resolved to land they quitted the place; one chief reason why the Spaniards are so frequently routed by us, although many times much our superiors in numbers, and in many places fortified with breast-works, is their want of small firearms, for they have but few on all the sea coasts unless near their larger garrisons. Here we found a great deal of salt, brought hither, as I judge, for to salt fish, which they take in the lagoons.
The fish I observed here mostly were what we call snook, neither a sea-fish nor fresh water-fish, but very numerous in these salt lakes. This fish is about a foot long, and round, and as thick as the small of a man's leg, with a pretty long head: it has scales of a whitish colour and is good meat. How the Spaniards take them I know not, for we never found any nets, hooks or lines; neither yet any bark, boat, or canoa among them on all this coast, except the ship I shall mention at Acapulco.
We marched two or three leagues into the country and met with but one house, where we took a Mulatto prisoner who informed us of a ship that was lately arrived at Acapulco; she came from Lima. Captain Townley, wanting a good ship, thought now he had an opportunity of getting one if he could persuade his men to venture with him into the harbour of Acapulco and fetch this Lima ship out. Therefore he immediately proposed it and found not only all his own men willing to assist him but many of Captain Swan's men also. Captain Swan opposed it because, provision being scarce with us, he thought our time might be much better employed in first providing ourselves with food, and here was plenty of maize in the river where we now were, as we were informed by the same prisoner who offered to conduct us to the place where it was.
But neither the present necessity nor Captain Swan's persuasion availed anything, no nor yet their own interest; for the great design we had then in hand was to lie and wait for a rich ship which comes to Acapulco every year richly laden from the Philippine Islands. But it was necessary we should be well stored with provisions to enable us to cruise about and wait the time of her coming. However, Townley's party prevailing, we only filled our water here and made ready to be gone. So the 5th day in the afternoon we sailed again, coasting to the westward towards Acapulco.
The 7th day in the afternoon, being about twelve leagues from the shore, we saw the high land of Acapulco, which is very remarkable: for there is a round hill standing between two other hills; the westermost of which is the biggest and highest, and has two hillocks like two paps on its top: the eastermost hill is higher and sharper than the middlemost. From the middle hill the land declines toward the sea, ending in a high round point. There is no land shaped like this on all the coast. In the evening Captain Townley went away from the ships with 140 men in twelve Canoas to try to get the Lima ship out of Acapulco Harbour.
Acapulco is a pretty large town, 17 degrees north of the Equator. It is the sea-port for the city of Mexico on the west side of the continent; as La Vera Cruz, or St. John d'Ulloa in the Bay of Nova Hispania is on the north side. This town is the only place of trade on all this coast; for there is little or no traffic by sea on all the north-west part of this vast kingdom, here being, as I have said, neither boats, barks, nor ships (that I could ever see) unless only what come hither from other parts, and some boats near the south-east end of California; as I guess, by the intercourse between that and the Main, for pearl-fishing.
The ships that trade hither are only three, two that constantly go once a year between this and Manila in Luconia, one of the Philippine Islands, and one ship more every year to and from Lima. This from Lima commonly arrives a little before Christmas; she brings them quicksilver, Cacoa, and pieces-of-eight. Here she stays till the Manila ships arrive, and then takes in a cargo of spices, silks, calicoes, and muslins, and other East India commodities, for the use of Peru, and then returns to Lima. This is but a small vessel of twenty guns, but the two Manila ships are each said to be above 1000 tun. These make their voyages alternately so that one or other of them is always at the Manilas. When either of them sets out from Acapulco it is at the latter end of March or the beginning of April; she always touches to refresh at Guam, one of the Ladrone Islands, in about sixty days space after she sets out. There she stays but two or three days and then prosecutes her voyage to Manila where she commonly arrives some time in June. By that time the other is ready to sail from thence laden with East India commodities. She stretches away to the north as far as 36, or sometimes into 40 degrees of north latitude before she gets a wind to stand over to the American shore. She falls in first with the coast of California, and then coasts along the shore to the south again, and never misses a wind to bring her away from thence quite to Acapulco. When she gets the length of Cape San Lucas, which is the southermost point of California, she stretches over to Cape Corrientes, which is in about the 20th degree of north latitude. From thence she coasts along till she comes to Sallagua, and there she sets ashore passengers that are bound to the city of Mexico: from thence she makes her best way, coasting still along shore, till she arrives at Acapulco, which is commonly about Christmas, never more than eight or ten days before or after. Upon the return of this ship to the Manila the other which stays there till her arrival takes her turn back to Acapulco. Sir John Narborough therefore was imposed on by the Spaniards who told him that there were eight sail, or more, that used this trade.
The Port of Acapulco is very commodious for the reception of ships, and so large that some hundreds may safely ride there without damnifying each other. There is a small low island crossing the mouth of the harbour; it is about a mile and a half long and half a mile broad, stretching east and west. It leaves a good wide deep channel at each end where ships may safely go in or come out, taking the advantage of the winds; they must enter with the sea-wind, and go out with the land-wind, for these winds seldom or never fail to succeed each other alternately in their proper season of the day or night. The westermost channel is the narrowest, but so deep there is no anchoring, and the Manila ships pass in that way, but the ships from Lima enter on the south-west channel. This harbour runs in north about three miles then, growing very narrow, it turns short about to the west and runs about a mile farther, where it ends. The town stands on the north-west side at the mouth of this narrow passage, close by the sea, and at the end of the town there is a platform with a great many guns. Opposite to the town, on the east side, stands a high strong castle, said to have forty guns of a very great bore. Ships commonly ride near the bottom of the harbour, under the command both of the castle and the platform.
Captain Townley, who, as I said before, with 140 men, left our ships on a design to fetch the Lima ship out of the harbour, had not rowed above three or four leagues before the voyage was like to end with all their lives; for on a sudden they were encountered with a violent tornado from the shore, which had like to have foundered all the Canoas: but they escaped that danger and the second night got safe into Port Marquis.
Port Marquis is a very good harbour a league to the east of Acapulco Harbour. Here they stayed all the next day to dry themselves, their clothes, their arms and ammunition, and the next night they rowed softly into Acapulco Harbour; and because they would not be heard they hauled in their oars, and paddled as softly as if they had been seeking manatee. They paddled close to the castle; then struck over to the town, and found the ship riding between the breast-work and the fort, within about a hundred yards of each. When they had well viewed her and considered the danger of the design they thought it not possible to accomplish it; therefore they paddled softly back again till they were out of command of the forts, and then they went to land, and fell in among a company of Spanish soldiers (for the Spaniards, having seen them the day before, had set guards along the coast) who immediately fired at them but did them no damage, only made them retire farther from the shore. They lay afterwards at the mouth of the harbour till it was day to take a view of the town and castle, and then returned aboard again, being tired, hungry, and sorry for their disappointment.
The 11th day we made sail again further on to the westward with the land-wind, which is commonly at north-east, but the sea-winds are at south-west. We passed by a long sandy bay of above twenty leagues. All the way along it the sea falls with such force on the shore that it is impossible to come near it with boat or canoa; yet it is good clean ground, and good anchoring a mile or two from the shore. The land by the sea is low and indifferent fertile, producing many sorts of trees, especially the spreading palm, which grows in spots from one end of the bay to the other.
The palm-tree is as big as an ordinary ash, growing about twenty or thirty foot high. The body is clear from boughs or branches till just at the head; there it spreads forth many large green branches, not much unlike the cabbage-tree before described. These branches also grow in many places (as in Jamaica, Darien, the Bay of Campeachy, etc.) from a stump not above a foot or two high; which is not the remains of a tree cut down; for none of these sort of trees will ever grow again when they have once lost their head; but these are a sort of dwarf-palm, and the branches which grow from the stump are not so large as those that grow on the great tree. These smaller branches are used both in the East and West Indies for thatching houses: they are very lasting and serviceable, much surpassing the palmetto. For this thatch, if well laid on, will endure five or six years; and this is called by the Spaniards the palmetto-royal. The English at Jamaica give it the same name. Whether this be the same which they in Guinea get the palm-wine from I know not; but I know that it is like this.
The land in the country is full of small peaked barren hills, making as many little valleys, which appear flourishing and green. At the west end of this bay is the hill of Petaplan, in latitude 17 degrees 30 minutes north. This is a round point stretching out into the sea: at a distance it seems to be an island. A little to the west of this hill are several round rocks, which we left without us, steering in between them and the round point, where we had eleven fathom water. We came to an anchor on the north-west side of the hill and went ashore, about 170 men of us, and marched into the country twelve or fourteen miles.
There we came to a poor Indian village that did not afford us a meal of victuals. The people all fled, only a Mulatta woman and three or four small children, who were taken and brought aboard. She told us that a carrier (one who drives a caravan of mules) was going to Acapulco, laden with flour and other goods, but stopped in the road for fear of us, a little to the west of this village (for he had heard of our being on this coast) and she thought he still remained there: and therefore it was we kept the woman to be our guide to carry us to that place. At this place where we now lay our Moskito men struck some small turtle and many small jewfish.
The jew-fish is a very good fish, and I judge so called by the English because it has scales and fins, therefore a clean fish, according to the Levitical law, and the Jews at Jamaica buy them and eat them very freely. It is a very large fish, shaped much like a cod but a great deal bigger; one will weigh three, or four, or five hundredweight. It has a large head, with great fins and scales, as big as an half-crown, answerable to the bigness of his body. It is very sweet meat, and commonly fat. This fish lives among the rocks; there are plenty of them in the West Indies, about Jamaica and the coast of Caraccos; but chiefly in these seas, especially more westward.
We went from hence with our ships the 18th [sic12th, 13th?] day, and steered west about two leagues farther to a place called Chequetan. A mile and a half from the shore there is a small key, and within it is a very good harbour where ships may careen; there is also a small river of fresh water, and wood enough.
The 14th day in the morning we went with 95 men in six Canoas to seek for the carrier, taking the Mulatto woman for our guide; but Captain Townley would not go with us. Before day we landed at a place called Estapa, a league to the west of Chequetan. The woman was well acquainted here, having been often at this place for mussels as she told us; for here are great plenty of them. They seem in all respects like our English mussels.
She carried us through the pathless wood by the side of a river for about a league: then we came into a savannah full of bulls and cows; and here the carrier before mentioned was lying at the estancia-house with his mules, not having dared to advance all this while, as not knowing where we lay; so his own fear made him, his mules, and all his goods, become a prey to us. He had 40 packs of flour, some chocolate, a great many small cheeses, and abundance of earthenware. The eatables we brought away, but the earthen vessels we had no occasion for and therefore left them. The mules were about 60: we brought our prize with them to the shore, and so turned them away. Here we also killed some cows and brought with us to our Canoas. In the afternoon our ships came to an anchor half a mile from the place where we landed; and then we went aboard. Captain Townley, seeing our good success, went ashore with his men to kill some cows; for here were no inhabitants near to oppose us. The land is very woody, of a good fertile soil watered with many small rivers; yet it has but few inhabitants near the sea. Captain Townley killed 18 beefs, and after he came aboard our men, contrary to Captain Swan's inclination, gave Captain Townley part of the flour which we took ashore. Afterwards we gave the woman some clothes for her and her children, and put her and two of them ashore; but one of them, a very pretty boy about seven or eight years old, Captain Swan kept. The woman cried and begged hard to have him; but Captain Swan would not, but promised to make much of him and was as good as his word. He proved afterwards a very fine boy for wit, courage, and dexterity; I have often wondered at his expressions and actions.
The 21st day in the evening we sailed hence with the land-wind. The land-winds on this part of the coast are at north and the sea-winds at west-south-west. We had fair weather and coasted along to the westward. The land is high and full of ragged hills; and west from these ragged hills the land makes many pleasant and fruitful valleys among the mountains. The 25th day we were abreast of a very remarkable hill which, towering above the rest of his fellows, is divided in the top and makes two small parts. It is in latitude 18 degrees 8 minutes north.
The Spaniards make mention of a town called Thelupan near this hill, which we would have visited if we could have found the way to it. The 26th day Captain Swan and Captain Townley with 200 men, of whom I was one, went in our Canoas to seek for the city of Colima, a rich place by report, but how far within land I could never learn: for, as I said before, here is no trade by sea, and therefore we could never get guides to inform us or conduct us to any town but one or two on this coast: and there is never a town that lies open to the sea but Acapulco; and therefore our search was commonly fruitless, as now; for we rowed above 20 leagues along shore and found it a very bad coast to land. We saw no house nor sign of inhabitants, although we passed by a fine valley called the valley of Maguella; only at two places, the one at our first setting out on this expedition, and the other at the end of it, we saw a horseman set, as we supposed, as a sentinel to watch us. At both places we landed with difficulty, and at each place we followed the track of the horse on the sandy bay; but where they entered the woods we lost the track and, although we diligently searched for it, yet we could find it no more; so we were perfectly at a loss to find out the houses or town they came from.
The 28th day, being tired and hopeless to find any town, we went aboard our ships, that were now come abreast of the place where we were: for always when we leave our ships we either order a certain place of meeting, or else leave them a sign to know where we are by making one or more great smokes; yet we had all like to have been ruined by such a signal as this in a former voyage under Captain Sharp, when we made that unfortunate attempt upon Arica, which is mentioned in the History of the Buccaneers. For upon the routing our men, and taking several of them, some of those so taken told the Spaniards that it was agreed between them and their companions on board to make two great smokes at a distance from each other as soon as the town should be taken, as a signal to the ship that it might safely enter the harbour. The Spaniards made these smokes presently: I was then among those who stayed on board; and whether the signal was not so exactly made or some other discouragement happened I remember not, but we forbore going in till we saw our scattered crew coming off in their Canoas. Had we entered the port upon the false signal we must have been taken or sunk; for we must have passed close by the fort and could have had no wind to bring us out till the land-wind should rise in the night.
But to our present voyage: after we came aboard we saw the volcano of Colima. This is a very high mountain in about 18 degrees 36 minutes north, standing five or six leagues from the sea in the midst of a pleasant valley. It appears with two sharp peaks, from each of which there do always issue flames of fire or smoke. The valley in which this volcano stands is called the valley of Colima from the town itself which stands there not far from the volcano. The town is said to be great and rich, the chief of all its neighbourhood: and the valley in which it is seated, by the relation which the Spaniards give of it, is the most pleasant and fruitful valley in all the kingdom of Mexico. This valley is about ten or twelve leagues wide by the sea, where it makes a small bay: but how far the vale runs into the country I know not. It is said to be full of Cacoa-gardens, fields of corn, wheat, and plantain-walks. The neighbouring sea is bounded with a sandy shore; but there is no going ashore for the violence of the waves. The land within it is low all along and woody for about two leagues from the east side; at the end of the woods there is a deep river runs out into the sea, but it has such a great bar, or sandy shoal, that when we were here no boat or canoa could possibly enter, the sea running so high upon the bar: otherwise, I judge, we should have made some farther discovery into this pleasant valley. On the west side of the river the savannah-land begins and runs to the other side of the valley. We had but little wind when we came aboard, therefore we lay off this bay that afternoon and the night ensuing.
The 29th day our captains went away from our ships with 200 men, intending at the first convenient place to land and search about for a path: for the Spanish books make mention of two or three other towns hereabouts, especially one called Sallagua, to the west of this bay. Our Canoas rowed along as near the shore as they could, but the sea went so high that they could not land. About 10 or 11 a clock two horsemen came near the shore, and one of them took a bottle out of his pocket and drank to our men. While he was drinking, one of our men snatched up his gun and let drive at him and killed his horse: so his consort immediately set spurs to his horse and rode away, leaving the other to come after a-foot. But he being booted made but slow haste; therefore two of our men stripped themselves and swam ashore to take him. But he had a machete, or long knife, wherewith he kept them both from seizing him, they having nothing in their hands wherewith to defend themselves or offend him. The 30th day our men came all aboard again, for they could not find any place to land in.
The first day of December we passed by the Port of Sallagua. This port is in latitude 18 degrees 52 minutes. It is only a pretty deep bay, divided in the middle with a rocky point, which makes, as it were, two harbours. Ships may ride securely in either but the west harbour is the best: there is good anchoring anywhere in 10 or 12 fathom, and a brook of fresh water runs into the sea. Here we saw a great new thatched house, and a great many Spaniards both horse and foot, with drums beating and colours flying in defiance of us, as we thought. We took no notice of them till the next morning, and then we landed about 200 men to try their courage; but they presently withdrew. The foot never stayed to exchange one shot, but the horsemen stayed till two or three were knocked down, and then they drew off, our men pursuing them. At last two of our men took two horses that had lost their riders and, mounting them, rode after the Spaniards full drive till they came among them, thinking to have taken a prisoner for intelligence, but had like to have been taken themselves: for four Spaniards surrounded them, after they had discharged their pistols, and unhorsed them; and if some of our best footmen had not come to their rescue they must have yielded or have been killed. They were both cut in two or three places but their wounds were not mortal. The four Spaniards got away before our men could hurt them and, mounting their horses, speeded after their consorts, who were marched away into the country. Our men, finding a broad road leading into the country, followed it about four leagues in a dry stony country, full of short wood; but finding no sign of inhabitants they returned again. In their way back they took two Mulattos who were not able to march as fast as their consorts; therefore they had skulked in the woods and by that means thought to have escaped our men.
These prisoners informed us that this great road did lead to a great city called Oarrha, from whence many of those horsemen before spoken of came: that this city was distant from hence as far as a horse will go in four days; and that there is no place of consequence nearer: that the country is very poor and thinly inhabited.
They said also that these men came to assist the Philippine ship that was every day expected here to put ashore passengers for Mexico. The Spanish pilot-books mention a town also called Sallagua hereabouts; but we could not find it, nor hear anything of it by our prisoners.
We now intended to cruise off Cape Corrientes to wait for the Philippine ship. So the 6th day of December we set sail, coasting to the westward towards Cape Corrientes. We had fair weather and but little wind; the sea-breezes at north-west and the land-wind at north.
The land is of an indifferent height, full of ragged points which at a distance appear like islands: the country is very woody, but the trees are not high, nor very big.
Here I was taken sick of a fever and ague that afterwards turned to a dropsy which I laboured under a long time after; and many of our men died of this distemper, though our surgeons used their greatest skill to preserve their lives. The dropsy is a general distemper on this coast, and the natives say that the best remedy they can find for it is the stone or cod of an alligator (of which they have four, one near each leg, within the flesh) pulverized and drunk in water: this recipe we also found mentioned in an almanac made at Mexico: I would have tried it but we found no alligators here though there are several.
There are many good harbours between Sallagua and Cape Corrientes but we passed by them all. As we drew near the Cape the land by the sea appeared of an indifferent height, full of white cliffs; but in the country the land is high and barren and full of sharp peaked hills, unpleasant to the sight.
To the west of this ragged land is a chain of mountains running parallel with the shore; they end on the west with a gentle descent; but on the east side they keep their height, ending with a high steep mountain which has three small sharp peaked tops, somewhat resembling a crown and therefore called by the Spaniards Coronada, the Crown Land.
The 11th day we were fair in sight of Cape Corrientes, it bore north by W. and the Crown Land bore north. The cape is of an indifferent height with steep rocks to the sea. It is flat and even on the top, clothed with woods: the land in the country is high and doubled. This cape lies in 20 degrees 8 minutes north. I find its longitude from Tenerife to be 230 degrees 56 minutes, but I keep my longitude westward, according to our course; and according to this reckoning I find it is from the Lizard in England 121 degrees 41 minutes, so that the difference of time is eight hours and almost six minutes.
Here we had resolved to cruise for the Philippine ship because she always makes this cape in her voyage homeward. We were (as I have said) four ships in company; Captain Swan and his tender; Captain Townley and his tender. It was so ordered that Captain Swan should lie eight or ten leagues off shore, and the rest about a league distant each from other, between him and the cape, that so we might not miss the Philippine ship; but we wanted provision and therefore we sent Captain Townley's bark with 50 or 60 men to the west of the cape to search about for some town or plantations where we might get provision of any sort. The rest of us in the meantime cruising in our stations. The 17th day the bark came to us again but had got nothing, for they could not get about the cape because the wind on this coast is commonly between the north-west and the south-west, which makes it very difficult getting to the westward; but they left four Canoas with 46 men at the cape, who resolved to row to the westward. The 18th day we sailed to the keys of Chametly to fill our water.
The keys or islands of Chametly are about 16 or 18 leagues to the eastward of Cape Corrientes. They are small, low, and woody, environed with rocks, there are five of them lying in the form of a half moon, not a mile from the shore, and between them and the Main is very good riding, secure from any wind. The Spaniards do report that here live fishermen, to fish for the inhabitants of the city of Purification. This is said to be a large town, the best hereabouts; but is 14 leagues up in the country.
The 20th instant we entered within these islands, passing in on the south-east side, and anchored between the islands and the Main in five fathom clean sand. Here we found good fresh water and wood, and caught plenty of rock-fish with hook and line, a sort of fish I described at the isle of John Fernando, but we saw no sign of inhabitants besides three or four old huts; therefore I do believe that the Spanish or Indian fishermen come hither only at Lent, or some other such season, but that they do not live here constantly. The 21st day Captain Townley went away with about 60 men to take an Indian village seven or eight leagues from hence to the westward more towards the cape, and the next day we went to cruise off the cape, where Captain Townley was to meet us. The 24th day, as we were cruising off the cape, the four Canoas before mentioned, which Captain Townley's bark left at the cape, came off to us.
They, after the bark left them, passed to the west of the cape and rowed into the valley Valderas, or perhaps Val d'Iris; for it signifies the valley of Flags.
This valley lies in the bottom of a pretty deep bay that runs in between Cape Corrientes on the south-east and the point of Pontique on the north-west, which two places are about 10 leagues asunder. The valley is about three leagues wide; there is a level sandy bay against the sea and good smooth landing. In the midst of the bay is a fine river whereinto boats may enter; but it is brackish at the latter end of the dry season, which is in February, March, and part of April. I shall speak more of the seasons in my Chapter of Winds in the Appendix. This valley is bounded within land with a small green hill that makes a very gentle descent into the valley and affords a very pleasant prospect to seaward. It is enriched with fruitful savannahs, mixed with groves of trees fit for any uses, beside fruit-trees in abundance, as guavas, oranges and limes, which here grow wild in such plenty as if nature had designed it only for a garden. The savannahs are full of fat bulls and cows and some horses, but no house in sight.
When our Canoas came to this pleasant valley they landed 37 men and marched into the country seeking for some houses. They had not gone passed three mile before they were attacked by 150 Spaniards, horse and foot: there was a small thin wood close by them, into which our men retreated to secure themselves from the fury of the horse: yet the Spaniards rode in among them and attacked them very furiously till the Spanish captain and 17 more tumbled dead off their horses: then the rest retreated, being many of them wounded. We lost four men and had two desperately wounded. In this action the foot, who were armed with lances and swords and were the greatest number, never made any attack; the horsemen had each a brace of pistols and some short guns. If the foot had come in they had certainly destroyed all our men. When the skirmish was over our men placed the two wounded men on horses and came to their Canoas. There they killed one of the horses and dressed it, being afraid to venture into the savannah to kill a bullock, of which there was store. When they had eaten and satisfied themselves they returned aboard. The 25th day, being Christmas, we cruised in pretty near the cape and sent in three Canoas with the strikers to get fish, being desirous to have a Christmas dinner. In the afternoon they returned aboard with three great jew-fish which feasted us all; and the next day we sent ashore our Canoas again and got three or four more.
Captain Townley, who went from us at Chametly, came aboard the 28th day and brought about 40 bushels of maize. He had landed to the eastward of Cape Corrientes and marched to an Indian village that is four or five leagues in the country. The Indians, seeing him coming, set two houses on fire that were full of maize and ran away; yet he and his men got in other houses as much as they could bring down on their backs, which he brought aboard.
We cruised off the cape till the first day of January 1686 and then made towards the valley Valderas to hunt for beef, and before night we anchored in the bottom of the bay in 60 fathom water a mile from the shore. Here we stayed hunting till the 7th day, and Captain Swan and Captain Townley went ashore every morning with about 240 men and marched to a small hill; where they remained with 50 or 60 men to watch the Spaniards, who appeared in great companies on other hills not far distant but did never attempt anything against our men. Here we killed and salted above two months' meat besides what we spent fresh; and might have killed as much more if we had been better stored with salt. Our hopes of meeting the Philippine ship were now over; for we did all conclude that while we were necessitated to hunt here for provisions she was passed by to the eastward, as indeed she was, as we did understand afterwards by prisoners. So this design failed through Captain Townley's eagerness after the Lima ship which he attempted in Acapulco Harbour, as I have related. For though we took a little flour hard by, yet the same guide which told us of that ship would have conducted us where we might have had store of beef and maize: but instead thereof we lost both our time and the opportunity of providing ourselves; and so we were forced to be victualling when we should have been cruising off Cape Corrientes in expectation of the Manila ship.
Hitherto we had coasted along here with two different designs; the one was to get the Manila ship, which would have enriched us beyond measure; and this Captain Townley was most for. Sir Thomas Cavendish formerly took the Manila ship off Cape San Lucas in California (where we also would have waited for her, had we been early enough stored with provisions, to have met her there) and threw much rich goods overboard. The other design, which Captain Swan and our crew were most for, was to search along the coast for rich towns and mines chiefly of gold and silver, which we were assured were in this country, and we hoped near the shore: not knowing (as we afterwards found) that it was in effect an inland country, its wealth remote from the South Sea coast and having little or no commerce with it, its trade being driven eastward with Europe by La Vera Cruz. Yet we had still some expectation of mines, and so resolved to steer on farther northward; but Captain Townley, who had no other design in coming on this coast but to meet this ship, resolved to return again towards the coast of Peru.
In all this voyage on the Mexican coast we had with us a captain and two or three of his men of our friendly Indians of the Isthmus of Darien; who, having conducted over some parties of our privateers, and expressing a desire to go along with us, were received and kindly entertained aboard our ships; and we were pleased in having, by this means, guides ready provided should we be for returning overland, as several of us thought to do, rather than sail round about. But at this time, we of Captain Swan's ship designing farther to the north-west and Captain Townley going back, we committed these our Indian friends to his care to carry them home. So here we parted; he to the eastward and we to the westward, intending to search as far to the westward as the Spaniards were settled.
It was the 7th day of January in the morning when we sailed from this pleasant valley. The wind was at north-east and the weather fair. At eleven a clock the sea-wind came at north-west. Before night we passed by Point Pontique; this is the west point of the bay of the valley of Valderas and is distant from Cape Corrientes 10 leagues. This point is in latitude 20 degrees 50 minutes north; it is high, round, rocky, and barren. At a distance it appears like an island.
A league to the west of this point are two small barren islands, called the islands of Pontique. There are several high, sharp, white rocks that lie scattering about them: we passed between these rocky islands on the left and the Main on the right, for there is no danger. The sea-coast beyond this point runs northward for about 18 leagues, making many ragged points with small sandy bays between them. The land by the seaside is low and pretty woody; but in the country full of high, sharp, barren, rugged, unpleasant hills.
The 14th day we had sight of a small white rock, which appears very much like a ship under sail. This rock is in latitude 21 degrees 15 minutes. It is three leagues from the Main. There is a good channel between it and the Main where you will have 12 or 14 fathom water near the island; but running nearer the Main you will have gradual soundings till you come in with the shore. At night we anchored in six fathom water near a league from the Main in good oazy ground. We caught a great many cat-fish here and at several places on this coast, both before and after this.
From this island the land runs more northerly, making a fair sandy bay; but the sea falls in with such violence on the shore that there is no landing, but very good anchoring on all the coast, and gradual soundings. About a league off shore you will have six fathom, and four mile off shore you will have seven fathom water. We came to an anchor every evening; and in the mornings we sailed off with the land-wind, which we found at north-east, and the sea-breezes at north-west.
The 20th day we anchored about three miles on the east side of the islands Chametly, different from those of that name before mentioned; for these are six small islands in latitude 23 degrees 11 minutes, a little to the south of the Tropic of Cancer, and about 3 leagues from the Main, where a salt lake has its outlet into the sea. These isles are of an indifferent height: some of them have a few shrubby bushes; the rest are bare of any sort of wood. They are rocky round by the sea, only one or two of them have sandy bays on the north side. There is a sort of fruit growing on these islands called penguins; and it is all the fruit they have.
The penguin-fruit is of two sorts, the yellow and the red. The yellow penguin grows on a green stem, as big as a man's arm, above a foot high from the ground: the leaves of this stalk are half a foot long and an inch broad; the edges full of sharp prickles. The fruit grows at the head of the stalk in two or three great clusters, 16 or 20 in a cluster. The fruit is as big as a pullet's egg, of a round form, and in colour yellow. It has a thick skin or rind, and the inside is full of small black seeds mixed among the fruit. It is sharp pleasant fruit. The red penguin is of the bigness and colour of a small dry onion, and is in shape much like a ninepin; for it grows not on a stalk, or stem, as the other, but one end on the ground, the other standing upright. Sixty or seventy grow thus together as close as they can stand one by another, and all from the same root or cluster of roots. These penguins are encompassed or fenced with long leaves about a foot and a half or two foot long, and prickly like the former; and the fruit too is much alike. They are both wholesome and never offend the stomach; but those that eat many will find a heat or tickling in their fundament. They grow so plentifully in the Bay of Campeachy that there is no passing for their high prickly leaves.
There are some Guanos on these islands but no other sort of land-animal. The bays about the islands are sometimes visited with seal; and this was the first place where I had seen any of these animals on the north side of the Equator in these seas. For the fish on this sandy coast lie most in the lagoons or salt lakes, and mouths of rivers; but the seals come not so much there, as I judge: for this being no rocky coast where fish resort most there seems to be but little food for the seals, unless they will venture upon cat-fish.
Captain Swan went away from hence with 100 men in our Canoas to the northward to seek for the river Culiacan, possibly the same with the river of Pastla, which some maps lay down in the province or region of Culiacan. This river lies in about 24 degrees north latitude. We were informed that there is a fair rich Spanish town seated on the east side of it, with savannahs about it, full of bulls and cows; and that the inhabitants of this town pass over in boats to the island California where they fish for pearl.
I have been told since by a Spaniard that said he had been at the island California, that there are great plenty of pearl-oysters there, and that the native Indians of California near the pearl-fishery are mortal enemies to the Spaniards. Our Canoas were absent three or four days and said they had been above 30 leagues but found no river; that the land by the sea was low, and all sandy bay; but such a great sea that there was no landing. They met us in their return in the latitude 23 degrees 30 minutes coasting along shore after them towards Culiacan; so we returned again to the eastward. This was the farthest that I was to the north on this coast.
Six or seven leagues north-north-west from the isles of Chametly there is a small narrow entrance into a lake which runs about 12 leagues easterly, parallel with the shore, making many small low mangrove islands. The mouth of this lake is in latitude about 23 degrees 30 minutes. It is called by the Spaniards Rio de Sal: for it is a salt lake. There is water enough for boats and Canoas to enter, and smooth landing after you are in. On the west side of it there is an house and an estancia, or farm of large cattle. Our men went into the lake and landed and, coming to the house, found seven or eight bushels of maize: but the cattle were driven away by the Spaniards, yet there our men took the owner of the estancia and brought him aboard. He said that the beefs were driven a great way in the country for fear we should kill them. While we lay here Captain Swan went into this lake again and landed 150 men on the north-east side and marched into the country: about a mile from the landing-place, as they were entering a dry salina, or salt-pond, they fired at two Indians that crossed the way before them; one of them, being wounded in the thigh, fell down and, being examined, he told our men that there was an Indian town four or five leagues off, and that the way which they were going would bring them thither. While they were in discourse with the Indian they were attacked by 100 Spanish horsemen who came with a design to scare them back but wanted both arms and hearts to do it.
Our men passed on from hence and in their way marched through a savannah of long dry grass. This the Spaniards set on fire, thinking to burn them, but that did not hinder our men from marching forward, though it did trouble them a little. They rambled for want of guides all this day and part of the next before they came to the town the Indian spoke of. There they found a company of Spaniards and Indians who made head against them, but were driven out of the town after a short dispute. Here our surgeon and one man more were wounded with arrows but none of the rest were hurt.
When they came into the town they found two or three Indians wounded who told them that the name of the town was Massaclan; that there were a few Spaniards living in it, and the rest were Indians; that five leagues from this town there were two rich gold-mines where the Spaniards of Compostella, which is the chiefest town in these parts, kept many slaves and Indians at work for gold. Here our men lay that night, and the next morning packed up all the maize that they could find and brought it on their backs to the Canoas and came aboard.
We lay here till the 2nd of February, and then Captain Swan went away with about 80 men to the river Rosario; where they landed and marched to an Indian town of the same name. They found it about nine mile from the sea; the way to it fair and even.
This was a fine little town of about 60 or 70 houses with a fair church; and it was chiefly inhabited with Indians, they took prisoners there, which told them that the river Rosario is rich in gold and that the mines are not above two leagues from the town. Captain Swan did not think it convenient to go to the mines but made haste aboard with the maize which he took there, to the quantity of about 80 or 90 bushels; and which to us, in the scarcity we were in of provisions, was at that time more valuable than all the gold in the world; and had he gone to the mines the Spaniards would probably have destroyed the corn before his return. The 3rd of February we went with our ships also towards the river Rosario and anchored the next day against the river's mouth, seven fathom, good oazy ground, a league from the shore. This river is in latitude 22 degrees 51 minutes north.
When you are at an anchor against this river you will see a round hill, like a sugarloaf, a little way within land, right over the river, and bearing north-east by north. To the westward of that hill there is another pretty long hill, called by the Spaniards Caput Cavalli, or the horse's head.
The 7th day Captain Swan came aboard with the maize which he got. This was but a small quantity for so many men as we were, especially considering the place we were in, being strangers, and having no pilots to direct or guide us into any river; and we being without all sort of provision, but what we were forced to get in this manner from the shore.
And though our pilot-book directed us well enough to find the rivers, yet for want of guides to carry us to the settlements we were forced to search two or three days before we could find a place to land: for, as I have said before, besides the seas being too rough for landing in many places they have neither boat, bark, nor canoa that we could ever see or hear of: and therefore as there are no such landing-places in these rivers as there are in the North Seas so when we were landed we did not know which way to go to any town except we accidentally met with a path. Indeed the Spaniards and Indians whom we had aboard knew the names of several rivers and towns near them, and knew the towns when they saw them; but they knew not the way to go to them from the sea.
The 8th day Captain Swan sent about 40 men to seek for the river Oletta which is to the eastward of the river Rosario. The next day we followed after with the ships, having the wind at west-north-west and fair weather. In the afternoon our Canoas came again to us for they could not find the river Oletta; therefore we designed next for the river St. Jago, to the eastward still. The 11th day in the evening we anchored against the mouth of the river in seven fathom water, good soft oazy ground, and about two mile from the shore. There was a high white rock without us called Maxentelba. This rock at a distance appears like a ship under sail; it bore from us west-north-west distant about three leagues. The hill Zelisco bore south-east which is a very high hill in the country, with a saddle or bending on the top. The river St. Jago is in latitude 22 degrees 15 minutes. It is one of the principal rivers on this coast; there is 10 foot water on the bar at low-water but how much it flows here I know not. The mouth of this river is near half a mile broad and very smooth entering. Within the mouth it is broader for there are three or four rivers more meet there and issue all out together, it is brackish a great way up; yet there is fresh water to be had by digging or making wells in the sandy bay, two or three foot deep, just at the mouth of the river.
The 11th day Captain Swan sent 70 men in four Canoas into this river to seek a town; for although we had no intelligence of any yet the country appearing very promising we did not question but they would find inhabitants before they returned. They spent two days in rowing up and down the creeks and rivers; at last they came to a large field of maize which was almost ripe: they immediately fell to gathering as fast as they could and intended to lade the Canoas; but, seeing an Indian that was set to watch the corn, they quitted that troublesome and tedious work, and seized him and brought him aboard, in hopes by his information to have some more easy and expedite way of a supply by finding corn ready cut and dried. He being examined said that there was a town called Santa Pecaque four leagues from the place where he was taken; and that if we designed to go thither he would undertake to be our guide. Captain Swan immediately ordered his men to make ready and the same evening went away with eight Canoas and 140 men, taking the Indian for their guide.
He rowed about five leagues up the river and landed the next morning. The river at this place was not above pistol-shot wide, and the banks pretty high on each side and the land plain and even. He left 23 men to guard the Canoas and marched with the rest to the town. He set out from the Canoas at six a clock in the morning and reached the town by 10. The way through which he passed was very plain, part of it woodland, part savannahs. The savannahs were full of horses, bulls, and cows. The Spaniards seeing him coming ran all away; so he entered the town without the least opposition.
This town of Santa Pecaque stands on a plain in a savannah, by the side of a wood, with many fruit-trees about it. It is but a small town, but very regular, after the Spanish mode, with a parade in the midst. The houses fronting the parade had all balconies: there were two churches; one against the parade, the other at the end of the town. It is inhabited most with Spaniards. Their chiefest occupation is husbandry. There are also some carriers who are employed by the merchants of Compostella to trade for them to and from the mines.
Compostella is a rich town about 21 leagues from hence. It is the chiefest in all this part of the kingdom and is reported to have 70 white families; which is a great matter in these parts; for it may be that such a town has not less than 500 families of copper-coloured people besides the white. The silver mines are about five or six leagues from Santa Pecaque; where, as we were told, the inhabitants of Compostella had some hundreds of slaves at work. The silver here and all over the kingdom of Mexico is said to be finer and richer in proportion than that of Potosi or Peru, though the ore be not so abundant; and the carriers of this town of Santa Pecaque carry the ore to Compostella where it is refined. These carriers, or sutlers, also furnish the slaves at the mines with maize, whereof here was great plenty now in the town designed for that use: here was also sugar, salt, and salt-fish.
Captain Swan's only business at Santa Pecaque was to get provision; therefore he ordered his men to divide themselves into two parts and by turns carry down the provision to the Canoas; one half remaining in the town to secure what they had taken while the other half were going and coming. In the afternoon they caught some horses, and the next morning, being the 17th day, 57 men and some horses went laden with maize to the Canoas. They found them and the men left to guard them in good order; though the Spaniards had given them a small diversion and wounded one man: but our men of the Canoas landed and drove them away. These that came loaded to the Canoas left seven men more there, so that now they were 30 men to guard the Canoas. At night the other returned; and the 18th day in the morning the half which stayed the day before at the town took their turn of going with every man his burden, and 24 horses laden. Before they returned Captain Swan and his other men at the town caught a prisoner who said that there were near a thousand men of all colours, Spaniards and Indians, Negroes and Mulattos, in arms, at a place called St. Jago, but three leagues off, the chief town on this river; that the Spaniards were armed with guns and pistols, and the copper-coloured with swords and lances. Captain Swan, fearing the ill consequence of separating his small company, was resolved the next day to march away with the whole party; and therefore he ordered his men to catch as many horses as they could, that they might carry the more provision with them.
Accordingly, the next day being the 19th day of February 1686, Captain Swan called out his men betimes to be gone; but they refused to go and said that they would not leave the town till all the provision was in the Canoas: therefore he was forced to yield to them and suffered half the company to go as before: they had now 54 horses laden, which Captain Swan ordered to be tied one to another, and the men to go in two bodies, 25 before, and as many behind; but the men would go at their own rate, every man leading his horse. The Spaniards, observing their manner of marching, had laid an ambush about a mile from the town, which they managed with such success that, falling on our body of men who were guarding the corn to the Canoas, they killed them every one. Captain Swan, hearing the report of their guns, ordered his men, who were then in the town with him, to march out to their assistance; but some opposed him, despising their enemies, till two of the Spaniards' horses that had lost their riders came galloping into the town in a great fright, both bridled and saddled, with each a pair of holsters by their sides, and one had a carbine newly discharged; which was an apparent token that our men had been engaged, and that by men better armed than they imagined they should meet with. Therefore Captain Swan immediately marched out of the town and his men all followed him; and when he came to the place where the engagement had been he saw all his men that went out in the morning lying dead. They were stripped and so cut and mangled that he scarce knew one man. Captain Swan had not more men then with him than those were who lay dead before him, yet the Spaniards never came to oppose him but kept at a great distance; for it is probable the Spaniards had not cut off so many men of ours, but with the loss of a great many of their own. So he marched down to the Canoas and came aboard the ship with the maize that was already in the Canoas. We had about 50 men killed, and among the rest my ingenious friend Mr. Ringrose was one, who wrote that part of the History of the Buccaneers which relates to Captain Sharp. He was at this time cape-merchant, or supercargo of Captain Swan's ship. He had no mind to this voyage; but was necessitated to engage in it or starve.
This loss discouraged us from attempting anything more hereabouts. Therefore Captain Swan proposed to go to Cape San Lucas on California to careen. He had two reasons for this: first, that he thought he could lie there secure from the Spaniards, and next, that if he could get a commerce with the Indians there he might make a discovery in the Lake of California, and by their assistance try for some of the plate of New Mexico.
This Lake of California (for so the sea, channel or strait, between that and the continent, is called) is but little known to the Spaniards, by what I could ever learn; for their charts do not agree about it. Some of them do make California an island, but give no manner of account of the tides flowing in the lake, or what depth of water there is, or of the harbours, rivers, or creeks, that border on it: whereas on the west side of the island towards the Asiatic coast their pilot-book gives an account of the coast from Cape San Lucas to 40 degrees north. Some of their charts newly made do make California to join to the Main. I do believe that the Spaniards do not care to have this lake discovered for fear lest other European nations should get knowledge of it and by that means visit the mines of New Mexico. We heard that not long before our arrival here the Indians in the province of New Mexico made an insurrection and destroyed most of the Spaniards there, but that some of them, flying towards the Gulf or Lake of California, made Canoas in that lake and got safe away; though the Indians of the lake of California seem to be at perfect enmity with the Spaniards. We had an old intelligent Spaniard now aboard who said that he spoke with a friar that made his escape among them.
New Mexico, by report of several English prisoners there and Spaniards I have met with, lies north-west from Old Mexico between 4 and 500 leagues, and the biggest part of the treasure which is found in this kingdom is in that province; but without doubt there are plenty of mines in other parts as well in this part of the kingdom where we now were as in other places; and probably on the Main bordering on the lake of California; although not yet discovered by the Spaniards, who have mines enough, and therefore, as yet, have no reason to discover more.
In my opinion here might be very advantageous discoveries made by any that would attempt it: for the Spaniards have more than they can well manage. I know yet they would lie like the dog in the manger; although not able to eat themselves yet they would endeavour to hinder others. But the voyage thither being so far I take that to be one reason that has hindered the discoveries of these parts: yet it is possible that a man may find a nearer way hither than we came; I mean by the north-west.
I know there have been divers attempts made about a north-west passage, and all unsuccessful: yet I am of opinion that such a passage may be found. All our countrymen that have gone to discover the north-west passage have endeavoured to pass to the westward, beginning their search along Davis's or Hudson's Bay. But if I was to go on this discovery I would go first into the South Seas, bend my course from thence along by California, and that way seek a passage back into the West Seas. For as others have spent the summer in first searching on this more known side nearer home, and so, before they got through, the time of the year obliged them to give over their search, and provide for a long course back again for fear of being left in the winter; on the contrary I would search first on the less known coast of the South Sea side, and then as the year passed away I should need no retreat, for I should come farther into my knowledge if I succeeded in my attempt, and should be without that dread and fear which the others must have in passing from the known to the unknown: who, for aught I know, gave over their search just as they were on the point of accomplishing their desires.
I would take the same method if I was to go to discover the north-east passage. I would winter about Japan, Korea, or the north-east part of China; and, taking the spring and summer before me, I would make my first trial on the coast of Tartary, wherein if I succeeded I should come into some known parts and have a great deal of time before me to reach Archangel or some other port. Captain Wood indeed says this north-east passage is not to be found for ice: but how often do we see that sometimes designs have been given over as impossible, and at another time, and by other ways, those very things have been accomplished; but enough of this.
The next day after that fatal skirmish near Santa Pecaque Captain Swan ordered all our water to be filled and to get ready to sail. The 21st day we sailed from hence, directing our course towards California: we had the wind at north-west and west-north-west a small gale with a great sea out of the west. We passed by three islands called the Marias. After we passed these islands we had much wind at north-north-west and north-west, and at north with thick rainy weather. We beat till the 6th day of February, but it was against a brisk wind and proved labour in vain. For we were now within reach of the land trade-wind, which was opposite to us: but would we go to California upon the discovery or otherwise we should bear sixty or seventy leagues off from the shore; where we should avoid the land-winds and have the benefit of the true easterly trade-wind.
Finding therefore that we got nothing, but rather lost ground, being then 21 degrees 5 minutes north, we steered away more to the eastward again for the islands Marias, and the 7th day we came to an anchor at the east end of the middle island in eight fathom water, good clean sand.
The Marias are three uninhabited islands in latitude 21 degrees 40 minutes. They are distant from Cape San Lucas on California forty leagues bearing east-south-east, and they are distant from Cape Corrientes twenty leagues, bearing upon the same points of the compass with Cape San Lucas. They stretch north-west and south-east about fourteen leagues. There are two or three small high rocks near them: the westermost of them is the biggest island of the three; and they are all three of an indifferent height. The soil is stony and dry; the land in most places is covered with a shrubby sort of wood, very thick and troublesome to pass through. In some places there is plenty of straight large cedars, though, speaking of the places where I have found cedars, Chapter 3, I forgot to mention this place. The Spaniards make mention of them in other places but I speak of those which I have seen.
All round by the seaside it is sandy; and there is produced a green prickly plant whose leaves are much like the penguin-leaf, and the root like the root of a sempervive but much larger. This root being baked in an oven is good to eat: and the Indians on California, as I have been informed, have great part of their subsistence from these roots. We made an oven in a sandy bank and baked of these roots and I ate of them: but none of us greatly cared for them. They taste exactly like the roots of our English burdock boiled, of which I have eaten. Here are plenty of Guanos and raccoons (a large sort of rat) and Indian conies, and abundance of large pigeons and turtle-doves. The sea is also pretty well stored with fish, and turtle or tortoise, and seal. This is the second place on this coast where I did see any seal: and this place helps to confirm what I have observed, that they are seldom seen but where there is plenty of fish. Captain Swan gave the middle island the name of Prince George's Island.
The 8th day we ran near the island and anchored in five fathom, and moored head and stern and unrigged both ship and bark in order to careen. Here Captain Swan proposed to go into the East Indies. Many were well pleased with the voyage; but some thought, such was their ignorance, that he would carry them out of the world; for about two-thirds of our men did not think there was any such way to be found; but at last he gained their consents.
At our first coming hither we did eat nothing but seal; but after the first two or three days our strikers brought aboard turtle every day; on which we fed all the time that we lay here, and saved our maize for our voyage. Here also we measured all our maize, and found we had about eighty bushels. This we divided into three parts; one for the bark and two for the ship; our men were divided also, a hundred men aboard the ship, and fifty aboard the bark, besides three or four slaves in each.
I had been a long time sick of a dropsy, a distemper whereof, as I said before, many of our men died; so here I was laid and covered all but my head in the hot sand: I endured it near half an hour, and then was taken out and laid to sweat in a tent. I did sweat exceedingly while I was in the sand, and I do believe it did me much good for I grew well soon after.
We stayed here till the 26th day, and then, both vessels being clean, we sailed to the valley of Valderas to water, for we could not do it here now. In the wet season indeed here is water enough, for the brooks then run down plentifully; but now, though there was water, yet it was bad filling, it being a great way to fetch it from the holes where it lodged. The 28th day we anchored in the bottom of the bay in the valley of Valderas, right against the river, where we watered before; but this river was brackish now in the dry season; and therefore we went two or three leagues nearer Cape Corrientes and anchored by a small round island, not half a mile from the shore. The island is about four leagues to the northward of the cape; and the brook where we filled our water is just within the island, upon the Main. Here our strikers struck nine or ten jew-fish; some we did eat, and the rest we salted; and the 29th day we filled thirty-two tuns of very good water.
Having thus provided ourselves we had nothing more to do but to put in execution our intended expedition to the East Indies, in hopes of some better success there than we had met with on this little-frequented coast. We came on it full of expectations; for besides the richness of the country and the probability of finding some sea ports worth visiting, we persuaded ourselves that there must needs be shipping and trade here, and that Acapulco and La Vera Cruz were to the kingdom of Mexico what Panama and Portobello are to that of Peru, namely, marts for carrying on a constant commerce between the South and North Seas, as indeed they are. But whereas we expected that this commerce should be managed by sea we found ourselves mistaken: that of Mexico being almost wholly a land trade, and managed more by mules than by ships: so that instead of profit we met with little on this coast besides fatigues, hardships and losses, and so were the more easily induced to try what better fortune we might have in the East Indies. But to do right to Captain Swan he had no intention to be as a privateer in the East Indies; but, as he has often assured me with his own mouth, he resolved to take the first opportunity of returning to England: so that he feigned a compliance with some of his men who were bent upon going to cruise at Manila, that he might have leisure to take some favourable opportunity of quitting the privateer trade.