Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Buccaneers of America
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo


The Author sets forth towards the Western Islands, in the Service of the West India Company of France. They meet with am English frigate, and arrive at the Island of Tortuga.

WE set sail from Havre de Grace, in France, in a ship called St. John, the second day of May, in the year 1666 Our vessel was equipped with eight and twenty guns; twenty mariners, and two hundred and twenty passengers, including in this number those whom the Company sent as free passengers, as being in their service. Soon after we came to an anchor under the Cape of Barfleur, there to join seven other ships of the same West India Company, which were to come from Dieppe under the convoy of a man-of-war, mounted with seven and thirty guns and two hundred and fifty men. Of these ships two were bound for Senegal, five for the Caribbee Islands, and ours for the Island of Tortuga. In the same place there gathered unto us about twenty sail of other ships that were bound for Newfoundland, with some Dutch vessels that were going for Nantes, Rochelle, and St. Martins; so that in all we made a fleet of thirty sail. Here we prepared to fight, putting ourselves into a convenient posture of defence, as having notice that four English frigates, of threescore guns each, lay in wait for us about the Isle of Ornay. Our Admiral, the Chevalier Sourdis, having distributed what orders he thought convenient, we set sail from thence with a favourable gale of wind. Presently after, some mists arising, these totally impeded the English frigates from discovering our fleet at sea. We steered our course as near as we could under the coast of France, for fear of the enemy. As we sailed along, we met a vessel of Ostend, who complained to our Admiral that a French privateer had robbed him that very morning. This complaint being heard, we endeavoured to pursue the said pirate; but our labour was in vain, as not being able to overtake him.

Our fleet, as we went along, caused no small fears and alarms to the inhabitants of the coasts of France, these judging us to be English, and that we sought some convenient place for landing. To allay their frights, we used to hang out our colours; but, notwithstanding, they would not trust us. After this we came to an anchor in the Bay of Conquet, in Brittany, near the Isle of Ushant, there to take in water. Having stored ourselves with fresh provisions at this place, we prosecuted our voyage, designing to pass by the Ras of Fonteneau and not expose ourselves to the Sorlingues, fearing the English vessels that were cruising thereabouts to meet us. This river Ras is of a current very strong and rapid, which, rolling over many rocks, disgorges itself into the sea on the coast of France, in the latitude of eight and forty degrees and ten minutes. For which reason this passage is very dangerous, all the rocks as yet being not thoroughly known.

Here I shall not omit to mention the ceremony which at this passage, and some other places, is used by the mariners, and by them called Baptism, although it may seem either little to our purpose or of no use. The Master's Mate clothed himself with a ridiculous sort of garment that reached to his feet, and on his head he put a suitable cap, which was made very burlesque. In his right hand he placed a naked wooden sword, and in his left a pot full of ink. His face was horribly blacked with soot, and his neck adorned with a collar of many little pieces of wood. Being thus apparelled, he commanded to be called before him every one of them who never had passed that dangerous place before. And then causing them to kneel down in his presence, he made the sign of the Cross upon their foreheads with ink, and gave each one a stroke on the shoulders with his wooden sword. Meanwhile the standers-by cast, a bucket of water upon every man's head; and this was the conclusion of the ceremony. But, that being ended, every one of the baptized is obliged to give a bottle of brandy for his offering, placing it near the main-mast, and without speaking a word; even those who have no such liquor being not excused from this performance. In case the vessel never passed that way before, the Captain is obliged to distribute some wine among the mariners and other people in the ship. But as for other gifts which the newly baptized frequently offer, they are divided among the old seamen, and of them they make a banquet among themselves.

The Hollanders likewise baptize such as never passed that way before. And not only at the passage above-mentioned, but also at the rocks called Berlingues, near the coast of Portugal, in the latitude of thirty-nine degrees and forty minutes, being a passage very dangerous, especially by night, when through the obscurity thereof the rocks are not distinguishable. But their manner of baptizing is quite distinct from that which we have described above as performed by the French. He, therefore, that is to be baptized is fastened, and hoisted up three times at the main-yard's end, as if he were a criminal. If he be hoisted the fourth time, in the name of the Prince of Orange or of the Captain of the vessel, his honour is more than ordinary. Thus they are dipped, every one, several times into the main ocean. But he that is the first dipped has the honour of being saluted with a gun. Such as are not willing to fall are bound to pay twelve pence for their ransom; if he be an officer in the ship, two shillings; and if a passenger, according to his pleasure. In case the ship never passed that way before, the Captain is bound to give a small runlet of wine. which, if he does not perform, the mariners may cut off the stem of the vessel. All the profit which accrues by this ceremony is kept by the Master's Mate, who after reaching their port usually lays it out in wine, which is drunk amongst the ancient seamen. Some say this ceremony was instituted by the Emperor Charles the Fifth; howsoever, it is not found amongst his Laws. But here I leave these customs of the sea, and shall return to our voyage.

Having passed the river Ras, we met with very good weather until we came to Cape Finisterre. Here a huge tempest of wind surprised us, and separated our ship from the rest that were in our company. This storm continued for the space of eight days, in which time it would move compassion to see how miserably the passengers were tumbled to and fro on all sides of the ship; insomuch as the mariners in the performance of their duty were compelled to tread upon them everywhere. This uncouthsome weather being spent, we had again the use of very favourable gales until we came to the Tropic of Cancer. This Tropic is nothing but an imaginary circle which astrologers have invented in the heavens, and serves as a period to the progress of the sun towards the North Pole. It is placed in the latitude f three and twenty degrees and thirty minutes, under the line. Here we were baptized the second time, after the same manner as before. The French always perform this ceremony at this Tropic, as also under the Tropic of Capricorn, towards the South. In this part of the world we had very favourable weather, at which we were infinitely gladdened by reason of our great necessity of water. For at this time that element was already so scarce with us that we were stinted to two half-pints per man every day.

Being about the latitude of Barbados, we met an English frigate, or privateer, who first began to give us chase; but finding himself not to exceed us in strength. presently steered away from us. This flight gave us occasion to pursue the said frigate, as we did, shooting at him several guns of eight pound carriage. But at length he escaped, and we returned to our course. Not long after, we came within sight of the Isle of Martinique. Our endeavours were bent towards the coast of the Isle of St. Peter. But these were frustrated by reason of a storm, which took us hereabouts. Hence we resolved to steer to the Island of Guadaloupe. Yet neither this island could we reach by reason of the said storm, and thus we directed our course to the Isle of Tortuga, which was the very same land to which we were bound. We passed along the coast of the Isle of Porto Rico, which is extremely delicious and agreeable to the view, as being adorned with beautiful trees and woods, even to the tops of the mountains. After this, we discovered the Hand Hispaniola (of which I shall give a description in this book), and we coasted about it until we came to the Isle of Tortuga, our desired port. Here we anchored the seventh day of July in the same year, not having lost one man in the whole voyage. We unloaded the goods that belonged to the Company of the West Indies, and soon after the ship was sent to Cul de Sac with some passengers.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.