Volume 7, Chapter 9 -- Early Voyages of the English to the East Indies, before the establishment of an exclusive Company: *section index*

Volume 7, Chapter 9, Section 7 -- Supplementary Account of the former Voyage, by John May.[23]

We departed from Plymouth on the 10th April, 1591, with three tall ships; the Penelope, Captain Raimond admiral; the Merchant Royal, Captain Samuel Foxcroft[24] vice-admiral; and the Edward Bonadventure, Captain James Lancaster rear-admiral; on board of which I sailed, together with a small pinnace. In May following we arrived at Gran Canaria, one of the Fortunate Islands; and towards the end of that month, being within three degrees of the equator on the north side, we took a Portuguese ship, bound for Brasil, which tended much to our refreshment. The 29th July we came to Saldanha Bay (Aguada Saldania), a good harbour near the Cape of Good Hope, where we staid about a month, and whence we sent home the Merchant Royal for England, because of great sickness among our people, with a considerable number of our weak men. We here bought an ox for a knife worth three-pence, a sheep for a broken knife, or any other odd trifle, from the natives, who are negroes, clad in cloaks of raw-hides, both men and women.

The 8th of September the Penelope and Edward Bonadventure weighed anchor, and that day we doubled the cape. The 12th following we were assailed by a fierce tempest, or hurricane; and in the evening we saw a great sea break over our admiral, the Penelope, which struck out their light, and we never saw them any more. In October we in the Edward fell in with the westernmost part of the island of St. Lawrence about midnight, not knowing where we were. Next day we came to anchor at Quitangone, a place on the main-land of Africa, two or three leagues north of Mozambique, which is supplied from hence with fresh water. We here took a pangaia, in which was a Portuguese boy, being a vessel like a barge, with one mat-sail of cocoa-nut leaves. The hull of this barge is pinned with wooden pins, and sewed with cord made of the bark of trees. In this pangaia we found a kind of corn called millio, or millet, a considerable number of hens, and some bales of blue calicut cloth. We took the Portuguese boy with us, and dismissed the rest. From this place we went to an island called Comoro, off the coast of Melinda, in about 11° S., where we stayed all November, finding the people black and comely, but very treacherous; for the day before we left that island they killed thirty of our men on shore, among whom was William Mace our master, and two of his mates, one of them being in the boat along with him to fetch water, and the other on shore, over against the ship. They first took possession of our boat, and then slaughtered our men. From thence we went to the island of Zanzibar, on the coast of Melinda, where we stayed to winter, till the beginning of February, 1592.

The 2d February, 1592, we weighed anchor, and set sail for the East Indies; but, having calms and contrary winds, we were not able to fetch the coast of India, near Calicut, till the month of June, by which long delay many of our men died for want of refreshments. In this month of June we came to anchor at the islands of Pulo Pinaom, where we stayed till the 1st September, our men being very sick, and dying fast. We set sail that day, directing our course for Malacca, and had not gone far at sea when we took a ship of the kingdom of Pegu, of about eighty tons, having wooden anchors, a crew of about fifty men, and a pinnace of some eighteen tons at her stern, laden with pepper; but the pinnace stole [[away]] from us in the morning in a gust of wind. We might likewise have taken two other Pegu vessels, laden with pepper and rice. In this month also we took a great Portuguese ship of six or seven hundred tons, chiefly laden with victuals, but having chests of hats, pintados, and calicut cloths.[25] We took likewise another Portuguese ship, of some hundred tons, laden with victuals, rice, white and painted cotton cloth, (or calicoes and chintzes,) and other commodities. These ships were bound for Malacca, mostly laden with victuals, as that place is victualled from Goa, San Thome, and other places in India, provisions being very scarce in its own neighbourhood.

In November, 1592, we steered for the Nicobar Islands, some degrees to the north-west of the famous island of Sumatra, at which islands we found good refreshment, as the inhabitants, who are Mahometans, came on board of us in their canoes, with hens, cocoas, plantains, and other fruits; and within two days brought ryals of plate, which they gave us for cotton cloth, which ryals they procured by diving in the sea, having been lost not long before in two Portuguese ships bound for China, that had been there cast away. Our ship's company was now so much wasted by sickness, that we resolved to turn back to Ceylon, for which purpose we weighed anchor in November, and arrived off Ceylon about the end of that month. In this island grows excellent cinnamon; and the best diamonds in the world are found there. Our captain proposed to have stayed at this island to make up our voyage, of which he had great hope, in consequence of certain intelligence we had received; but our company, now reduced to thirty-three men and boys, mutinied, and would not stay, insisting upon going home, and our captain was very sick, and like to die.

We accordingly set sail, homeward bound, on the 8th December, 1592; but some days before our arrival within sight of the Cape of Good Hope, we were forced to divide our bread, to each man his portion, in his own keeping, as certain flies had devoured most of it before we were aware. We had now only thirty-one pounds of bread a man to carry us to England, with a small quantity of rice daily. We doubled the Cape of Good Hope on the 31st March, 1593, and came next month to anchor at the island of St. Helena, where we found an Englishman, a tailor, who had been there fourteen months. Having sent ten men on shore in the boat, they found this man in the chapel, into which he had gone to avoid the heat; and hearing someone sing in the chapel, whom our people supposed to have been a Portuguese, they thrust open the door, and went in upon him: but the poor man, on seeing so many men of a sudden, and believing them to be Portuguese, was at first in great fear, not having seen a human being for fourteen months, and afterwards knowing them to be English, and some of them his acquaintance, he became exceeding joyful, insomuch that between sudden and excessive fear and joy, he became distracted in his wits, to our great sorrow. We here found the carcasses of forty goats, which he had dried. The party which left him had made for him two suits of goats'-skins, with the hairy side outmost, like the dresses worn by the savages of Canada. This man lived till we came to the West Indies, and then died.

We remained at St. Helena all the month of April, and arrived at the island of Trinidada, in the West Indies, in June, 1593, hoping to procure some refreshments there, but could not, as the Spaniards had taken possession. We got here embayed between the island and the main; and, for want of victuals, our company would have forsaken the ship, on which our captain had to swear every man not to forsake her till the most urgent necessity. It pleased God to deliver us from this bay, called Boca del Dragone, from whence we directed our course for the island of San Juan de Puerto Rico, but fell in with the small island of Mona, between Porto Rico and Hispaniola, where we remained about fifteen days, procuring some small refreshment. There arrived here a ship of Caen, in Normandy, of which Monsieur Charles de la Barbotiere was captain, who greatly comforted us by a supply of bread and other provisions, of which we were greatly in need, after which we parted.

Having foul weather at Mona, we weighed anchor and set sail, directing our course for Cape Tiberoon, at the west end of Hispaniola; and, in doubling that cape, we had so violent a gust of wind from the shore, that it carried away all our sails from the yards, leaving us only one new fore-course, the canvass of which we had procured from the Frenchman. Having doubled the cape in that distress, the before-mentioned Captain de la Barbotiere gave us chase with his pinnace; and when come near, I went on board to inform him of our distress; and he now said, there was nothing in his ship but what he would spare for our assistance; so we agreed with him for some canvass. He said likewise, if we would accompany him to a harbour called Gonnavy,[26] to the northward of Tiberoon, that he would procure us plenty of fresh provisions. I went back to our ship, and reported this to our captain, who made it known to the company, and it was unanimously agreed to go there, which was done accordingly. We remained there fifteen days along with the Frenchman, but could get very small refreshment, as the Spaniards were in great fear of the Frenchman, supposing him a man of war, and that our ship was Portuguese, which he had captured, and could not be persuaded to the contrary by anything he could say. Thus staying long, and procuring very little refreshment, our people begun to grow mutinous, pretending that the captain and I went on board the Frenchman to make good cheer ourselves, taking no care of them; but I protest before God that our sole care was to procure victuals that we might leave him.

In the mean time a great part of our people entered into a conspiracy to seize the Frenchman's pinnace, and with her to board the French ship; but while this was concerting among them, one of themselves went on board the Frenchman, and revealed the plot. Upon this Monsieur de la Barbotiere sent for the captain and me to dine with him. We went accordingly, and remained all the afternoon, being invited likewise to supper. While we were at supper the French captain did not come to us for a long time, and when he at length came into the cabin, he told us we must either leave him, or he must go seek another port. Informing Captain Lancaster of this, he desired me to say, that rather as be any hindrance to him we would depart. While we were thus talking together, the Frenchman weighed and set sail, which we perceived, and asked what he meant. He said he proposed to keep us as his sureties, because our men had plotted to seize his ship, as before mentioned.

When the French ship came athwart ours, it blowing then a stiff breeze, their boat, which was astern, and had in her two Moors and two Peguers, whom we had given to them, broke away. The French captain was now worse than before, and threatened sore to make us pay for his voyage. Seeing us pass, the Edward weighed and set sail, meaning to go for England; and the people shared among them all the captain's victuals and mine, when they saw us kept as prisoners.

Next morning the French ship went in search of her pinnace, which was at Laguna, and on firing a gun she came off, having three of our people on board, Edmund Barker our lieutenant, one John West, and Richard Lackland, one of our mutineers. Of this I told the French captain, which Lackland could not deny but that such a scheme was intended. I was then put into the French pinnace to seek their boat, while they went to see if they could overtake our ship.

Next day we all met at Cape St Nicholas, but could hear no tidings of the French boat. As there were Spaniards and negroes on board our ship, Captain de la Barbotiere requested to have them; on which our captain desired him to send his boat for them, and he might have them with all his heart. After much ado this was done, and they were brought on board. He then demanded of these people if his boat were in our ship, and being assured she was not, we became good friends again, to our great joy. The 12th August, 1593, our captain was again sent on board his own ship; but, before his departure, he requested the French captain to take me home with him, that I might certify to the owners all that had passed in our unfortunate voyage, as also the mutinous behaviour of our crew. Accordingly we took our leaves of each other, the Edward setting sail for England, while we in the French ship bore up again for Gonnavy, or Gonaives, where we afterwards found the French boat.[27]

The last of November, 1593, Monsieur de la Barbotiere departed from a port called Laguna, in Hispaniola. The 17th of December we had the misfortune to be cast away on the north-west part of the island of Bermuda, about midnight. At noon of that day the pilots reckoned themselves twelve leagues to the south of that island, and certifying the captain that the ship was out of all danger, they demanded and received their wine of height.[28] After having their wine, it would seem that they became careless of their charge, so that through their drunkenness and negligence a number of good men were cast away. It pleased God that I, a stranger among above fifty Frenchmen and others, was among those who were saved: I trust to his service and glory. At first we comforted ourselves in the hope that we were wrecked hard by the shore of the island, being high cliffs; but we found ourselves seven leagues off. By means of our boat, and a raft which we made, about twenty-six of us were saved, among whom I was the only Englishman. Being among so many strangers, and seeing there was not room for half the people, I durst neither press to get into the boat or upon the raft, lest they should have thrown me overboard or killed me; so I remained in the ship, which, was almost full of water, till the captain called me into the boat, in which he was; so I presently entered, leaving the better half of our company to the mercy of the sea.

We rowed all day, and an hour or two of the night, towing the raft after us, before we got to land: and, being all that day without drink, every man dispersed in search of water, but it was long before any was found. At length one of the pilots, by digging among a tuft of weeds, found water, to our great comfort. As there are many fine bays in this island, I think abundance of fresh water might be got by digging for it. Bermuda is all divided into broken islets; the largest, upon which I was, might be about four or five miles long, by two and a half miles over, all covered with wood, as cedar and other kinds, but cedar is the most abundant.

It pleased God, before our ship broke to pieces, that we saved our carpenter's tools, otherwise we must have remained on the island. With these tools we went immediately to work, cutting down trees, of which we built a small bark of about eighteen tons, almost entirely fastened with trunnels, having very few nails. As for tackle, we made a trip to our ship in the boat, before she split, cutting down her shrouds, and some of her sails and other tackle, by which means we rigged our bark. Instead of pitch, we made some lime, which we mixed with oil of tortoises; and as soon as the carpenters had caulked a seam, I and another, with small sticks, plastered the mortar into the seams, and being fine dry warm weather, in the month of April, it became dry, and as hard as stone, as soon as laid on. Being very hot and dry weather, we were afraid our water might fail us, and made therefore the more haste to get away. Before our departure, we built two great wooden chests, well caulked, which we stowed on each side of our mast, into which we put our provision of water, together with thirteen live sea-tortoises for our food during the voyage, which we proposed for Newfoundland.

There are hogs in the south part of Bermuda; but they were so lean, owing to the barrenness of the island, that we could not eat them. It yielded us, however, abundance of fowl, fish, and tortoises. To the eastwards this island has very good harbours, so that a ship of 200 tons might ride in them, perfectly land-locked, and with enough of water. This island also has as good pearl-fishing as any in the West Indies; but is subject to foul weather, as thunder, lightning, and rain. In April and part of May, however, when we were there, the weather was hot, and quite fair.

On the 11th of May it pleased God that we got clear of this island, to the no small joy of us all, after we had lived in it for five months. The 20th of that month we fell in with the land near Cape Breton, where we ran into a fresh water river, of which there are many on this coast, and took in wood, water, and ballast. Here the people of the country came to us, being cloathed in furs, with the hair side inwards, and brought with them sundry sorts of furs to sell, together with great quantities of wild ducks; and as some of our company had saved a few small beads, we bought a few of their ducks. We stayed only about four hours at this place, which seemed a very good country, as we saw very fine champaign ground and woods. We ran from this place to the Banks of Newfoundland, where we met several vessels, none of which would take us in. At length, by the blessing of God, we fell in with a bark belonging to Falmouth, which received us all for a short time; and in her we overtook a French ship, in which I left my dear friend, Captain de la Barbotiere, and all his company, remaining myself in the English bark, in which I arrived at Falmouth in August, 1594.

[Footnote 23: Hakluyt, III. 52.]
[Footnote 24: In the account of this voyage, penned from the relation of Edmund Barker, forming the immediately preceding section, the captain of the Merchant Royal is named Abraham Kendal.--E.]
[Footnote 25: Painted and white calicoes or cotton cloths.--E.]
[Footnote 26: Hakluyt, on the margin, gives Guanaba as a synonym: it was probably Gonaives' Bay, in the northern part of the west end of Hispaniola.--E.]
[Footnote 27: In this part of the narrative, May is somewhat different from that formerly given from Edmund Barker, in the preceding section, or rather he is more minutely particular. The remainder of the narrative has no further connection with the unfortunate Edward Bonadventure.--E.]
[Footnote 28: Probably alluding to some customary perquisite on getting safely through the dangerous navigation of the Bahama Islands.--E.]


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