Ferdinand Magellan and me (37)

Replica of nao Victoria - first ship to circumnavigate the world.

Nao Victoria, first to circumnavigate the world.

Crew problems

In Gibraltar the Magellan project had to take a back seat while I dealt with a few disasters. Still in shock from the shipwreck in Yemen, Robin decided she really couldn’t face the Strait of Magellan, packed up and flew home to start an art gallery in Sydney. That threw a spanner in the works. I had no ambition to sail single-handed. I believe it is a dangerous practice and organisers of round-the-world-single- handed yacht races should be restrained.

Before Robin walked into my life and said Gee Whiz I had been searching for a suitable crew member. I pinned notices on message boards, spread the word among the yachting fraternity and placed ads in the paper. Of the 152 replies, 149 came from schoolgirls describing themselves as ‘have no experience but willing to learn.’ I actually went as far as interviewing a couple of these girls. I wasn’t looking for a Vasco da Gama but nor was I prepared for their pony tails and little white socks. I realised what a fool I was.I might have run foul of the law taking these girls on.

Of the other three applicants one replied apologetically that I was too young for her and thus endeared herself to me. That left two just about the right age. One was a maniac, a child’s psychiatrist, the most insane person I have ever met. She was Lebanese. Within minutes of meeting, she wanted to know why I refused to fight with her. My desire for peace was racism, sexism, religious discrimination or evidence of deep-seated repressions from my childhood. I wasn’t arguing with her about that. I had a rotten childhood. In fact, I wasn’t arguing with her about anything

That left Colleen with a sexy body that she loved to have massaged with baby oil. After a couple of weeks Wathara’s upholstery was stained with baby oil. When Robin later moved aboard I told her it was butter. It soon became obvious that Colleen’s motivation was to escape from her violent husband. She came to me covered in bruises, which is how the massages originated.

Ferdinand Magellan had crew problems too. Getting the numbers to man his five ships proved difficult because experienced seamen wanted to seek fame and fortune in the New World. He managed to recruit about 270 men of various nationalities. His bigger problem was political interference by Juan Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos and head of the Casa de Contratation, the maritime authority in Spain at that time. Fonseca resented Magellan, a Portuguese, being appointed captain general or admiral of the armada ahead of Fonseca’s bastard son, Juan de Cartagena.

Magellan experienced at least three mutinies or attempted mutinies in the course of the voyage. The mutineers were not common seamen but their aristocratic officers led by Cartagena contesting Magellan’s authority. Magellan executed one of his captains and another was killed in a mutiny; both of them appointed by Fonseca. Magellan abandoned Cartagena on the shore of what is now Argentina. This act probably made it impossible for Magellan to return to Spain. He well knew that Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, had been beheaded for a lesser crime shortly before the Armada sailed from Spain.

Ferdinand Magellan

In Gibraltar


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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