Ferdinand Magellan and me (94)


Cargo onboard

Rajah Almanzor of Tidore could hardly have been more different from Rajah Siripada of Brunei although both were Muslim kings. Where Siripada was aloof and withdrawn, Almanzor, wearing silk robes and a silk scarf on his head surmounted by a garland of flowers, came out to meet them in his royal prau.

“You have come to buy cloves. It is the only reason big ships come to my land but you are not Portuguese. You have different

“One of our friends who lives here is Portuguese,” Pigafetta said. “Francisco Serrano.”

The smile vanished and Almanzor glared at him.

“Serrano is dead. You should not have such friends.”

Pigafetta was shocked. Serrano, Magellan’s cousin, had been the reality of the almost mystical Spice Isles and a partner in the enterprise of the Armada de Moluccas. Over the next couple of weeks it became clear the Armada had blundered into a political situation as complex as the one in Cebu and Mactan, with all five of the islands rivalling one another. There was one Portuguese resident, Dom Pedro Affonso de Lorosa, who warned them not to get involved. Almanzor of the big smile had killed Serrano. Lorosa begged a passage home when the fleet sailed and was accepted.

Trading posts were set up ashore on Ternate and Tidore islands and the precious cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon began filling the holds in exchange for Turkish robes, Venetian glass, knives, scissors, Chinese porcelain, and jewel-studded weapons looted from junks in the Sulu Sea.

To celebrate the first slings of cargo coming aboard, Trinidad and Victoria fired their cannons. Men in the holds packed each sack into the smallest space, sweating in dusty gloom and often climbing out to breathe clean air and douse themselves with buckets of water.

With sailing day now in sight, riggers tended rigging, sailmakers inspected sails and patched where necessary, carpenters built extra pens for livestock and all worked towards the consummation of dreams of wealth and glory after so much pain. But, when Espinosa ordered the well to be sounded it was found she had about a metre of water in the bilge. The pumps were manned. Espinosa and Punzarol, the master, climbed down into the hold but couldn’t see anything. When Almanzor learned of the problem he ordered his boat’s crew over the side to search for a hole. They swam for about an hour, coming up for breath and spouting like whales but found no hole. Trinidad took on a list and was in danger of capsizing. The men on the pumps worked furiously, with sweat streaming from their bodies.

Clearly, the most likely cause of the leak was that, strained by the load, she had sprung the caulking out of her seams. In that case, the only remedy was to beach the ship and recaulk the hull, a job that would take weeks. Almanzor promised 250 carpenters to help with repairs but what if the Portuguese arrived before Trinidad was seaworthy.

Pigafetta was offered the option of staying with Trinidad or shifting to Victoria and he chose Victoria despite the risk of her falling in with Dom Manuel’s spiteful fleet. He said goodbye to Lorosa, a man he had come to like in their brief acquaintance, and shifted his precious diary and few other possessions across to the smaller Victoria, where he occupied an even more dismal cabin.
Of the 270 who had sailed from Seville, 43 departed the Spice Isles in Victoria together with 16 natives to help them work the ship. Trinidad, listing badly, fired a gun salute and Pigafetta raised his hand to say goodbye.

see:A Singular Captain

A Singular Captain


    Author: leonidas

    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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