Ferdinand Magellan and me (91)



On the morning after their reception by the rajah, Pigafetta was awakened by a rapidly ringing ship’s bell and Carvalho’s frantic cry “All hands on deck.” He scrambled into some clothes and tumbled out on deck to a scene of chaos, with men rushing here and there, arming themselves and shouting at one another. Magellan’s practice drills had fallen into disuse under Carvalho and confusion had taken over instead.

“What is it?”

“Mother of God it’s an armada,” Carvalho cried, pointing towards the west.
The Sun had barely risen but sufficient to see a fleet of praus and junks, more than a hundred Pigafetta guessed, with heavily armed men bearing down on Trinidad and Victoria. A vision flashed before his eyes of Lapu-Lapu’s horde attacking in their frenzy. Magellan had faced them with cold deliberation. Carvalho panicked.
“Heave away on the anchor,” he shouted at no one in particular. “Set the staysail. Set the spanker. Men-at-arms arm the side.”
Some sense of order began to appear as men turned to their tasks but for Carvalho it was not fast enough. “The anchor is too slow. “Pigafetta, go and cut the cable.”


“Cut the anchor cable. Get yourself an axe and cut the cable.”

Pigafetta rushed forward past men cocking crossbows or priming muskets, retrieved an axe from the bosun’s store and climbed to the fo’c’sl head where men trudged around the capstan.

To cut the anchor cable seemed to Pigafetta an extreme thing to do. He hesitated, wondering if Carvalho really meant what he said.
“Pigafetta, cut the cable,” Carvalho screamed all the way from the poop.
Three or four blows severed the heavy, plaited rope, which whipped away over the cathead. Now the ship was free and able to manoeuvre against the enemy.
Although the invaders had superior numbers their native craft were relatively flimsy and they lacked the heavy ordnance of Trinidad and Victoria. They were also faster and a couple of broadsides sent them scuttling away like flying fish, to Carvalho’s satisfaction. He complimented Master Andrew, the gunner and others of the crew.

Barely had they gone back and let go the spare anchor, regretting the loss of the other, when the Shahbanda came out from shore and climbed aboard. Shouting angrily and shaking his fist he confronted Carvalho with a stream of abuse. The gist of it as far as Pigafetta could tell was that the flotilla of boats was part of a force going to fight the aforementioned pagans who refused to accept the teachings of the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.

As realisation of his error dawned upon him Carvalho buried his face in his hands and quietly wept. Members of the executive council gathered round clucking their teeth. Pigafetta retired to his cabin to add another interesting page to his journal.

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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