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The Illustrated Pirate Diaries
A Remarkable Eyewitness Account of Captain Morgan and the Buccaneers
Introduction—The author sails to the West Indies in 1666, in the employ of the French West India Company—Our arrival at Tortuga
Before I recount my story of the greatest buccaneers of the century, the reader should realize that my first voyage was made not knowing that pirates are abundant in the West Indies. There are three main reasons for this profusion of pirates. Firstly, there are hundreds of uninhabited little sandy islands called cays, or keys, abounding with water turtle, shellfish, and fish, On these keys, the buccaneers can hide from the authorities, provision, and prepare their ships for their new expeditions. Secondly, the ships sailing in these waters, be they French, Spanish, English, or Dutch, are laden with great booty, especially those returning to Europe with the riches of the Spanish Main, and with fortunes made from the slave trade. Thirdly, pirate boats are much more suitable for the many shallow reefs, natural harbors, and inlets than the men-of-war of the navies of Europe.
These pirates usually start off in a small way, infesting the seas all along the coast from the Caribbean to North America, until they gain enough strength and resources to make an expedition via the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands to Guinea in West Africa. They then continue to take advantage of the currents and winds, sailing back to Brazil and the Caribbean.
I sail to the Western Islands
On May 2, 1666, I set sail on the St.John, from Le Havre, bound for the Western isles (the West Indies). We carried 20 mariners, 220 passengers, and 28 guns. The passengers included indentured servants of the French West India Company and free persons with their servants. We anchored off the Cape of Barfleur near Cherbourg to meet up with seven other ships of the Company, which had sailed from Dieppe. Our convoy was from there protected by a man-of-war of 250 men and 37 guns. Two ships were sailing to Senegal, five to the Caribbean, and our ship was destined for Tortuga. Around 20 more ships joined later, beaded for Newfoundland, and some Dutch vessels bound for La Rochelle, Nantes, and St. Martin's Isle in the West Indies. Eventually around 30 French and Dutch ships had assembled. Our Admiral, the Chevalier Sourdis, led us close to the coast of France, as we had word that four English frigates, of 60 guns apiece, were waiting off Alderney in the Channel Islands to attack us. A Flemish ship from Ostend informed our Admiral that she had been raided that morning by a French corsair, so our man-of-war gave chase but could not find her.
We were fortunate to avoid the English warships in the foggy weather, but the peasants all along the coast were greatly alarmed, fearing that we were an English invasion fleet. We ran up French flags, but they showed no faith in them. We took on water and provisions at Le Conquet, near the Isle of Ushant in Brittany, and sailed the more dangerous route, continuing our voyage via the rocky currents of the itaz de Fonteneau to keep away from our enemy.
The wind was fair until Cape Finisterre, where a violent storm dispersed our fleet, and we were separated from the convoy. It lasted a full eight days. Our passengers lay sprawled all over the deck, suffering from sea sickness, and the hands were obliged to step on or over them to carry out their duties to keep the ship from foundering. We later had a favorable wind, which we badly needed as we were running out of water. We were rationed to just one-and-a-half pints of water a day.
Our arrival in Tortuga
Around Barbados, an English frigate chased us, but we saw that she had no real advantage, so we in our turn gave chase, firing with our 8-pound cannons, but she was better rigged and escaped. We came within sight of Martinique and tried to gain St. Peter's roadsteads, but a storm took us away and we resolved to steer to Guadeloupe. Again we were thwarted by the wind, so headed for our original destination of Tortuga, where we anchored on July 7 and landed the West India Company's goods. The ship then went on to Cul-de-Sac in northwest Hispaniola to disembark other passengers. We were fostunate not to have lost one man during the nine-week voyage.The Illustrated Pirate Diaries
A Remarkable Eyewitness Account of Captain Morgan and the Buccaneers. Copyright � by Alexander Exquemelin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.