The introduction—The author sets forth for the Western islands, in the service of the West-India Company of France—They meet with an English frigate, and arrive at the Island of Tortuga.
We set sail from Havre-de-Grace in France, from whence we set sail in the ship called St. John, May 2, 1666. Our vessel was equipped with twenty-eight guns, twenty mariners, and two hundred and twenty passengers, including those whom the company sent as free passengers. Soon after we came to an anchor under the Cape of Barfleur, there to join seven other ships of the same West-India company, which were to come from Dieppe, under convoy of a man-of-war, mounted with thirty-seven guns, and two hundred and fifty men. Of these ships two were bound for Senegal, five for the Caribbean islands, and ours for Tortuga. Here gathered to us about twenty sail of other ships, bound for Newfoundland, with some Dutch vessels going for Nantz, Rochel, and St. Martin's, so that in all we made thirty sail. Here we put ourselves in a posture of defence, having noticed that four English frigates, of sixty guns each, waited for us near Aldernay. Our admiral, the Chevalier Sourdis, having given necessary orders, we sailed thence with a favourable gale, and some mists arising, totally impeded the English frigates from discovering our fleet. We steered our course as near as we could to the coast of France, for fear of the enemy. As we sailed along, we met a vessel of Ostend, who complained to our admiral, that a French privateer had robbed him that very morning; whereupon we endeavoured to pursue the said pirate; but our labour was in vain, not being able to overtake him.
Our fleet, as we sailed, caused no small fears and alarms to the inhabitants of the coasts of France, these judging us to be English, and that we sought some convenient place for landing. To allay their fright, we hung out our colours; but they would not trust us. After this we came to an anchor in the bay of Conquet in Brittany, near Ushant, there to take in water. Having stored ourselves with fresh provisions here, we prosecuted our voyage, designing to pass by the Ras of Fontenau, and not expose ourselves to the Sorlingues, fearing the English that were cruising thereabouts. The river Ras is of a current very strong and rapid, which, rolling over many rocks, disgorges itself into the sea, on the coast of France, in 48 deg. 10 min. latitude; so that this passage is very dangerous, all the rocks, as yet, being not thoroughly known.
Here I shall mention the ceremony, which, at this passage, and some other places, is used by the mariners, and by them called baptism, though it may seem little to our purpose. The master's mate clothed himself with a ridiculous sort of garment, that reached to his feet, and on his head he put a suitable cap, made very burlesque; in his right hand he had a naked wooden sword, and in his left a pot full of ink: his face was horribly blacked with soot, and his neck adorned with a collar of many little pieces of wood. Thus apparelled, he commanded every one to be called who had never passed through that dangerous place before; and then, causing them to kneel down, he made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, with ink, and gave every one a stroke on the shoulders with his wooden sword. Meanwhile, the standers-by cast a bucket of water upon each man's head; and so ended the ceremony. But that done, each of the baptized must give a bottle of brandy, placing it nigh the main-mast, without speaking a word; even those who have no such liquor not being excused. If the vessel never passed that way before, the captain is obliged to distribute some wine among the mariners and passengers; but as for other gifts, which the newly baptized frequently offer, they are divided among the old seamen, and of them they make a banquet among themselves.
The Hollanders likewise, not only at this passage, but also at the rocks called Berlingues, nigh the coast of Portugal, in 39 deg. 40 min. (being a passage very dangerous, especially by night, when, in the dark, the rocks are not distinguishable, the land being very high) they use some such ceremony: but their manner of baptizing is very different from that of the French; for he that is to be baptized is fastened, and hoisted up thrice, at the mainyard's end, as if he were a criminal. If he be hoisted the fourth time, in the name of the Prince of Orange, or of the captain of the vessel, his honour is more than ordinary. Thus every one is dipped several times in the main ocean; but he that is dipped first has the honour of being saluted with a gun. Such as are not willing to fall, must pay twelve pence for ransom; if he be an officer, two shillings; and if a passenger, at their own pleasure. If the ship never passed that way before, the captain is to give a small rundlet of wine, which, if he denies, the mariners may cut off the stem of the vessel. All the profit accruing by this ceremony is kept by the master's mate, who, after reaching their port, usually lays it out in wine, which is drank amongst the ancient seamen. Some say this ceremony was instituted by the Emperor Charles V. though it is not amongst his laws. But here I leave these sea customs, and return to our voyage.
Having passed the Ras, we had very good weather, till we came to Cape Finis Term: here a sudden tempest surprised us, and separated our ship from the rest that were in our company. This storm continued eight days; in which time it would move compassion to see how miserably the passengers were tumbled to and fro, on all sides of the ship; insomuch, that the mariners, in the performance of their duty, were compelled to tread upon them. This boisterous weather being over, we had very favourable gales again, till we came to the tropic of Cancer. This tropic is an imaginary circle, which astronomers have invented in the heavens, limiting the progress of the sun towards the north pole. It is placed in the latitude of 23 deg. 30 min. Here we were baptized a second time, as before. The French always perform this ceremony at the tropic of Cancer, as also under the tropic of Capricorn. In this part of the world we had very favourable weather, at which we were very glad, because of our great want of water; for that element is so scarce with us, that we were stinted to two half pints a man every day.
About the latitude of Barbadoes, we met an English frigate, or privateer, who first began to give us chase; but finding herself not to exceed us in force, presently got away: hereupon, we pursued her, firing several guns, eight-pounders, at her; but at length she escaped, and we returned to our course. Soon after, we came within sight of Martinico. We were bent to the coast of the isle of St. Peter, but were frustrated by a storm, which took us hereabouts. Hence we resolved to steer to Guadeloupe, yet we could not reach this island, by reason of the said storm; so that we directed our course to the isle of Tortuga, being the very same land we were bound to. We passed along the coast of Punta Rica, which is extremely agreeable and delightful to the sight, being adorned with beautiful woods, even to the tops of the mountains. Then we discovered Hispaniola (of which I shall give a description), and we coasted about it till we came to Tortuga, our desired port. Here we anchored, July 7, in the same year, not having lost one man in the voyage. We landed the goods that belonged to the West-India company, and, soon after, the ship was sent to Cal de Sac with some passengers.