After taking two months' rest at Mexico I desired to come over to this realm, but when ready to sail in October, a storm wrecked the vessel and it was lost. So I determined to wait until winter would be over, as in these parts navigation is then very dangerous on account of storms.
When winter was past, Andres Dorantes and I left Mexico, during Lent, for Vera Cruz, to take a ship there, but had again to wait for favorable winds until Palm Sunday. We embarked and were on board more than fifteen days, unable to leave on account of a calm, and the vessel began to fill with water. I took passage on one of the ships which were in condition to leave, while Dorantes remained on the first one, and on the tenth day of the month three craft left port.
We navigated together for one hundred and fifty leagues; afterwards two of the ships dropped behind, and in the course of a night we lost track of them. It seems that, as we found out later, their pilots and skippers did not venture any further, and returned to port without giving us any warning; neither did we hear any more from them. So we kept on, and on the fourth of May reached the port of Habana, on the second of June, still hoping for the other two vessels to arrive. Then we left.
We were afraid of falling in with French craft that only a few days before had captured three of ours.
At the altitude of the Island of Bermuda a storm overtook us, as is quite usual in those parts, according to the people who are wont to travel in them, and for a whole night we considered ourselves lost. But it pleased God that, when morning came, the storm abated and we could proceed on our way. Twenty-nine days after sailing from Habana we had made eleven hundred leagues, said to be the distance from it to the settlement of the Azores, and the next day we passed the island called of the raven, and met with a French vessel at noon. She began to follow us, having with her a caravel taken from the Portuguese, and gave us chase. That same evening we saw nine more sail, but at such a distance that we could not distinguish whether they were of the same nation as our pursuer, or Portuguese. At nightfall the Frenchman was but a cannon-shot from our ship, and as soon as it was dark we changed our course so as to get away from him. As he was close upon us he saw our maneuver and did the same, and this happened three or four times.
The Frenchman could have taken us then, but he preferred to wait until daylight. It pleased God that, when morning came, we found ourselves, as well as the French ship, surrounded by the nine craft we had seen the evening before, and which turned out to belong to the Portuguese navy. I thank Our Lord for having allowed me to escape from peril on land and sea.
When the French saw it was the fleet of Portugal they released the caravel, which was filled with negroes. They had taken it along in order to make us believe they were Portuguese and to induce us to expect them. On separating from the caravel the Frenchman told the skipper and pilot we were French also, belonging to their own navy; then they put into their vessel sixty oarsmen, and thus, by oar and sail, went away with incredible swiftness.
The caravel then approached the galley warning its captain that both our vessel and the other were French, so that when we came up to the galley and the squadron saw it, believing us to be French, they cleared for action and came to attack us. But when we were near enough to them we saluted, and they saw we were friends. They had been deceived, suffering the privateer to escape by means of his strategy in telling that we were also French. Four caravels went in pursuit of him. Having come up with the galley and presented our respects, the captain, Diego de Silveira, asked where we came from and what we had on board. We told him from New Spain, and that we carried silver and gold. He inquired how much it might be, and the skipper informed him that we had about three hundred thousand Castellanos. Thereupon the captain exclaimed: "Faith, you come back very rich, although you have a bad craft and miserable artillery. That dog of a French renegade has lost a fat morsel, the bastard! Now, go ahead, since you escaped; follow me closely, and, God helping, I shall lead you back to Spain."
The caravels that had gone in pursuit of the French soon returned because the latter sailed too fast for them and they did not want to leave their squadron, which was escorting three ships loaded with spices.
We reached the Island of Tercera, where we rested fifteen days and took in supplies, also waiting for another ship from India, with the same kind of cargo as the three our fleet was escorting. At the end of the fifteen days we sailed, all together, for the port of Lisbon, where we arrived on the ninth of August, vespers of Saint Laurentius day, of the year 1537.
And, in testimony of, that what I have stated in the foregoing narrative is true, I hereunto sign my name:
Cabeza de Vaca