Category Archives: Drake’s Botanist

Drake Sees the White Cliffs of California?!

Having failed to find a western entrance to the fabled Northwest Passage, in the summer of 1579 Drake searched the west coast of North America for a suitable place to cleanse his hull and ready his ship for the long sail across the Pacific Ocean and his return to England. His ship’s hold cradled a fortune in silver and gold. He’d be a wealthy man if he could return it to England.

Unfortunately, after a drive along the present-day coast of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California this past Spring, I can confirm the coast is treacherous, with few sheltered bays. Hence, Drake was relieved when on June 17th he sighted a protected bay with white cliffs reminiscent of the Seven Sisters of Dover England. He named the land Nova Albion, New England, and upon further exploration decided to careen his ship, the Golden Hind, there. He would stay for thirty-eight days, during which time he and his crew had fascinating interactions with the natives

Where was Nova Albion? Much ink and even books has been written in attempts to answer this question. For many, including myself, the most likely site for the careening is Drake’s Estero, a small inlet of Drake’s Bay in today’s Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco Bay. The following picture was taken from the headland southwest of Drake’s Estero, and is similar to what Drake might have seen when approaching the anchorage over four hundred years ago.

It’s easy to see how he might associate this sight with the cliffs of Dover.

The geographical argument for Drake’s Bay for Drake’s stay is strong, but not irrefutable. However, the ethnographic evidence is compelling in my mind. This is found in Robert F. Heizer’s excellent Francis Drake and the California Indians, written in 1947 and published by the University of California Press. Heizer was a professor who specialized in the archaeology and ethnology of the Native Americans of northwest America. He makes a persuasive argument that Drake interacted with the Miwok Tribes of the California coast, which means Drake either careened his ship at Drake’s Bay or Bodega Bay, with the former being more likely. He gives many reasons. For example, the native huts with recessed floors described by those with Drake are not found in Oregon or further north.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a rugged, windswept, but starkly beautiful place. I enjoyed my short stay there, and encourage you to visit it should you have the chance. I only spent part of a day there, and hope to go again and hike the trail to Drake’s Estero to walk the same shore that Drake and his men did.

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Wilson Hurley, the talented artist behind the cover of Drake’s Botanist

Finding great cover art for my books has always been a challenge. I wanted to use a picture of a sailing ship for cover of Drake’s Botanist. Not only did I find a superb picture of an Elizabethan era ship, but it actually was a picture of the Golden Hind!

I was able to use only a portion of the late Wilson Hurley’s painting, so the complete work follows.

Please see his website at to see many more examples of his tremendous work.

Thank you again to Rosalyn Hurley for her permission to use Mr. Hurley’s artwork.

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Just Published: Drake’s Botanist

Six years ago after publishing Magellan’s Navigator I was undecided as to what next. Drake’s circumnavigation was a obvious option, but I hesitated because of the research needed. Well, two years ago I decided to do it, and Drake’s Botanist is the result. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Here’s a brief blurb on my new book:

Queen Elizabeth’s England is at an uneasy peace with King Philip’s Spain, but all wonder how much longer that will last. Spain’s Catholic armies are ravaging England’s Protestant allies in the Netherlands. How can England help them short of sending an army? Spain’s rich silver mines in the New World fund its aggression. When Francis Drake approaches the Queen with a plan cut the flow of this treasure and bankrupt Philip’s empire, she agrees to it.

Drake sails with six ships. A man with flair, he dines each night on silver plates while serenaded by violas. He even has a botanist aboard.

Botanist and author Lawrence Elyot enlists with Drake, thinking the fleet is on a trading expedition to Egypt…not realizing that is a ruse to deceive the Spanish. He is shocked when once at sea Drake announces that there has been a change of plans. First stop will be Africa. Beyond that, Drake won’t say.

Elyot is now on the epic adventure of his life and in more danger than he has dreamt of in his worst nightmares. Certainly, he would not have volunteered had he realized he would play the pirate while encountering mutiny, murderous Spaniards, hostile natives, storms, scurvy, the death of friends, and nearly three years away from London.

But if he survives the foray against the hated papist, his share of the plunder will assure he lives the life of a proper gentleman.

Available on Amazon in ebook, paperback, and KindleUnlimited.

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