Francisco Albo returns soon in The King’s Galley. Fleeing an assassination attempt in Seville, he returns to what he knows best…the Mediterranean. He becomes master and pilot of the galley Cruz de Barcelona sailing for Spain against the Ottoman Empire and the infamous corsair Barbarossa. Soon he’s fighting for his life against the sea, the Moors, and to keep his past a secret from the Inquisition. Expect to see this exciting tale sometime in October.
Category Archives: Magellan’s Navigator
Five hundred years ago today, August 10, 1519, Magellan’s five ship Armada of the Moluccas cast off from the wharf in Seville and began their journey down the Guadalquivir River to the port of San Lúcar de Barrameda on the Atlantic Ocean. Magellan didn’t leave with the fleet as he was still dealing with pesky bureaucratic details in Seville. It was still another five weeks before the fleet departed on its epic voyage.
The five ships arrived in Seville nearly a year earlier in October, 1518. There the meticulous Magellan oversaw their complete refurbishment from the replacement of rotten planks to the caulking of their seams. Provisions for a two year voyage were loaded. These included 508 butts of wine from Jerez, 5779 maravedis worth of quite essential preserved quince, three jars of capers, and to 2138 quintals of hardtack biscuits. That’s over a hundred tons of biscuits if I did my conversion right.
Magellan had the ships ready. Unfortunately, he was already having disagreements with his Spanish captains that would fester until their mutiny in Patagonia.
June, 1519. Final preparations are underway for the sailing of Magellan’s fleet to find a route to the Molucca Islands, the sole source of cloves in the world. Over a year earlier, on March 22, 1518, the Portuguese Magellan signed an agreement with young King Charles of Spain to pioneer the route. Five ships purchased in Cádiz were towed up river to Seville, and there fully refurbished. Francisco Albo, first mate of the flagship Trinidad, works by Magellan’s side on the myriad of details necessary for a successful expedition.
Things haven’t gone smoothly. Officials of the Casa de Contratación de las Indies, which oversees Magellan’s expedition, spend as much time on their own illicit dealings as readying and provisioning the fleet. Nonetheless, Magellan is only months away from sailing. Manning the fleet is a special concern. Portuguese/Spanish rivalry has led to severe restrictions on the number of Portuguese on the fleet. Cliques within the Casa want it manned by Spaniards, but recruiting Spanish sailors isn’t easy. The plague has produced manpower shortages in Spain, and with the discoveries of gold in the New World, it’s more attractive to sign on to sail there than on some unknown route to a place a sailor has never heard of and under command of a foreigner. As a result, Magellan’s fleet will sail with a dysphoria from across Europe, including men from Norway, England, France, and Greece as well as a host of Italians.
More ominously, jockeying for the fleet’s final command posts is in process. Magellan ends up saddled with several mistrustful Spanish captains with no sea experience. That sets the stage for next year’s mutiny in Patagonia and later dire consequences.
January was my best month ever for Magellan’s Navigator. Thank you readers!
2017 was a breakthrough year for me. Sales of Magellan’s Navigator have been steady and it’s garnered many good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. As a writer, it’s immensely satisfying to see people enjoying my work, like the gentleman from Cebu in the Philippines who recently wrote a review on Amazon.
The sequel to Magellan’s Navigator is outlined and a quarter written. Think Master and Commander on a galley as Albo spars with the Barbary pirates. I just need a title for it.
I wrote enough words for a novel in 2017, yet published nothing. That will change soon when my new science fiction books Mindfield and Mindgames come out. They can be read as space opera, but Mindfield is really about one man’s search for his identity. I hope readers enjoy this book as much as I do. The setting for these books is forty years after my Truth-Teller books. Some of the characters in the latter reprise as secondary characters in the new books.
So I’ll have three books out in 2018. Best wishes to all in the New Year.
Writing is scary. You spend months conceiving, writing, and editing your book. Quite frankly, you aren’t sure how good it is when you are finished. Then you publish it and wait for a reaction…and it is so wonderful when readers like your book, as has happened with Magellan’s Navigator. It has recently gotten some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you reviewers for taking the time to share your thoughts. Also, each month’s sales have surpassed the previous month as more readers learn about Magellan’s Navigator.
The next book of Albo’s ‘memoirs’ will be of his piloting a Spanish galley in the Mediterranean against the ships of the infamous Barbary pirate Barbarossa. Albo also finds a little romance that’s almost as dangerous as Barbarossa is.
Monday I have an author meet and greet at the Poulsbo Book Stop for Magellan’s Navigator from 1 pm to 5:30 pm. Stop by and let’s chat about sailing, or cloves, or the Mariners!
Magellan’s Navigator recently got a great review from Barbara McMichael, the bookmonger. She ends it by saying “Magellan’s Navigator” is unsentimental muscular writing, packed with tension and adventure. Read the review here: http://www.coastweekend.com/cw/books/20170505/circling-the-globe-x2014-some-400-years-apart
Scurvy took its deadly toll on every long voyage during the age of exploration. Twenty years before Magellan left Spain, Vasco da Gama lost over half his men to scurvy on his return voyage from India. In comparison, Magellan lost only eleven percent of his crew when sailing across the immense Pacific Ocean.
Many authors I have read claim quince preserves accounted for Magellan’s low losses to scurvy. Quince preserves were a medicinal item during the Renaissance, as opposed to a tasty accompaniment to hardtack. Magellan’s quince preserves or marmelada probably were not like grocery store cherry or blueberries preserves. Instead, it was more likely the aged quince marmelada still sold today in Portugal, which has a firm texture. (Please see the accompanying photograph of quince marmelada purchased by my wife last year in Portugal.) Quince in this form should have stood up well to the rigors of Magellan’s long voyage. We know Magellan still had his quince preserves after sailing across the Pacific and reaching the Philippines as he gave it to the sick brother of the Cebu rajah per Antonio Pigafetta in his book Magellan’s Voyage. That Magellan still had the preserves confirms that he considered it medicine, as the crew consumed anything remotely edible in the long voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
Quince preserves has only about a third the vitamin C as citrus fruit, but it still packs enough punch to ward off scurvy. The importance Magellan attributed to quince can be measured by the 5,779 maravedis he spent on it in Seville, as compared to the 23,037 maravedis he spent on hundreds of pounds of beans. Did quince account for the relative healthiness of Magellan’s crew?
It probably helped, but a deep dive into the data gives us a better answer.
Deaths for all reasons because of the Pacific transit were as follows*:
Trinidad 4 of 60-70 6%
Victoria 14 of 45-52 29%
Concepcion 1 of 44-52 2%
Total 19 of 174 11%.
These figures raise several questions. First, the bulk of the deaths are on the Victoria. Furthermore, these deaths started a month after leaving the strait, while scurvy usually takes three months to develop. The fleet took 94 days from raising anchor in the Straits of Magellan to landfall on Guam, where fresh food was procured. So, the fatalities on the Trinidad and Concepcion are as might be expected, but why was the Victoria so savaged by scurvy and why did in occur so soon?
The key can be found in Pigafetta’s book, where we learn the Victoria spent two weeks searching the Straits of Magellan for the San Antonio, which had defected back to Spain. Meanwhile, the other two ships spent some of that time anchored in the “Bay of Sardines.” There Pigafetta says, “…we found…a very sweet herb called appio, of which there is also some of the same sort that is bitter. And this herb grows near springs, and (because we had nothing else) we ate of it for several days.” Appio is believed to be a wild celery rich in vitamin C.
Mystery solved. Those aboard the Trinidad and Concepcion had ample vitamin C stored in their bodies on leaving the strait, except for a few finicky eaters, like the Englishman Andrew of Bristol, who died soon after leaving Guam. The last fresh food eaten by the crewmen of the Victoria, on the other hand, was over a month earlier before Magellan even entered the strait. By landfall at Guam, 132 days at sea had elapsed for these men, and so the terrible death toll on the Victoria.
Perhaps the quince preserves had a role in preventing scurvy, but it was not the deciding factor during the crossing of the Pacific. In my novel Magellan’s Navigator, I built in a role for quince on the return voyage to Spain. My protagonist Albo remains scurvy free until he exhausts his last supply of quince marmelada. Soon afterward, his teeth start to loosen.
*The exact crew size of each ship is uncertain because around twenty-two of the crew of the wrecked Santiago transferred to these three ships. Some deaths occurred weeks after arriving in the Philippines, but are documented as being from effects of the Pacific transit
I’m one of the featured authors at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s historical fiction book signing.
I’ll have copies of my newly released historical novel Magellan’s Navigator.
There will be nibbles and a raffle.
Other authors and their books are:
Rebecca J. Novelli The Train to Orvieto
Deborah Lincoln Agnes Canon’s War
SJ McCormack Night Witch
I’d love to see you there:
Saturday, February 18th from 1 to 3 PM
at the PNWA Writer’s Cottage in Gilman Village, Issaquah, Washington