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.
I can safely say that the sequel to Magellan’s Navigator will be out before George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of War. Okay. I know that isn’t saying much. Let me rephrase that. I believe the sequel to Magellan’s Navigator will be out this year. Half of it is written and in good shape, while all of it is plotted.
Briefly, the sequel is Master and Commander on a galley in 1523. Albo becomes master and pilot on the Spanish galley Cruz de Barcelona. He battles, as usual, the sea, but also the corsairs of the infamous Barbary pirate Barbarossa. Actually, Barbarossa wasn’t a pirate or from Barbary, but that is part of the story. A blonde countess enlivens Albo’s life while the implacable hatred of his captain for the Moors complicates things.
My attempt to understand early sixteenth century galleys slowed progress on the book. There is no definitive source of exactly what a Spanish galley looked like at this time. There is a replica galley in Barcelona’s Maritime Museum of the flagship galley at the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Unfortunately, this huge ship is not representative of galleys fifty years earlier or even in 1571. There are detailed plans of Venetian galleys. In the end, I assumed Spanish galleys were somewhat larger, more heavily armed, but less agile.
I’m hoping fans will enjoy reading it as much as I am writing it.
My working title is The King’s Galley, but I’m open to suggestions. I thought of Master and Pilot for about five seconds until I realized that was probably too close to Master and Commander.
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.
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!
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