The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

By Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; Martin A. Favata et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
How We Left the Bay of Horses

The bay from which we departed is called the Bay of Horses. 1 We traveled seven days through those bays in waist-deep water without seeing any sign of the open sea. Then we arrived at an island 2 near the mainland. My boat was first. We saw five Indian canoes coming from the island, and the Indians abandoned the canoes when they saw us approaching them and left the canoes in our possession. The other boats overtook us and put in at some lodges on the island. There we saw many dried mullet and roe, which relieved our great hunger. After we took them, we went ahead, and two leagues from there passed a channel between the island and the mainland 3 which we called San Miguel in honor of the day on which we sailed out through it. 4 Once through it, we were on the open seacoast, where we used the canoes I had taken from the Indians to improve our boats, making washboards 5 from them and securing them in such as way that our vessels rose two spans above the water.

We then turned our attention to sailing along the coast in the direction of the River of Palms, with greater hunger and thirst each day because we had few provisions and these were running out. We ran out of water because the skins we made from the horses' legs rotted and became useless. Sometimes we entered inlets and bays that extended far inland, all of them shallow and dangerous. We went on this way for thirty days and sometimes encountered Indians who fished, a poor and wretched people.

At the end of thirty days, we needed water very badly. We heard a canoe approaching while we were sailing along the coast. Once we saw it, we waited for it to reach us, but it refused to face us. Although we called out to it, it did not return or wait for us. Since it was night we did not follow it but went on our way. At dawn we saw a small island 6 where we went to see if we could find water, but our effort was in vain since there was none there. While we were anchored there, a very great storm came up, and we waited six days before we dared go out into the open sea. Since we had not drunk water for five days, our thirst obliged us to drink salt water. And

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