Tuesday 23 November 2021
Ok, so a wee while since I did a Nautical Nomad blog, the last being on my travels around the coast of Croatia and Malta.
This cruise finds me in the Caribbean and being here made me think of another great explorer Christopher Columbus (tongue in cheek) as it was in this area where he first landed after leaving Spain in August 1492 and arriving in what is now the Bahamas, landing on an island he named San Salvadore, after a
trip of two months, before sailing through the Caribbean.
Now this is where I am now and the difference from Chris and me is that I knew where I was going. You see, Chris thought he was heading for Asia and in particular India and indeed although he completed four expeditions, he never really realised that the large land mass that kept getting in the way of his passage
to India was in fact the Americas.
One of the main things that Chris discovered was that he was not much of a navigator, when he sailed around Cuba, he thought he had reached China. He sailed around the Caribbean for several months looking for riches to take back to his sponsors in Spain, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
He landed on an island called Hispaniola, now called Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I have been to both places and the poverty is heartbreaking.
One of the things that marked Chris’s travels was the violence killing and torture that he brought to wherever he landed. He wrote himself in his diaries that the people were invariably peaceful and did not possess weapons. He changed that and after leaving a party of colonists to develop Hispaniola and
return to Spain, he returned some months later to find that all the colonists he had left been slaughtered by the peaceful inhabitants. He had obviously learned them something.
Now one of the big differences between Columbus’s travels and mine in the Caribbean is that I make a point of killing and torturing as few of the locals as possible, I also, as matter of principal take very few slaves back to Scotland with me.
At one point the news of Columbus’s excesses reached Spain and the king sent a governor to Hispaniola to investigate the reports of brutality and cruelties, this resulted in Chris being sent back to Spain in chains, only to be released shortly after and sent back again. It is estimated that the local tribe the Taino, was reduced from something in the region of 250,000 to several hundred
within a few years.
So, all in all Columbus was not exactly a pillar of good. He did however open up the south American continent to Spain, making it at the time the most wealthy country in the world.
So back to my travels and I have kind of digressed and ran out of time as I have a few islanders to pack into the hold of the ship before dinner in connection with a new venture I have embarked upon related to Brexit. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a farmer in Mennies and he was complaining vigorously that because of Brexit he was extremely short of workers. Ok, I thought following in Columbus footsteps I would take back a few workers’ to test the market as they are well used to working in the open and would amply stand up to the searing temperatures we experience in open fields of Scotland, so hopefully this trip
can pay itself.
Oh, and one more thing, when was the last time you heard the name Hispaniola? Well, wasn’t that the name of the ship that sailed to Treasure Island in the Robert Lewis Stevenson book “Treasure Island” I wonder if the treasure island Stevenson had in mind was indeed Haiti? It was certainly
Columbus’s treasure island.