Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pirates wrote the history of the region

Legends and deeds of pirates, castaways and treasure hunters have always sharpened the curiosity. On the island of Ilhabela legendary figures such as Thomas Cavendish and the french bucaneer Duguay-Trouin seeked for shelter. Nowadays, bars, shops and restaurants take advantage of these romantic names using them to inspire their own names and decoration. Strolling around this area is returning a little bit to the times of one-eyed and one-legged big blackbearded scoundrels that sometimes had their King's or Queen's Carte Blanche to fetch what was available and easy to steal.
To protect the area from invaders and corsairs, the village of São Sebastião was established in 1636, in the vicinities of the "Armação das Baleias" (a whaling port), right in front of the island with the same name. The village of Vila Nova da Exaltação da Santa Cruz de Ubatuba ("New village in honour of the holy cross of Ubatuba") was founded in 1637 at the premises of the old village of Iperoig. The island of São Sebastião was a "free for all" place for english and dutch pirates as well as french corsairs.To many modern adventurers (and dreamers) this past left the certainty of several hidden treasures on the Ilhabela island, mainly around the "Castelhanos" bay, curved towards the open sea where two excellent natural harbours, the "Sombrio" and the "Eustáquio" inlets gave shelter to many ships in the past.
Thomas Cavendish
The most famous pirate to drop the anchors in the bay of Castelhanos was the " Inglês"or "Candish" ( 1560-1592). He left Plymouth on July 21, 1586, with 123 men on three ships. Only one ship came back, the 140 ton galleon "Desire".From the Cap Verde Islands Cavendish sailed to Cabo Frio in Brazil and went South all the way down the coast till reaching Patagonia. After two years of pillaging and ransacking he went home. Stimulated by this kind of financially rewarding exploration, he couldn't resist to start another same minded adventure and left again his homeland in 1591 with a small flotilla of five ships.On his second "expedition" Cavendish is said to have used Ilhabela as a base harbour for four months, during which he took advantage of the available time by looting the town of Santos for Christmas, and heating up a little bit the village of São Vicente by scrupulously setting everything on fire. A mutinity caused by different viewpoints about how to split the loot, is said to be the motive for a preposterous crew to hang their captain on the main yard of the galleon Leicester, in splendid view of the bay of Castelhanos.
Another famous visitor of Ilhabela was the french nobleman and corsar (and admiral!), René Duguay-Trouin (1673-1736). His success - filled career included the victorious looting of Rio de Janeiro in 1711, when he demanded and got an indemnification for his departure worth a meager 610 thousand cruzados.After the filling of he ships up to the gunwales with the loot, two of the galleons cut loose from the main fleet of 17 ships, and according to some stories may have dropped anchors in the bay of Castelhanos to hide part of the treasures , or maybe only to fetch water and food. Fact is that the two ships disappeared forever from the sea.Duguay-Trouin went back to France where he was promoted to squadron chief (chef d'escadre) and lieutenant-general of the naval armies (lieutenant général des armées navales) in 1728.


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