Having expedited all the affairs of his government, and collected an armament of 80 sail of different sorts and sizes, on board which 2000 soldiers were embarked, besides mariners and rowers. Don Stefano de Gama set sail from the bar of Goa, at sunrise of the 31st December 1540, on his expedition to Suez. The wind was easterly, blowing from the land, and they advanced under an easy sail, coming to anchor about ten o’clock at the mouth of the river Chaparoa. Proceeding on their voyage till the 13th of January 1541, they saw in the morning of that day great quantities of weeds which grow on the rocks of the sea coast, and soon afterwards a sea-snake, being indications of the neighbourhood of land; and when the sun was completely risen, they descried the island of Socotora, whither they were bound in the first place, bearing due south.
[Footnote 262: We now take up the Rutter or Journal of Don Juan de Castro, but Purchas has chosen to omit the navigation from the Malabar coast to the Island of Socotora, to avoid prolixity.—E.]
After coming to anchor at this island, I inquired at the principal pilots of the fleet how far they had reckoned themselves from the land when we first came in sight. The chief pilot was 90 leagues short; the pilot of the Bufora galleon 100 and odd; those who made the least were 70 leagues short; and my own pilot, being only 65 leagues, was nearest in his reckoning. They were all astonished at this difference, and all affirmed in excuse for their short reckoning, that the way was actually shorter than was expressed on the charts; with them the Moorish pilots concurred in opinion, affirming that it was only 300 leagues from Goa to Socotora. The island of Socotora is 20 leagues in length from east to west, and 9 leagues broad, being in lat. 12 deg. 40’ N. on its north side. This northern side runs east and west, somewhat inclined towards the north-west and south-east The coast is all very clear without rocks and shoals, or any other hinderance to navigation. The anchoring ground in the road is sand, stony in some places, but not of such a nature as to cut the cables. On this side the north wind blows with such force as to raise up great heaps of sand over the hills, even beyond their highest craggy summits. In the whole circuit of the island there is no other place or harbour where a ship may winter in safety. The sea coast all around is very high, and girt with great and high mountains, having many pyramidal peaks, and having a grand appearance. The tides on the coast of this island are quite contrary to those on the opposite shore of India, being flood when the moon rises in the horizon, and as the moon ascends the tide of ebb begins, and it is dead low water when the moon comes to the meridian of the island; after which, as the moon descends, the tide begins to flow; and when set it is full sea. I made this observation for many days by the sea side, and always found it thus.