I continued to range along the coast, till we opened the northern point of the isle, without seeing a better anchoring-place than the one we had passed. We therefore tacked, and plied back to it; and, in the mean time, sent away the master in a boat to sound the coast. He returned about five o’clock in the evening; and soon after we came to an anchor in thirty-six fathoms water, before the sandy beach above mentioned. As the master drew near the shore with the boat, one of the natives swam off to her, and insisted on coming a-board the ship, where he remained two nights and a day. The first thing he did after coming a-board, was to measure the length of the ship, by fathoming her from the tafferel to the stern, and as he counted the fathoms, we observed that he called the numbers by the same names that they do at Otaheite; nevertheless his language was in a manner wholly unintelligible to all of us.
Having anchored too near the edge of a bank, a fresh breeze from the land, about three o’clock the next morning, drove us off it; on which the anchor was heaved up, and sail made to regain the bank again. While the ship was plying in, I went ashore, accompanied by some of the gentlemen, to see what the island was likely to afford us. We landed at the sandy beach, where some hundreds of the natives were assembled, and who were so impatient to see us, that many of them swam off to meet the boats. Not one of them had so much as a stick or weapon of any sort in their hands. After distributing a few trinkets amongst them, we made signs for something to eat, on which they brought down a few potatoes, plantains, and sugar canes, and exchanged them for nails, looking-glasses, and pieces of cloth.
We presently discovered that they were as expert thieves and as tricking in their exchanges, as any people we had yet met with. It was with some difficulty we could keep the hats on our heads; but hardly possible to keep any thing in our pockets, not even what themselves had sold us; for they would watch every opportunity to snatch it from us, so that we sometimes bought the same thing two or three times over, and after all did not get it.
Before I sailed from England, I was informed that a Spanish ship had visited this isle in 1769. Some signs of it were seen among the people now about us; one man had a pretty good broad-brimmed European hat on, another had a grego jacket, and another a red silk handkerchief. They also seemed to know the use of a musquet, and to stand in much awe of it; but this they probably learnt from Roggewein, who, if we are to believe the authors of that voyage, left them sufficient tokens.