This attack on Payta, besides the treasure it promised, and its being the only enterprise in our power to undertake, had also several other probable advantages. We might, in all probability, supply ourselves with great quantities of live provisions, of which we were in great want; and we should also have an opportunity of setting our prisoners on shore, who were now very numerous, and made a greater consumption of our food than our remaining stock was capable of furnishing much longer. In all these lights, the attempt was most eligible, and to which our situation, our necessities, and every prudential consideration, strongly prompted. How it succeeded, and how far it answered our expectations, shall be the subject, of the succeeding section.
Capture of Payta, and Proceedings at that Place.
The town of Payta is in lat 50 deg. 12’ S. [long. 81 deg. 15’ W.] being situated in a most barren soil, composed only of sand and slate. It is of small extent, being about 275 yards in length along the shore of the bay, and 130 yards in breadth, containing less than two hundred families. The houses are only ground floors, their walls composed of split canes and mud, and the roofs thatched with leaves. Though thus extremely slight, these edifices are abundantly sufficient for a climate where rain is considered as a prodigy, and is not seen in many years: Insomuch that, a small quantity of rain falling in the year 1728, is said to have ruined a great number of buildings, which mouldered away, and melted as it were before it. The inhabitants are chiefly Indians and black slaves, or of mixed breed, the whites being very few. The port of Payta, though little more than a bay, is reckoned the best on this coast, and is indeed a very secure and commodious anchorage, and is frequented by all vessels coming from the north, as here only the ships from Acapulco, Sonsonnate, Realejo, and Panama, can touch and refresh in their passage to Callao; and the length of these voyages, the wind for the greatest part of the year being full against them, renders it indispensably necessary for them to call in here for a recruit of fresh water. Payta itself, however, is situated in so parched a spot, that it does not furnish a drop of fresh water, neither any kind of vegetables or other provisions, except fish and a few goats. But, from an Indian town named Colan, two or three leagues to the northward, water, maize, vegetables, fowls, and other provisions, are conveyed to Payta on balsas or floats, for the supply of ships which touch there; and cattle are sometimes brought from Piura, a town about thirty miles up the country. The water brought from Colan is whitish and of a disagreeable appearance, but is said to be very wholesome; for it is pretended by the inhabitants that it runs through large tracks overgrown with sarsaparilla, with which it is sensibly impregnated. Besides furnishing the trading ships