The most usual time of the arrival of the galleon at Acapulco is towards the middle of January: But this navigation is so uncertain, that she sometimes gets in a month sooner, and at other times has been detained at sea above a month longer. The port of Acapulco is by much the securest and finest in all the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean; being, as it were, a bason surrounded by very high mountains: But the town is a most wretched place, and extremely unhealthy, for the air about it is so pent up by the hills, that it has scarcely any circulation. The place is besides destitute of fresh water; except what is brought from a considerable distance; and is in all respects so inconvenient, that except at the time of the mart, whilst the Manilla galleon is in the port, it is almost deserted.
When the galleon arrives in this port, she is generally moored on its western side, and her cargo is delivered with all possible expedition. And now the town of Acapulco, from almost a solitude, is immediately thronged with merchants from all parts of the kingdom of Mexico. The cargo being landed and disposed of, the silver and the goods intended for Manilla are taken on board, together with provisions and water, and the ship prepares to put to sea with the utmost expedition. There is indeed no time to be lost; for it is an express order to the captain to be out of the port of Acapulco on his return, before the first day of April, N.S.
The principal return is made in silver, and consequently the rest of the cargo is but of little account; the other articles, besides the silver, being some cochineal and a few sweetmeats, the produce of the American settlements, together with European millinery ware for the women at Manilla, and some Spanish wines, such as tent and sherry, which are intended for the use of their priests in the administration of the sacrament.
This difference in the cargo of the ship to and from Manilla, occasions a very remarkable variety in the manner of equipping the ship for these two different voyages. For the galleon, when she sets sail from Manilla, being deep laden with a variety of bulky goods, has not the conveniency of mounting her lower tire of guns, but carries them in her hold, till she draws near Cape St Lucas, and is apprehensive of an enemy. Her hands too are as few as is consistent with the safety of the ship, that she may be less pestered with the stowage of provisions. But on her return from Acapulco, as her cargo lies in less room, her lower tire is (or ought to be) always mounted before she leaves the port, and her crew is augmented with a supply of sailors, and with one or two companies of foot, which are intended to reinforce the garrison at Manilla. And there being besides many merchants who take their passage to Manilla, her whole number of hands on her return is usually little short of six hundred, all which are easily provided for, by reason of the small stowage necessary for the silver.