(Note. A full account of the Manila ship will be found in Chapter 22 below.)
The character they gave us of this vessel, on which the money was to be shipped, left us little reason to believe that our ship, which had been in the water near two years, could have any chance of coming up with her, if we once suffered her to escape out of the port. And therefore, as we were now discovered, and the coast would be soon alarmed, and as our cruising in these parts any longer would answer no purpose, the Commodore resolved to surprise the place, having first minutely informed himself of its strength and condition, and being fully satisfied that there was little danger of losing many of our men in the attempt.
The town of Paita is situated in the latitude of 5 degrees 12 minutes south, in a most barren soil, composed only of sand and slate; the extent of it is but small, containing in all less than two hundred families. The houses are only ground floors, the walls built of split cane and mud, and the roofs thatched with leaves. These edifices, though extremely slight, are abundantly sufficient for a climate where rain is considered as a prodigy, and is not seen in many years; so that it is said that a small quantity of rain falling in this country in the year 1728, it ruined a great number of buildings, which mouldered away, and, as it were, melted before it. The inhabitants of Paita are principally Indians and black slaves, or at least a mixed breed, the whites being very few. The port of Paita, though in reality little more than a bay, is esteemed the best on that part of the coast, and is indeed a very secure and commodious anchorage. It is greatly frequented by all vessels coming from the north, since it is here only that 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 impossible to perform them without calling upon the coast for a recruit of fresh water. It is true, Paita is situated on so parched a spot that it does not itself furnish a drop of fresh water, or any kind of greens or provisions, except fish and a few goats; but there is an Indian town called Colan, about two or three leagues distant to the northward, whence water, maize,