Leave Vera Cruz
Tuesday 20th July - having received all our freight on board (amounting in all to 700,000 dollars) we left Vera Cruz at 9 A.M. light winds with thunder, lightning and rain. Fine afternoon with moderate and pretty favourable wind. Land in sight all day.
Wednesday 21st - fine weather - calm all night and day till 2 oClock when an unfavourable breeze sprung up. Land in sight which appears high.
Thursday 22nd – calm all day till 4 P.M. at which time a light and pretty favourable breeze got up – land in sight, which was the mountain of San Martin and adjacent country. Weather very fine but very hot.
Friday 23rd July – very fine weather – calm all morning, till we had the sea breeze at 11 A.M. Land in sight.
Saturday 24th – very fine weather – moderate breezes in the morning –calm in the forenoon & favourable wind in the afternoon.
Sunday 25th – very fine but exceedingly hot weather, light and variable winds nearly favourable.
Monday 26th – very cloudy weather – wind fresh and favourable until towards evening when it became variable and moderate with a head sea.
Tuesday 27th – at 3 A.M. we were overtaken in one of those sudden tornados which you often meet with in these latitudes. Very cloudy weather. Fresh but unfavourable breezes with heavy sea.
Wednesday 28th – cloudy but pleas.t weather – strong unfavourable breezes.
Thursday 29th – changeable weather. Wind variable with squalls. Land in sight.
Friday 30th – fine weather all day – evening cloudy – wind variable. Land in sight low and sandy.
Saturday 31st – very fine weather – wind moderate and variable, nearly favourable till night, when we had to tack about from the land.
Sunday 1st August – very fine but hot weather. Nearly a calm till 2 P.M. when a favourable but light breeze sprung up and continued till 9 P.M.
Monday 2d – very fine weather – calm till morning at 9 A.M. we got a light & favourable breeze from seaward which carried near the land then the land breeze began, but unfortunately fell away, so that we had a calm all night.
Tuesday 3rd - it being a calm in the morning out men employed themselves successfully (as they had done for several mornings past) in fishing on the bank of Campeachy. No sooner was the line down than it was requisite to draw it in with a fish at the end, so that in a very short time, we had more fish than we knew what to do with - and we were obliged to throw away a large quantity as in this hot region nothing could preserve them. James Rowe caught the strangest fish that ever was seen at the end of a hook, viz. a large Turtle of about 400 lbs weight [335 lbs – in the margin] - which it is supposed had been hooked in the breast as the line dragged along the ground. It was strange that such an immense body should have been held so long by so slight a hold and that it should not at once have broken hook & line and all. But imagine that as he felt the pain of the hook, when the line was tautened, he followed it of his own accord, till he came to the surface of the water, where he was secured with ropes and hoisted on board.
About 11 A.M. we had a moderate breeze which had we been more to the Northward would have carried us on well but being near the land we were forced to tack about - go to the Northward. Fine weather all day. Evening cloudy with occasional rain.
Wednesday 4th August – cloudy weather with occasional showers – Wind very variable in strength and direction. From the appearance of the water we are suddenly within the influence of a current.
Thursday 5th – by observation this morning it was found that the current had been setting strongly to the Northward and Westward, so that when we had expected to be far to the Eastward we were badly deceived. Very fine weather. Moderate and unfavourable breezes.
Friday 6th – weather generally fine occasionally cloudy with rain. Found ourselves today within the influence of the current at the rate of 2½ miles per hour. Wind fresh and favourable.
Saturday 7th – cloudy, hazy weather - wind first part of the day fair - in the evening foul. At 9 this morning the island of Cuba came in sight, and we continued coasting along all day. Land partly high partly low, but on account of the haziness not very distinctly seen. At night we were only a short distance from Havana, which we could have reached in an hour, but the favourable sea breeze ceased, and was succeeded by that from the land, which obliged us to lay off and on all night.
Sunday 8th August - at 4 A.M. we were close to the Morro or Castle of Havana, and owing to the very rare circumstance of the land breeze continuing all day, it was not until 2.30 P.M. when we saw that all chances of a change of wind was vain, that we came to anchor close to the Castle. Immediately afterwards the Master was sent up to the Town for water, and I accompanied him. He was ordered to wait upon the Admiral (or Commandante of Marine) to present our Commander’s compliments and request the favour of being supplied with water. When we reached the House, we delivered our message thro’ means of one who understood English and were told that the Admiral was asleep - taking his siesta, and that it would be best to wait upon him after the lapse of two hours. Accordingly at the end of that time we returned - but there being no one who spoke English, we were only laughed at for our attempt to an explain our wishes and at last were compelled to go in search of a M.r Smith, who acts as interpreter to the Admiral. After a great deal of search, we could not find him and thinking it useless to waste more time, we returned on board. There all was activity - the captain had altered his intention of remaining at his present anchorage and determined to warp up to the City. Darkness came on before the operation could be fully completed - and what remained to be done was left until day light next morning. W.r cloudy with occasional showers.
Description of Havana
Monday 9th August - at 4 A.M. I went onshore with the Steward’s mate (the Steward himself being confined by a fracture of the ribs) to see the vegetable & flesh Markets at Havana. I was much pleased with [the] excellence and abundance of the different articles - but they were, with a few exceptions rather dear. You could procure green peas, turnips, potatoes, onions & indeed most European vegetables - besides several others, the growth only of a tropical climate. The flesh market was also well supplied with good beef &.c and both markets were crowded with buyers and sellers from the earliest dawn of day till 7 or 8 in the morning. The place itself is large but paltry, not at all corresponding to the elegance, which you might expect in so large and populous a city as Havanna. Having completed all the necessary purchases we returned to the Packet, which now lay a long distance from the Morro & opposite the Town. During the whole day, I was off & on - and indeed was so much occupied with my private affairs, as to leave myself but little time to perambulate the streets and look around more. Such observations however, as I did make, I shall now submit to your attention.
Havannah, the Capital of the island of Cuba, is a place of great strength, and equal importance. When Spain was Master of Mexico &.c it was considered the key to their possessions there, and every means were taken to fortify it in the strongest possible manner. A very narrow access leads you into the Harbour, and this entrance is completely commanded by two very strong forts on each side - by the Morro on the East, and the Punta on the West. No number of ships would have the hardihood to advance to the town in the face of such formidable dangers - and their only chance would be first to silence these batteries before attempting any thing further. But again supposing that these forts have been destroyed success is far from being certain - for a little beyond them are others equally strong, equally well manned and mounted. Thus it would be extremely problematical, whether Havannah could be taken by main force.
The City is built on the Western side of the Harbour, and tho’ at a distance it presents one whole uniform appearance, it in reality consists, of what is properly so called and a large suburbs. The city is quite detached from the environs, being encompassed all round with thick walls, which have gates for ingress & egress, with regular sentinels to each. From the descriptions which I had received, I had formed higher notions of Havannah than were justified by actual inspection. It is indeed a fine but not a grand City - containing many good houses - but few noble looking. The suburbs are of very diversified character, containing houses good, bad, & indifferent - but in truth I had not an opportunity of visiting them by day light. The houses being very high and the streets very narrow, and ill paved, all the appearance of the town is destroyed and many objects are passed unobserved because they are seen in this light.
I went into one or two of the churches and was much pleased with their grandeur of their proportions, unadorned as they were with gaudy finery, fit only to please children. This was particularly the case with the Cathedral, which is a noble pile, and its very simplicity and want of gold and silver showed the good taste of those who had the charge of erecting it, more than the poverty of the people. Tho’ deficient apparently in images of gold, silver & jewels it was richly furnished with what to a man of taste was infinitely preferable, viz. fine paintings. I cannot say, what were the painters - but the pictures are by far the best which I have seen out of Europe. Another instance which I remarked was that it had none of those large dolls decked out in faded silk and tinsel, miscalled Saints, with which most Churches are in general abundantly supplied.
Havannah is a place of universal trade and is indeed the richest of the West Indian islands. There is a greater bustle and a greater number of ships than I have yet seen abroad. The population is calculated to amount to about 180,000 exclusive of the suburbs, & hence the streets always present a lively appearance.