Scenario: Believing that the buccaneers have returned to the Caribbean via the Isthmus of Darien, the Santo Rosario puts to sea from Callao, destination Panama. On July 29, 1681 off Cabo Pasado, Ecuador, she sights a sail in pursuit and prepares for battle.

Cabo Pasado, from Basil Ringrose’s account in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.
Cabo Pasado, from Basil Ringrose’s account in The Buccaneers of America, 1684.

Forces: The buccaneers number roughly 64 men aboard the Trinity under the command of Bartholomew Sharp. However, a dozen or more are slaves or otherwise unfit to bear arms or are not permitted to. The buccaneers are armed only with small arms: there are no great guns (cannon) aboard.

The Spanish merchantman is commanded by Don Diego Lopez. Crew and passengers number roughly forty, including at least eighteen slaves, some of whom may bear arms, and at least one woman who will have no active role in any fight. The Rosario has only small arms for her protection. The ship is of “indifferent big burthen.”

Another view of Cabo Pasado, from Ringrose’s account.
Another view of Cabo Pasado, from Ringrose’s account.

Historical Action: The fight is over quickly when the Spanish captain and one of his crewmen are killed. The inditement of Bartholomew Sharp, John Cox, and William Williams (William Dick) for piracy states that Sharp fired the shot that killed Don Diego Lopez, causing a wound near the left nipple one inch wide and four inches deep.

Plunder includes brandy, wine, oil, fruit, and slaves. The buccaneers remove seven hundred jars of wine and one hundred of brandy “to serve us homewards.” Also in the hold are seven hundred pigs of silver the buccaneers will mistake for tin or pewter and leave behind to their great loss. The take only one aboard for melting into bullets and such, and waste two thirds of it this way. The last part they will sell cheaply at Antigua to a man from Bristol who recognizes if for what it is, but does not tell the buccaneers.

The buccaneers also capture a derrotero or waggoner—a book of charts—of the entire South Sea coast. It is an intelligence coup, and the book ends up in the hands of the English Crown. Basil Ringrose will copy it for his own unpublished waggoner, and William Hacke will make other copies to be closely held as a state secret. Spanish captains are supposed to throw such documents overboard before capture, but the captain being killed, his crew failed to follow up.

Basil Ringrose writes that aboard the ship was “the most beautiful woman that I ever saw in all the South Sea,” and Bartholomew Sharp similarly writes, “In this Vessel we took also a Prize of the Lady call’d Donna Joanna Constanta, about 18 Years of Age, Wife to Don John —–

—, and the beautifullest Creature that my Eyes ever beheld in the South Seas.” The ship and prisoners, excepting eighteen slaves, are released two days later.

Game Notes: This can be a fairly even fight if the Spanish will fight—and be lucky enough not to lose their captain! Perhaps roughly 30 fighting Spaniards versus 50 or so buccaneers. The problem of course is in arms: the Spanish probably don’t have enough.