Around the Cape

The Portuguese fleet bombarded Calicut for a day, then set sail for Cochin, where they expected a more co-operative attitude. Cochin was officially a vassal of Calicut, but was out to assert its independence, and was willing to accept Portuguese assistance to achieve it.

So Cabral forged an alliance with the local ruler, in Cochin established a factory there, loaded a cargo of spices, and moved on to Cannanore for more of the same. 

The return voyage began on 16 January 1501, and while one of the ships was lost after becoming stranded on a sandbar, the remaining vessels reached Mozambique, took some time out to prepare for the passage around the Cape of Good Hope, and rounded it on 22 May.

By that stage, the fleet was reduced to two ships. One of the caravels had been diverted to Sofala, while another, captained by Nicolau Coelho, considered the fastest vessel of the four that remained was sent ahead to give notice of a successful voyage. 

Pedro de Ataíde's heavily laden vessel lost contact with the others after leaving Mozambique, but caught up with them at Dakar, near Cape Verde on 2 June. 

It would have been a serendipitous rendezvous. Apart from Cabral's three ships, Nicolau Coelho's caravel and the nau commanded by Diogo Dias presumed lost in the South Atlantic, a fleet sent from Portugal to investigate the coast of Brazil was riding at anchor on the way home.

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© Ian Hughes 2017