Privateer Magdalena. A Brief history

See a picture diary and notes on how we made her in our privateer gallery.

She was one of 3 ships designed by the then notable firm of Ship Architects, Meteren Brothers who were based in Harlem, in the Netherlands in the fall of 1686. Built at the Rikard shipbuilders in Amsterdam, as a shallow draft merchantman for the Dutch West Indies Trading Company, she was designed for coastal and inland waterway trading, her compliment of guns was eight 9lb’s low in the hull, so giving clear deck space for trade etc. Sponsored by the Dutch West Indies Trading Company, and with her keel laid in 1689, and finally completed the following spring of 1690.

But a European War, latterly to be called “The War of Spanish Succession” soon put paid to trade especially in the Indies, as the Spanish were flexing their muscles and trying to stifle trade, especially with the fledgling nation, the Netherlands. Of which they have only recently gained their independence from Madrid.

And so she was left settled in the mud dockside, until a British naval conglomerate of businessmen wished to purchased her for trade and Privateer work.

So in the Summer of 69, she was then sailed across the English Channel into the River Roach, in the Essex Marshes, where she was fully fitted out for the work she was expected to do. Victualed, and made sea worthy, and crewed by many local men, she set sail around the coast to the Royal Arsenal, in the Thames Estuary. This was where her new twelve, 12lb cannon compliment, was added to the original eight 9lb’s.

Of these heavy guns eight were sited on the middle upper deck, and four on the stern upper deck. The 9lbs were positioned in the Captains quarters four, and the remaining two on the bow deck, to be used as chasers. As all this additional weight was added, all the lower gun ports, of the original design were to be sealed, as she now sat much lower in the water, her new draught giving her more stability on the open sea. To this was added a greater spread of sheet, to maintain her fleetness.

The first trip across the Atlantic was to Jamaica, was without note. Here to join the throng of other Privateers in the Carribean, After a few captures and minor skirmishes with other Spanish merchantmen, she was enrolled in the invasion plan. Here in Jamaica the plan was formulated for the attack on the Spanish pirate stronghold of Isla Negra. Magdalena’s main task was to intercept the vessels running in and out of the island, so as to isolate it from the rest of the Spanish Main.

So on April the 23rd, 1693. Her task was to sail into the harbour area and engage any ships in there, and so distract the Spanish Fortress, and bring the rest of the island garrison to the town. So a landing could be made on the other side of the island and take the fortresses from behind.

After the capture of both fortresses and island, Magdalena resumed her Privateer role until the end of the war in 1716. Where upon the constant station at sea, and damage in battle reduced her to a merchant role for the navy supplying the English Garrisons in the Carribean. She was eventually abandoned in Jamaica, in 1722, broken up, and with the last of her guns became part of the islands defences.

See more pics in our Los Isla Negra pirate gallery

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