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Sinking of the San Agustin

The Drakes Bay tragedy started an incredible journey.



Sinking of the San Agustin Painted by Gordon Miller in 2001

The 80-foot-long galleon San Agustin, with Sebastián Rodríguez Cermeño as its captain, left the Philippine Islands on July 5, 1595. On board were silks, other textiles and porcelains bound for New Spain (Mexico), several passengers, a crew of at least 70 men and one dog. Following a northern route, the perilous journey took 106 days — and very likely the lives of several crewmen. Then, off Punta de los Reyes in what is now Marin County, the San Agustin mysteriously sank, leaving 70 crewmen, Cermeño and the dog stranded at what is now Drakes Bay. Fortunately, a sailing launch had been unloaded before the San Agustin broke up in the surf. And on December 8, 1595, Cermeño, his 70 men and the pet dog boarded the 30-foot launch to sail to their true destination, Acapulco, Mexico — 1,500 miles away. Seven weeks later, Cermeño and all 70 men successfully made port; only the dog — a victim of the men’s near starvation — had perished. A half-hour documentary, The San Agustin: California Shipwreck, is available on DVD; contact thelencreative@gmail.com.

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