The Santa Margarita was part of the 1622 Tierra Firma Fleet, along with the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, and 26 other ships. The 1622 Spanish fleet was bringing the wealth of South America back to the kingdom of Spain as part of the annual treasure fleet system. Spanish galleons involved in the shipping of treasure from the New World traveled in a fleet for their mutual protection against pirates, privateers and nations with whom Spain may have been at war. In 1622, the fleet was late
arriving in Havana, Cuba, the staging area to the trans-Atlantic trip.. It was not until the final weeks of August that all the vessels were present. Although well into the hurricane season, letters from Phillip IV, King of Spain, stating the urgent economic needs for delivery of treasure, swayed the captains of the fleet to chance the crossing. An astrologer was consulted who declared September 4th would be the best day to go as all the planets were in alignment, an important and auspicious celestial event.
The Spanish fleet left Havana, Cuba, the morning of September 4th, and traveled for a day when the ships captains encountered a vicious Northeast storm. Given the slow speed of the galleons, and the "push" they received from the current of the Gulf Stream, the fleet was likely to have been close to the latitude of today's Miami when the storm was encountered. The wind was too much for these ships. The order was
This great galleon was swept along by the current and the wind toward the shallows until she went aground on a "sandbar". Historical accounts relate waves repeatedly crashed over the Margarita until she broke apart, and was eventually scattered by the storm.
The Margarita and the Atocha were in sight of one another when those on the Margarita witness the Nuestra Senora de Atocha crash into a reef, lift up off the reef and quickly sink. Historical accounts from those aboard the Margarita tell of the violence of the storm.
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given to turn back and make a run for Havana, to weather out the storm in the safety of the port. Through the evening of September 5th the force of the storm's winds intensified. By the early morning hours of September 6th the fleet was scattered along a line sixty miles north of the Cuban coast, dangerously close to the reefs and shallows of the Florida Keys. The storm winds had shifted and strengthened through the night. Now directly out of the south, the fleet was battered with hurricane force winds estimated at 110 mph.
Soon after the sinking of the Atocha, sailors aboard the Margarita began to deploy anchors in an attempt to stay in the relatively deep water of Hawks Channel, and away from the shallows.
One by one the Margarita's anchor lines parted.