Sir Francis Drake was an English navigator and explorer, born near Tavistock. He served an apprenticeship as a mariner, and in 1567 he was given his first command. His ship, the Judith, was one of a squadron of vessels led by a kinsman of Drake, the English navigator Sir John Hawkins, on a slave-trading voyage in the Gulf of Mexico. All but two ships of the expedition were lost when attacked by a Spanish squadron. In 1570 and 1571 Drake made two profitable trading voyages to the West Indies. In 1572 he commanded two vessels in a marauding expedition against Spanish ports in the Caribbean Sea. During this voyage, Drake first saw the Pacific Ocean; he captured the port of Nombre de Dios on the Isthmus of Panama and destroyed the nearby town of Portobelo. He returned to England with a cargo of Spanish silver and a reputation as a brilliant privateer.
Sir Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon (a small market town in Southwest London) between the years 1540 and 1543. His father was a farmer, who later became a preacher at Chathem, which is south of London. When he first went to sail the sea it was in coastal ships that sail on the Thames River. Then Thames River is located in Ontario, Canada. Drake's father, Edmund Drake, may have been a sailor, but there is no evidence that proves that. He may have been a farmer on the land of Devon that his parents own. Drake's mother was of the Mylwaye family but her first name is unknown. Edmund Drake and his wife had twelve sons, Francis Drake was the oldest.
From 1566 to 1569, Drake sailed on two slave-trading voyages organized by his cousin, Sir John Hawkins, a famous sea dog. Hawkins obtained slaves in Africa and sold them to West Indian plantation owners. These voyages brought protests from both Portugal and Spain. Portugal did not want English competition in the slave trade, and Spain objected to English ships sailing in Caribbean waters. The slave-trading voyages gave Drake valuable sailing experience.
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