Page 100 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 After passing Flores and Corvo tw o ways were open to ships: through the English Channel or round the north of Scotland. Each year the choice was made at home, the commander of the returning fleet being instructed not to communicate this to the masters until after the Cape at a pre-arranged latitude, or to make them open sealed instructions at that point. For the first course ships should head largely northeast until 49°20', after which 'as the winds allowed' and avoiding the Isles of Scilly, they should sail through the Channel to their harbours. In 1754 on the initiative of Jan de Marre, an examiner of mates for the Amsterdam chamber, a more detailed description was arrived at as to how masters could avoid sailing up the so-called Wrong Channel (the Bristol Channel), a not unusual navigational error.18 On the second course ships sailed northnortheast up to 53°, then to 59° northeast, to reach the North Sea usually between the southern corner of Hitland and Fairhil (Siggar Ness on the Shetland Islands and Fair Isle).
Until 1628 all ships sailed through the Channel, but for a number of reasons the Heren Zeventien decided to make the 'backway' compulsory from that year on for ships due to arrive home before autumn. Risks of war and the activities of Dunkirk and Barbary privateers contributed to this decision, but also the fact that many a returning ship called at a southern English port. This might be necessary in view of either the ship's or the crew's condition, but it did create ample opportunity for the smuggling ashore of private colonial goods. Besides, the English authorities often adopted an uncooperative attitude and made departure difficult (see for instance 5184-5186). The route round the north of Scotland obviated all these difficulties, although weather conditions could be more unfa- vourable. The Heren Zeventien stuck to this decision. There was immediate general appro- valforthenew route.19
By sending small ship^with supplies of food and drink to the Shetlands area the returning ships could be suppliedivith the necessary provisions. This developed into standard prac- tice. In emergencies a number of ports of refuge were available in this region. Better control could be exercised on smuggling. It is difficult to assess from the records how strictly this use of the 'backway' was adhered to. It was certainly the case in wartime, but there are many indications that in the eighteenth century returning ships would often choose the Channel route. The 'backway' was a longer route which meant an extra strain on the heavily laden ships and their crews. To meet the crews' objections to this and 'to make the men more eager', from 1632 a bounty of three months' pay was handed out to all crewmembers, 'head for head'. In 1680 this bounty was reduced to two months' pay.2 0
From the beginning great care was taken for the safety of the returning fleets in European waters. There was a more or less fixed pattern of measures, instructions and prohibitions. Calling at English and French ports was prohibited, and for navigating the Channel detailed instructions were later issued. In 1624 at the Company's request the admiralties for the first time provided escorts of warships, and the Company also hired small ships for this work. It became customary for the navy to play a role in meeting the return fleets during the summer months. Around 1660 a permanent arrangement was made by which the admiralties equipped a few warships each year which, in consultation with the Company
18 A R A , V O C 127, res. Heren 17 of 22.3.1754. See Bontekoe in 1625 (Hoogewerff, Journalen, 190-192).
19 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 68, 12-13 and 555; Coolhaas, Generale Missiven I, 454 and 604.
20 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 68, 10-11; Van der Chijs (ed.), Nederlandsch-Indisch Plakaatboek
IV,432;DeBalbianVerster,'Oud-Hollandschebetrekkingen';Stavorinus,VoyagesI,194and III, 464.

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