Page 111 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 111

 particular times. In the chapter on the seaway to Asia the conclusion was drawn that in the eighteenth century the departure of the much increased volume of shipping was no longer ruled by Christian festivals or Amsterdam amusements!
Batavia's geographical position and central role in itself caused an important difference in Dutch sailing patterns from those o f other European companies. There are however two more factors complicating a comparison between Dutch shipping and that of others. During the pre-industrial era Europeans had to pay for the bulk of Asiatic goods with precious metal. The VOC found the necessary silver and gold close at hand in Amsterdam, a circumstance not applicable in the case of most other companies. A number of their ships, provided with insufficient precious metal at home, first headed for Cadiz in Spain. There the necessary quantities of piasters were taken on board. French, Danishand Swedish vessels did this regularly during the eighteenth century. But the East India Com- pany as well had its ships call at Cadiz on numerous occasions between 1695 and 1730.14
The second factor was the obligation on VOC ships to use the Cape of Good Hope as supply station en route. Early in the seventeenth century masters were ordered to break their journey at the Cape, and after the founding of Cape Town in 1652 nearly every outward bound or returning ship dropped anchor in Table Bay or False Bay. It was more or less an order to profit from the facilities there.
The Cape was indispensable to the VOC, but only because of the volume of its shipping. The long duration of the voyage to Asia and back demanded a break. This applied to all companies. Every place suitable for victualling was used, but there were not many of them, namely the Cape Verde Islands, the Azores, S. Helena and Madagascar. These places were never well stocked with the supplies needed. For the VOC fleet they soon had insufficient to offer, or in the words of an instruction about S. Helena 'fresh supplies of meat and vegetables ... on S. Helena can not be acquired in abundance for many ships.'15 The large fleets, heavily manned with sailors, soldiers and other passengers - during the eighteenth century amounting to three- to four hundred heads per ship - needed a permanent and well supplied base. Such was the Cape. For as long as the other companies sailed small numbers of ships, often carrying sailors only, they could manage on the limited facilities of the islands mentioned. They could always call at Table Bay if necessary. A s soon however as in the second half of the eighteenth century their shipping began to expand considerably, their need for more elaborate facilities increased. The Cape could offer these, the islands could not. Open to all nationalities, Table Bay and False Bay were increasingly frequented by non-Dutch ships. From 1772 on foreign ships were in the majority!16
Calling at the Cape was detrimental to a fast voyage. For a sailing ship making for Java the Cape lay off course. Driven by the south-east tradewind and later by northeasterlies, a ship in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean sought out the westerlies prevailing at 30 degrees and higher latitudes. With the help of these westerlies there was no difficulty in sailing into the Indian Ocean. Heading for the Cape interrupted this progress and took time, as did the return to the route afterwards. Anchorage at the Cape, initially rated at ten days, appeared to get longer and longer and eventually became as much as four
14 Dermigny, La Chine, 249 and 740-741; G0bel, 'Kinafarter', 17; Koninckx, Swedish East India Company, 126-127; Chaudhuri, The trading world, 169-172.
15 A R A , V O C 5036, Instructions for East Indiamen of 22.4.1768.
16 Beyers, Die Kaapse Patriotte, 237-239: in 1700: 43 Dutch and 18 foreign ships, in 1725: 65 and
8, in 1750: 60 and 21, in 1772: 58 and 60, in 1775: 56 and 64, and in 1790: 56 and 101.

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