Page 125 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 125

 Nederburgh and Frijkenius, and False Bay became the mandatory port of call between April 10th and September 5th. Ships arriving at Table Bay before the 10th of April had to leave the bay no later than April 20th.19
Earlier on, in 1766, masters of homeward ships had already been ordered to bypass the Cape whenever they happened to leave port in Asia after January 1st. Only when the ships' council or Brede Raad of the fleet considered it necessary for the preservation of the ship or for the feeding of the crew was deviation from this rule permitted. The wording of the instruction given to the masters proved loose enough however for them to deviate from the rule ; as already pointed out in chapter 5, near enough all ships called at the Cape.2 0
On departure from the Republic or Batavia or any other port in Asia, masters were provided with instructions on the secret signals to be used on arrival at the Cape.2 1 The VOC was conscious of the vulnerability of this 'far corner of Africa' and of the need to prevent its small garrison being suddenly overrun, or costly VOC ships sailing unsuspec- tingly into enemy hands, should the Cape have been occupied by an enemy without the masters being aware of this. There were two look-out posts at the Cape itself, one on Robben Island outside Table Bay, and one on the so-called Leeuwenkop (Lion's Head), from where the watch could survey the sea into the far distance.
As soon as the look-out on the Leeuwenkop, who was the first to sight any ships, got a ship in view, he hoisted a flag at his post and on the mast placed on the Leeuwenstaart (Signal Hill) further along, and fired a gun to warn the guard at the castle. The ships possessed a careful description of this flag and could see therefore that the Cape was indeed still in Company hands. On Robben Island the Prinsenvlag (flag of the Republic) was run up. The use of signal flags there was considered dangerous: if in case of attack this island was to fall into enemy hands, these signal flags might be used to mislead the VOC ships. A certain number of gun shots was therefore prescribed as signal of recognition.2 2
Once arrived in the bay, the ships were received by the equipagemeester. Sometimes a small pilotboat was sent out to show ships their allotted anchorage. Once the ships were properly anchored the equipagemeester was usually the first to climb aboard and welcome the master and others on board. He then put a number of questions concerning the ship's origin, destination, numbers on board, number of deaths since departure and number of sick on board.2 3 This information was obtained not only from VOC ships, the masters of ships o f other nations were also asked such questions. When persons o f high rank were on board an official reception followed. Gun salutes were exchanged, and the governor and other members of the Council went on board to welcome the official in question; later, in the eighteenth century, it became customary to await the important visitor at the jetty.24
19 Böeseken, Die Nederlandse kommissarisse, 16-17.
20 VOC 4320, Instruction for the homeward ships, 3.4.1786, to which is added the decision of the
ship's council of the H O F T E R LINDEN (8191) to deviate from this instruction and call at the
Cape allthesame.
21 Letters from the Cape to Batavia and Ceylon with directions for signalling in Van Dam, Beschry-
vinge,vol.68,48-50;cf.Jeffreys(ed.),KaapseArchiefstukken IIIS,300,397.Seealsoch.2,p.35. 22 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 63, 682-683; Mentzel, Description, 98-99. According to Stavorinus
in the late eighteenth century the signal flags themselves were changed each month; Stavorinus, Voyages,I,538.
23 Böeseken, Die Nederlandse kommissarisse, 14-16.
24 Mentzel, Description, I, 153. These particulars were noted down in the Daghregister of the Cape
and in the tables as in VOC 12050, see ch. 11, p. 205.

   123   124   125   126   127