Page 38 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 38

 the agenda of the spring meeting. The planned timetable: purchasing of timber straight after the decision, leaching timber and laying down keels in November or December, after which the ships would stand in the yard for at least three months to be finished off in the spring, would make it possible for the new ships to sail in September of the following year. This was important because returning ships put into port mostly during August and September and first had to be unloaded and patched up before they could sail again, resulting in a shortage of ships on hand right at the beginning of the season.10
Shortening the time of construction was not really possible: this would have a detrimental effect on the quality of the ships. The wood had to be leached for at least six months, whereafter ships had to stand in the frames in the yard for a minimum of three months for the wood to dry out properly. In Zeeland ships were on the stocks between ten and twelve months, as Willem Udemans, master shipwright of the Zeeland chamber, explained to the Heren Zeventien in 1769 - a statement born out by the dates of the laying of the keels and the launching of VOC ships in the Jaarboekje of this chamber.11
The season ended, in June or sometimes in autumn, an investigation took place to ascertain in how far the equipage and building of new ships had involved deviation from the ratio between the chambers laid down in the charter. The standard applied was not the number of ships, but the number of lasts.12 In subsequent decisions about equipment and building of ships any deviations from the ratio could then be corrected. It is true that each year a financial 'liquidation and equalization' took place as well, yet the chambers set store by receiving their right share in construction and equipage also. For in these activities great material interests were involved. Directly and indirectly, through the invol- vement of many middlemen, all this was of benefit to employment and prosperity in the chamber cities. That this matter was also closely watched beyond the circle of directors - who incidentally had very close connections with the city councils - was clearly demon- strated by an incident of 1672, in which the Zeeland director A. de Muncq was concerned. In this year the homeward bound fleet had put into the river Ems, having been rescued from Bergen in Norway by a squadron under admiral De Ruyter. From there they were escorted to Texel. D e Muncq, one of the directors in charge of receiving the returning ships, was accused by the Middelburg guilds of having consented to the large Zeeland ships being taken to Holland. There the ships - the WAPEN VAN GOES (1238), the TIDORE (1254) and the WAPEN VAN ZIERIKZEE (1256) - were made ready for departure again, thus depriving the Middelburgers of considerable earnings. De Muncq was forced to obtain declarations from his colleagues that he could not have acted otherwise on account of reports from the commanders of the men-of-war, and that he was not to blame in the matter.13
The Heren Zeventien did not confine themselves to the allocation of duties to the cham- bers, in the course of the seventeenth century they began increasingly to concern themsel- ves with the execution of these duties. This exertion was directed at careful management and particularly at uniformity and led to an ever increasing number of instructions and regulations. The ranks on board ships and their respective wages, the stores and rations, the supply of medicaments, the nautical instruments and charts to be issued, all this was
10 V O C 158, res. Heren 17, 3.3.1705; V O C 160, id., 22.3.1713; V O C 175, id., 15.10.1759. 11 ARA,VOC11356, C. S. Matthaeus, Kortgevat Jaarboek in VOC11048.
12 For the consequences of this method for the statement of lasts of VOC ships, see p. 43. 13 A R A , VOC 7249, res. Zeeland 5.9.1672.

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