Page 48 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 chapter 4 . However, each ship was also given an individual sailing order, for either the
route through the Channel or the 'back way' round Scotland. In these printed papers
name of ship and master were filled in, as well as names of VOC correspondents in possible
ports of call on the way, to whom the master could appeal for help when necessary.
instruction on the secrete seynen (secret signals) to be used when calling at the Cape of
Good Hope was sent along in a sealed envelope. This letter was not to be opened until
the Leeuwenberg on Table Bay was sighted. Directions on the system o f beacons in the
Landsdiep near Den Helder were also sent along in a sealed envelope, only to be opened
if against expectation the ship was forced to return to the Texel roads without a pilot on
board. In all other cases these instructions were to be handed unopened to the governor
of the Cape.
Outward bound ships tended to sail not in large fleets but mostly in small squadrons
of two to five ships. In accordance with the seinbrief always one of the masters was
appointed commander o f the ships. This seinbrief also contained rules for the flying o f
flags and pennants, saluting etc. Thus it was ruled that VOC ships were to carry onthe
main topmast a flag or, after 1680, a pennant, to distinguish them from private merchant-
In days of war special measures were necessary and departing fleets were formed
into convoys which were given far more elaborate instructions and seinbrieven. Thus in
1781 extensive instructions and seinbrieven were devised for a fleet of seven 'armed ships'
which the directors wanted t o dispatch in September o f that year. They stated the flags
and pennants the various masters were tofly and the signals to be used by the commander
in various manoeuvres. The instructions prescribed a rendez-vous with ships from Zeeland
and Delft - all of them secret instructions which were to be kept in a lead lined ship's box
with holes in it which was to be thrown overboard if surrender to the enemy became
The handing over o f the instructions was followed by a last muster and the reading o f
the principal articles in presence of the director. Then the ship could sail. Departure might
be delayed for weeks however, due to unfavourable winds or, in winter, icedrifts. This
waiting could lead to great tensions amongst the ship's company, the more so because
pay did not start until the ships were out at sea. In winter especially sailors and soldiers
often called on the directors for payment o f board-wages over the sometimes very long
period between embarkation and departure.
In contrast to the arrival of the homeward bound fleets, departing East Indiamen were
not escorted by Company galliots or admiralty ships. But V O C ships often sailed together
45 ARA, VOC 5042, Zeilage-ordre for the RIDDERKERK (4137), master Michiel Hendrik Wun-
der, 9th March 1772; Wunder was also given command over the squadron of three ships: the
JONGE LIEVE and the WESTERVELD (4136 and 4138) sailed with the RIDDERKERK.
46 ARA,VOC5042,intheZeilage-ordresfoundthere;VanDam,Beschryvinge,vol.63,699-700.
47 ARA, coll. Radermacher, 99; see also Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 63, 685-686.
48 VOC 5044, Zeilage-order and Seinbrief for the 'armed ships'. The ships sailed in October 1781,
but returned to Texel five days later, to sail again in July 1782. The ships concerned were GAN-
(4393-4399). With thanks to dr. R . E . J. Weber, who pointed out the importance of such seinbrie-
49 VOC 250, res. Amsterdam, 5.1.1719, in respect of board-wages for the crews of the SCHONEN-
BERG (2374) and NOORDBEEK (2373) and id., 22.5.1719, board-wages for the crew of the
ship LEIDEN (2389). See also De Hullu, 'Matrozen en soldaten', in: Bruijn and Lucassen, Op
de schepen van de Oost-Indische Compagnie, 54-55.

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