Page 49 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 49

 with other merchantmen - such as straatvaarders on their way to the Mediterranean, ships for Africa or the West Indies - and these ships stayed together for as long as a common course could be kept. Only after 1783 were VOC ships sometimes escorted by men-of-war on their way to Batavia. A t that point the admiralties had come to the VOCs rescue to defend the Company's position in Asia, particularly in the Malacca Straits, for which purpose in that year a naval squadron had been dispatched under command of Jacob Pieter van Braam. Several times in the succeeding years men-of-war were again sent out, as in 1785 when a small squadron sailed under command of the naval officer Willem Silvester. O n their voyage out these vessels at the same time provided escorts for VOC ships.5 0
Homeward bound East Indiamen sailed where possible in fleets. These fleets were awaited on the North Sea or at the entrance to the Channel by VOC cruisers and several men-of-war. In times of danger instructions for route and signals on meeting these ships were determined in good time by a committee of the Heren Zeventien and sent over to the Cape, to be handed to the commanders of the returning ships. A s soon as word was received at the chamber that the homebound fleet had been sighted - the skipper or fisherman carrying the news could be sure of a reward - preparations were made for the reception. A few directors were sent to the roads, the lighters were made ready to take the goods from the ships to the warehouses, and sufficient cash was held in readiness, if necessary by way of loans, to pay the crew.51
After arrival of the ships in the roadstead the directors went aboard to welcome the officers, inspect the ships and thank the crew. Valuables like diamonds and precious stones were taken personal charge of by the directors, and were not to be shown before the next meeting of the Heren Zeventien. On disembarkingthe crew were only allowed to take some clothing, the chests not being released until after inspection at the Oostindisch Huis. Meanwhile all official papers had been received by the directors and sent to the chambers, where the cargo lists were printed and preparations could be started for the auctions. One of the directors stayed behind in the roads to supervise the unloading. The commander of the returning fleet reported on the voyage in the Amsterdam chamber, or Zeeland when this chamber was presiding. He then received a verering (honour), a silver chain to the value of fl 500, or the same amount in cash; high officials however who returned as admiral could count on a gift of fl 1,000. The last act took place in The Hague, where the commander of the returning fleet, accompanied by several directors and the Company advocaat, gave a report to a committee from the States-General.52
50 See Appendix V. The 1785 escort was given to the DRAAK, NEPTUNUS, STRALEN and VREDENBURG (4507-4511).
51 A R A , V O C 252, res. of the Amsterdam chamber, at an extraordinary meeting on Sunday 17.7.1718 such measures are taken after news on the homeward bound fleet under command of Hayman de Laver. The Amsterdam res. shows that usually four to six directors were sent to Texel.
52 On the reception of returning ships see Glamann, Dutch-Asiatic trade, 27-28. On meeting with the homeward fleet, see hereafter, p. 88-89.

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