Page 51 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 the stern. The width or breadth was measured on the outside of the beam, i.e. 'inside the skin', again at the level of the lower deck. By depth was meant the distance between the inside of the keel's outer planking and the underside of the lower deck, at the height of the scuppers or the freeboard. The right relationship or proportion between these three dimensions was of the utmost importance, otherwise the result would be a too slender or a too clumsy ship. Master shipwrights and directors of the six shipyards have always taken liberties with these dimensions. As early as 1616 the Heren Zeventien instituted sanctions against breaches of their resolutions, but the constant reiteration of these, in varying terms, leads to the suspicion that they were not actually applied.4
The large East Indiamen were divided into rates (classes). Each rate had its own fixed dimensions. In 1614 these were respectively 150 χ 33 χ 13 ft, 138 χ 36 χ 14 ft, 130 χ 26 χ 12 ft. In the resolutions the Amsterdam foot measure of 11 inches was retained, measuring 28.3 cm. Chambers using a different foot measure were frequently reminded that they ought to regard the Amsterdam foot as their base. From the beginning these measurements have been regularlytinkered at.Inlookingback onacentury ofshipbuildingVanDam concludes that 'one can but read with the greatest astonishment of the alterations that from time to time, now this way, then that, were made or occurred; having been understood one way this year, and another the next year.... it being greatly to be wondered at that in the course of 100 years it has not been possible to arrive at the proper understanding of any one rate.'5 So the dimensions of 1614, which in turn were based on those of 1603, were altered on numerous occasions. In 1626 a maximum lenght of 160 ft. was agreed upon. With the exception of the years 1637-1651 this was meddled with no further. During that period only the Zeeland chamber was allowed to build ships of 170 ft length,and finally on two further occasions, in 1660 and 1665, permission was given to build to that length. Butthe dimensions of the smaller rates were changed allthe more and their 'proportions' adjusted. A t the same time constant changes in the navigational depth of estuaries and harbours made close attention to the ships' draughts imperative. All cham­ bers except Zeeland had constant problems with draught.6
Square stern ships (spiegelschepen)
From the beginning East Indiamen formed the nucleus of the Company's fleet. As the Dutch name retourschepen indicates, they were destined first and foremost for shipping between the home country and Asia. The name retourschip does not denote a special type of ship, but the particular use made of a certain type of ship.7 Outwardly East Indiamen differed little from warships. They were armed with guns mounted on gun carriages, with gunports on either side of the ship. The difference with warships lay in the number and weight of the guns, but more so in the dimensions of the hull, particularly in the 'propor­ tion', the fullness of the hull shape. They were all spiegelschepen, square stern ships, the hull ending at the back in a flat square plane, the spiegel. The opposite of square stern ships were the round-backed ships. These had a round, curving ending to the hull. East Indiamen had a great capacity for cargo, but were also most suitable for carrying passengers because of their two or three continuous decks. The wide after end of the ship offered
4 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol 63, 461-467; Van Beylen, Schepen van de Nederlanden, 34-35.
5 Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 63, 456 and 475-476.
6 Ibidem, 470 and 472. Cf. nos. 931, 948, 965, 1048 and 1057. The tonnages of nos. 948 and 965
should be 1210 instead of 840. For the construction of no. 735 see Ketting, Prins Willem.
1 This name is not mentioned in the ships' lists.

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