Page 73 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 Cape to Bantam was not a quick one, since unfavourable winds, heat and calm could slow down progress.
Another sea region where the Company ships met with difficulties was the Atlantic Ocean close to the equator. There were tw o possible courses to be followed and the Portuguese were familiar with both. Each of them had its disadvantages. Sailing close to the West African coast and on through the Gulf of Guinea, the opportunity of fresh supplies on the islands of Principe, S. Tomé and Annobón or Cape Lopez Gonsalvez was available. This could cause considerable delay, as well as possible conflict with the local Portuguese and Spaniards. Besides, from here it was difficult to reach the northeasterlies which prevailed nearer the South American coast and were indispensible for the continued journey round Africa. If on the other hand a ship sailing from Europe remained far out in the Atlantic, heading in the direction of the American coast, there was the risk in the doldrum zone of it being driven off course in a northerly direction by the south equatorial current. The width of this zone was not consistent, it becoming narrower towards the west. The crucial factor for a smooth passage across the ocean was to ensure that the Abrolhos shallows along the Brazilian coast at approximately 17 degrees southern latitude remained on the starboard side of the ship.6 But on the whole the supposedly safer route via the boght (Gulf of Guinea) was for the time being the preferred one.
As to ports of call, there was no set pattern as yet. Most ships called at one of the Cape Verde Islands, but from then on there was much variation, including ports in the Gulf of Guinea, S. Helena, at the southern tip of Africa, and the islands of Madagascar and Mauritius already mentioned.
Directors at home were much interested in the ships' journals. These were scrutinized for information on the sea route. In any case their complete contents were of great public interest, witness the fact that many journals dating from the first decades of the Asiatic trade appeared in print.7 New geographical details and data on currents and shallows were added to existing maps. A s early as 1602 the Company appointed a cartographer, the clergyman-geographer Petrus Plancius (1552-1622), who from the start had been involved with the scientific as well as the financial preparations for the Asiatic trade. Many masters made a number of voyages and contributed from their growing experience.8
Not until the second decade of its existence did the Company begin to issue stricter instructions as to routes, in an attempt to impose greater uniformity and to achieve shorter voyages. During 1610-1615 the average duration of the voyage amounted to ten months or more! First, in 1614, it was decided that the Cape Verde Islands were to be used as regular ports of supply, but two years later this was countermanded, for then Table Bay at the Cape of Good Hope was designated sole port of call, and the use of other ports prohibited 'except in the most dire emergency.'
During the following years more measures were taken. The sea route to Asia was kept under constant review. The first seynbrief or seylaesorder (sailing orders) was officially issued in 1617, a year after its inception. This was done because of the new Indian Ocean route which will be discussed later. Sailing orders consisted of a collection of practical suggestions and regulations, which could be extended and revised according to circumstan- ces. These first ones consisted of eighteen clauses concerning the voyage to Asia. Masters
6 Cf.Plancius' Memorie van de Oost-Indische vaart, in De Jonge, De opkomst I, 184-200.
7 Tiele, Mémoire bibliographique. Cf. also Commelin, Begin ende voortgangh.
8 A R A , V O C 313, f. 656-661, 13.9.1627. Keuning, Petrus Plancius, 98-99, 139 and 144-145.

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