Page 75 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 have these and other instructions printed.1 2 They contained an exposition of the prevailing winds which ships could expect in various parts of the oceans during each month of the year. Further mention will be made of these instructions and of the sailing orders later on.
Ports and times of departure
Ships belonging to the six chambers, when departing from their respective ports, did not put straight out to open sea. Those from Amsterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen would gene- rally gather at the Koopvaardersrede behind Texel, where they were supplied with their final requirements. They would then put to sea via the Marsdiep. The Delft and Meuse chambers had their ships supplied after leaving Delfshaven and Rotterdam, in the Meuse estuary, but more often in the so-called Goerese Gat near Hellevoetsluis and Goeree. For the larger vessels this was generally the preferred place. The Zeeland ships gathered in the Rammekens roadstead and mostly went to sea via the Wielingen. Departure depended on the force and direction of the wind. Under adverse conditions it could be weeks before the voyage was commenced.
At first in the wake of the voorcompagnie├źn there were two periods in which the majority of ships left home: around Christmas and around Easter. Departure in December and January had some very important advantages which outweighed the risk of prolonged frosts and storms. In wintertime most branches of shipping were at a standstill and sailors were more easily engaged than during the rest of the year. Provisions too were more easily and freshly available, so soon after the harvest and slaughter months. Furthermore, of prime importance was the fact that ships of the so-called Christmas fleet reached the difficult zone of the Atlantic near the equator in the right season, and that their goods and mail reached Batavia at a favourable time for their speedy processing. During the first part of the seven- teenth century nearly half of all ships left during these two months. Later this time of de- parture became less favoured, but one quarter still put to sea during December and January.
April and May too were from the first regular months of departure for the East. The so-called Easter fleet set sail at that time. Weather conditions along the Dutch coast and in the Channel, or north of Scotland, were not as bad then as in winter, but these ships arrived at the equator at an unfavourable time. Connections with intra-Asiatic shipping were not as good as for the Christmas fleet, which at first was therefore more numerous. From the second half of the seventeenth century however the Easter fleet was no longer very much smaller in numbers. The majority of all ships would always sail during these four months of the year, until the last decades of the eighteenth century. Only towards the end of the Company's life was this no longer the case.
Planned sailing dates were not always realized because of practical problems with fitting out, or weather conditions. Dates of departure were never certain. In order to make sure that at least part of the fleet arrived in Batavia in good time for the trade links with outposts in India, China and Japan, the Hoge Regering asked at an early date for a few ships to be sent in advance of the Christmas fleet. This happend for the first time in 1627-1630 and after 1636 it became standard practice. The Amsterdam chamber was the first to do this, followed in due course by the other chambers. These ships departed in September or October. In Amsterdam they were known as the Fair Fleet, after the tradi- tional September fair. Soon this fleet was no longer limited to a few ships.
12 A R A , VOC 313, f. 649-656: id. 234, res. Amsterdam chamber 7.11.1652. (Prof. dr. G . Schilder has pointed this out). Boxer and others date the introduction mistakenly as late as 1654 (Boxer, 'The Dutch East-Indiamen', 90).

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