Page 77 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 77

 But for the Heren Zeventien the attraction of the 'backway' did not only lie in the fact that the risks of war could be avoided that way. Masters who encountered any sort of adversity after setting sail, would often use this as an excuse for seeking out a port or roadstead in southern England, where they used to wait unnecessarily long for better weather conditions. There the Company was unable to exercise proper control over smugg- ling and desertion. Employees on their way to take up their posts in Asia made eager use of these waiting times for outings on shore, including sightseeing in London.1 4 Along the 'backway' such opportunities were decidedly scarcer! The Company might forbid the calling at English ports, nevertheless the expression 'direst necessity' was liberally used as an excuse to go there all the same. The first prohibitions were issued in the 1620's and they were often repeated. During the eighteenth century in particular prolonged stays in the southern English ports were an ineradicable abuse. Company agents in these harbours attempted to exercise a semblance of control.
All these circumstances and considerations however did not result in one strict regula- tion. Both routes remained in use in times of peace as well as war. The route round Scotland was considered less desirable, because it was estimated by Pieter van Dam and by eighteenth century opinions to lengthen the voyage by one month. The DUBBELE AREND and VELSEN (0348 and 0349) in 1627 were probably among the first ships to take the route round Scotland. From October to February or March masters had to sail the Channel route, but from 1631 onwards it was left, in varied terms, to their 'good judgment' to make the choice. In times of war the northern route was usually made obligatory from spring to autumn.1 5 The fact that after the ADELAAR (2729) in 1728 not a single ship was wrecked near the Shetlands or Hebrides would lead to the conclusion that in the course of the eighteenth century the 'backway' became little used. A warning dating from 1745 could be connected with this. In view of the increased duration of the voyage masters were exhorted 'when meeting with a contrary wind in the North Sea not to sail round the north forthwith.'1 6
b. The wagenspoor
Having sailed through the Channel or round Scotland, ships made for Porto Santo and Madeira Island and then west of the Canary Islands. After passing the Cape Verde Islands there followed a stage which could produce great difficulties. As already mentioned, ships on the Atlantic north of the equator ran the risk from spring to autumn of sailing either too far west, or too far east and ending up in the Gulf of Guinea. At first the latter in particular was frequently the case. In the sailing orders of 1617 masters were warned emphatically 'not to head too much east' and to sail 'as close to the wind as at all possible' to cross the equator. A t that point the Company still assumed that sometimes it was simply not possible to avoid the Gulf of Guinea, although Coen in particular thought it unneces- sary and often done on purpose. He urged strict regulations.17 The bounty system formed an incentive for faster voyages.
14 See for example in 1774 counsellor Wichers (ARA, Aanwinsten Eerste afdeling 1953, VI,f. 7-11). Mrs. H . de Vrieze-Graafland has pointed this out.
15 A R A , V O C 123, res. Heren 17 of 28.8.1742; Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 63, 660-663; Colen- brander, Korte Historiael, 98.
16 ARA, VOC 124, res. Heren 17 of 12.11.1745.
17 ARA, VOC 313, f. 58-61 and 61-64; Colenbrander, Jan Pietersz. Coen I, 308 and 718-719.

   75   76   77   78   79