Page 90 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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condition. The directors however wanted also more certainty about the expected date o f
arrival of the returning fleets. They considered the period between April and October to
be the most favourable. The heavily laden ships could then reach harbour before the
autumn gales, and the goods could be auctioned before winter. Buyers could still ship
their purchased goods before the onset of frosts. So the authorities in Batavia had to see
to it that the return fleet departed in November and certainly not later than the 15th o f
December. At most a few naschepen (after-ships) were still allowed to sail before the new
year. This was decided in 1626, but in practice not much came of it. Sailing in fleets did
take place, but mass departure i n November proved impossible. 'Those o f the Indies'
reacted t o repeated upbraidings from home by argueing that the returning ships could
1 Warnsinck, Reysgheschrift, 39-50 et al.; Terpstra, Itinerario III, 61-116. For maps of winds and
currents see previous chapter.
Prof. dr. G. Schilder of Utrecht has drawn attention to these and others. Instructions on sailing
in formation in A R A , Losse aanwinsten 1853, Β II, 1 (Memoriaal Max. le Maire, 1645-1650, as
pointed out by dr. R. E . J. Weber) and Boxer, Jan Compagnie, 63.
Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 68, 42.
The same pattern of winds and ocean currents which determined the course on the voyage
out to Asia also determined the voyage home. It even made it possible to followthe
shortest route. All the way ships could sail before the wind, there was no need for tacking,
and moreover the currents flowed in the same direction. The southeast trade winds in the
Indian and Atlantic Oceans and subsequently the northeast trade wind and the westerlies
of the northern hemisphere were entirely favourable. There were no problems at the
equator, the south equatorial current helping ships through areas of calm. Only rounding
the Cape could b e difficult.
It is not surprising therefore that for the return voyage detailed instructions and sailing
orders were issued much later than for the voyage out. At first there was no need for
them. The Portuguese had already gained experience of winds and currents. Much of this
had been recorded in Jan Huygen van Linschoten's Reysgheschrift and in his Itinerario
proper. Navigation on the northern Atlantic was well known through shipping to West
Africa, the West-Indies and North America. Written instructions, issued to commanders
of returning fleets at departure from Asia, sufficed until well into the eighteenth century.
These instructions were only partly concerned with routes and navigation. The directors
were more occupied with matters like place and times of departure, and particularly with
the safety of the fleet in the latter stages of the journey, when a special sailing formation
had to be employed for most of the time. Not until well into the eighteenth century did
sailing orders and instructions appear in print, to be handed to every returning master.
This happened in the same period when instructions for the outward voyage were extended
and particularized, as in the case o f the wagenspoor.
Ports and times of departure
During the first decades of the Company's life, ships left Asia as soon as they had taken
in cargo. This changed when the resumption of the war against Spain and Portugal in
1621 necessitated sailing in convoy whenever possible t o 'be of assistance to one another
in danger and
A s
o f
the long
ships were
i n poor

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