Page 99 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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 January offered the best chance ofaspeedy voyage across the Atlantic(table19).
Table 19: Average duration of voyage The Cape - Netherlands by month of departure (in
1602-99 120 115 117 118 125 119 116 169 120 105 107 132
1700-95 117 113 108 111 116 128 140 143 139 113 110 118
As a result of the measures o f 1742 however, the practice of sailing together in convoy
was gradually abandoned, and simultaneous arrival home took place less and less. Ships
from Bengal, Ceylon and China in particular went their independent ways after the Cape
as well.
From the Cape homewards
a. The route
The route to be followed after the Cape was almost self-evident. Seventeenth century
instructions mentioned little more about this than that it was left to 'the disposition' o f
the commander of the returning fleet; later instructions followed. 'Time-honoured expe-
rience' and instructions agreed that ships first headed east of S. Helena and always sailed
into sight of this 'buoy in the middle of the Spanish Sea (= Atlantic Ocean)', as Van
Linschoten called this island. This was considered necessary for position finding.
From S . Helena a northwestern course was held alongside Ascension up to approxima-
tely 12° north, after which a northerly and northwesterly course was sailed for the western
Azores, the islands of Flores and Corvo rising high above the water. These were situated
at about 40° north and could be passed on either side. It was a matter of constantly sailing
with full sail and not too close t o the wind. Probably a number o f fleets deviated from
this course in the third decade of the eighteenth century. They sailed directly northwest
after leaving the Cape and did not head for S. Helena. The directors were none too pleased
with this change under 'the vain pretext o f shortening the way thereby' and from 1 7 4 2
they prescribed the entire course to b e kept. This left so little freedom in navigation that
J. S. Stavorinus and his fellow masters in 1778 decided to make no mention in their
journals o f the fact that for twelve days they sailed northwest t o north after Ascension,
instead o f northwest a s laid down. Because o f this they crossed the equator a t a more
easterly point and meant to shorten the route this way. This deceit was necessary to avert
Of the islands passed on this route S. Helena offered opportunities for fresh supplies.
It was also used as a rendez-vous for ships that had missed calling at the Cape. The island
played a role in both these capacities until the middle of the seventeenth century. Occu-
pation by the English in 1659 made it unsuitable in times o f war between England and
the Republic.
Later S. Helena's facilities for fresh supplies became insufficient for more
sizeable fleets. Ascension was uninhabited and barren. This, or any other island was only
visited in exceptional circumstances.
15 Terpstra, Itinerario III, 86.
16 ARA, VOC 5031, res. Heren 17 of 14.3.1742; Stavorinus, Voyages III, 465-467.
17 De Hullu, 'De Oost-Indische Compagnie en St. Helena'. Also Van Dam, Beschryvinge, vol. 87,
496 and 501-502 and Coolhaas, Generale Missiven II, 399 and III, 347.

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