1606 - The Duyfgen (E)
I, Philip Hanszoon,
of the ‘Duyfgen’ meaning ‘Little Dove’,
a meticulously crafted and spirited jacht,
the word taken from ‘jachen’ meaning to hunt or pursue,
a fast, lightly armed ship
intended for valuable cargoes
or for privateering,
was commissioned by the
Vereinigde East India Company and
brought to life using construction techniques
practised by the most successful Dutch shipwrights,
the lower hull being built plank-first,
of northern oak and imported from Latvia,
pre-bent to shape over an open fire.
With six sails -
foresail, mainsail, spritsail, fore-topsail, main-topsail and mizzen –
she was selected as the ‘jacht’ or ‘scout’
to patrol and guard the five ships of the Moluccan Fleet
Skippered by Willem Janszoon,
with a crew of twenty men,
we set sail to discover the land of Nova Guinea
and other unknown east and south lands.
valued more highly than gold
which could be sold at great profit
because they were brought at great expense
from the other side of the world,
being the purpose of our quest,
and steered hither by a ‘whipstaff’,
a vertical pole connected through the deck to the tiller
the wooden beam protruding from the top of the rudder into the hull, at the ‘aft’ or rear end of the main cabin,
the steersman having a ‘binnacle’, a wooden box containing a compass, sandglass and lamp.
On Christmas day
the five ships reached Bantam in Java
and encountered a blockading fleet of Portuguese ships
totalling eight galleons
and twenty-two galleys
and engaged them in intermittent battle until driving them away on New Years Day.
The Moslem rulers
had gradually been driven out of the Iberian countries
by new Christian rulers who had good reason
to buy spices from other sources
and it was the Portuguese who developed Navigation
making voyages of discovery
which culminated in Vasco da Gama reaching India in 1497,
the sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope
allowing the Portuguese to bring spices
direct from the markets of Southeast Asia to Europe –
a dangerous but highly profitable traffic.
Thus ended the undisputed dominance
of Portugal and Spain over the spice trade.
After repairs to the war damage
we made a survey of Jakarta Bay,
where the Dutch later built Batavia
their capital in the Indies.
Thereafter we sailed by way of Tuban
to the spice island of Termate
where we loaded cloves
and then to Banda for a cargo of nutmeg.
Our Little Dove,
weighing one hundred and ten tonnes
when not carrying anything,
and one hundred and fifty tonnes
when fully laden
and a full twenty-four metres in length,
sits two point eight metres under the water and
the highest part of the ship
the poop deck, at the stern,
six metres above the waterline.
Life on board was largely routine.
We slept on deck,
only the captain and ship’s officer sharing a small, stuffy cabin,
the spaces below being reserved for the precious freight.
Daily activities included the trimming of sails,
maintaining the rigging,
the rope being of natural hemp and manila,
and the sails of hand-sewn ordinary flax,
pumping the bilge and scrubbing the decks
in addition to being on watch.
Cooking was done in the galley
a simple metal box open ended at the front and top,
in which a fire could be built
and pots of food for cooking,
were suspended on a metal rod running from side to side.
Food occasionally incorporated fresh fish but
fishing in the deep open ocean
was not often successful and
meals generally were of smoked or salted meat or fowl
with rice and oats,
biscuits or dried bread, beans and dried peas
and meagre supplies of lard, oil and vinegar.
Rations were strictly controlled
and anyone wasting
or refusing food or drink
was severely punished.
Alcohol was served daily for fluids,
the crew each being permitted to bring a barrel of beer.
And when the beer ran out - there was wine and brandy,
as water which is stored in wooden barrels
becomes putrid after a very short time.
On our return voyage we visited the tiny
Island of St Helena,
to which we found our way,
by knowing that the sea south of Africa
was of relatively shallow nature,
a mere two hundred metres, or there about.
Navigators were able to find their latitude
but had no reliable way to find their longitude.
Thus, using a lead plumb to measure the depth
and putting a sticky substance on the end of the weight
to bring up sand or mud from the bottom,
and expecting too,
that in this area, we would see many seabirds
and a kind of seaweed known as ‘trompen’,
so that with these clues, plus our latitude,
we knew when we could change course to sail up the Atlantic.
Thereafter, we headed for a position to the east of our target
and when we reached the latitude of the island,
after sailing nine thousand miles out of sight of land
and fresh water and provisions,
we turned due west and sailed straight on
until we found safe refuge at
St. Helena isle.