........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Conjecture #5: Penelope sailed from Amsterdam in the spring of 1648 with a stopover in Curacao.

In the previous post I conjectured that de Kath picked up Penelope and her first husband in Curaçao. How could they get to Curaçao?

Dutch West India Company
The Dutch West India Company had responsibility for the trade and protection of all Dutch colonies along the Atlantic, such as Pernambuco in Brazil, west Africa, and New Netherland (which included the Manhattan region plus the Caribbean islands of Curaçaoand nearby Bonaire with its salt pans). In 1647 Peter Stuyvesant, the new Director-General of New Netherland, sailed to New Amsterdam by way of Curaçao, partly because Curaçao was part of his domain, and partly because it made sense.

Sailing Ship Routes
The route of a sailing ship was determined largely by sailing conditions and profit opportunities. As the Pilgrims learned when sailing directly west across the North Atlantic from England to Plymouth, the prevailing westerly winds made that a dangerous voyage of 66 days. John Winthrop’s fleet sailed from Yarmouth, England (51° N lattitude) to Massachusetts Bay (42° N) in 1630 via the Azores (40° N), a more southerly route, in 6 weeks yet the winds were still often from the west. In later years his Journal recorded the length of many voyages to New England, the fastest being 5 to 6 weeks, the longest being 12 to 20 weeks.

However, the more typical sailing route to the Caribbean is by way of the Canary Islands at 28° N. Even Columbus stopped here on his first voyage in 1492. The trade winds generally deliver ships to the Windward (literally, facing the wind) Islands of the Lesser Antilles, a long arc of small islands that mark the eastern edge of the Caribbean and stretch from Puerto Rico to Venezuela. While the Spanish concentrated on the Greater Antilles (that is, the big islands of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba, and Jamaica), the English and French were able to colonize Windward Islands such as Barbados, St. Lucia, and Martinique before 1650. The Dutch settled further west in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

According to Wikipedia, in 1644, before the workforce began to shift to African slaves, the Caribbean island of Barbados had a population of 30,000 (compared to about 23,000 in New England and maybe 1000 in New Netherland), mostly English indentured servants working the sugar fields. By 1660, when the population was 27,000 black and 26,000 white, this one island generated more trade than the rest of the North American English colonies combined. At first, Dutch traders supplied the financing and African slaves and transported most of the sugar to Europe. This information is pertinent because 1) it shows that Curaçao (about 500 miles away from Barbados) was near the trade routes in the 1640s and 2) Conjecture #3 mentioned that the New Jersey Concessions retained much of the language of the Carolina Concessions that were intended to lure small Barbados farmers who couldn’t compete with the neighboring big slave-driven plantations by 1665.

Four ships that sailed from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam in 1648
Since I published my novel, I learned from Olive Tree Genealogy (which I think took its data from Jaap Jacobs’s master’s thesis in Dutch) the names of three ships with passengers that left Holland for New Amsterdam in the spring or summer of 1648 and one that probably sailed later in the year . Those were

1. den Valckenier (The Falconer owned by the trading family Verbrugge, whose son Seth Verbrugge appears in the novel as a merchant) was detained on 23 Jun 1648 upon its arrival in New Amsterdam and searched for smuggled goods. No record on what was found. It departed for Holland after 31 Aug 1648.

2. Pijnappel (also spelled Pynappel, which translates to Pineapple and was owned by Hardenbergh) arrived in New Amsterdam before 18 Jul 1648 and departed after 23 Sept 1648.

3. Prins Willem (which translates to Prince William and was owned by the West India Company) arrived in New Amsterdam before 5 Aug 1648.

4. Jonge Prins van Deenemarcken (translates to Young Prince of Denmark, possibly a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet) arrived in New Amsterdam after 21 Dec 1648.

The above discussion is intended to show that there was considerable ship traffic between Holland, the Caribbean islands, and the New Amsterdam/New England area and thus it is plausible that Penelope sailed from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam by way of Curaçao.

Privateering in 1654
I just came across a detailed treatise entitled Ships and Workboats of New Netherland 1609-1674 that contained an interesting tidbit:“In June 1654 the yacht de Huen (Cock) left New Amsterdam for Curacao, her official orders being to bring back a cargo of salt. She had, however, been‘equipped with such munitions of war as she requires.’ In spite of this generous armament, she was taken by the Spanish on her homeward voyage.”

Again the comments section awaits you. Does anyone know any good reference books on the 17th century sailing routes in the Atlantic?

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