26th
Apr
2013

Posted in Reference

The Dutch fluyt (pronounced "flight") was a popular dedicated merchant vessel first built in the 16th century, used both by the Dutch and other nations who saw the worth in the design for around 300 years. The Netherlands was a powerful and wealthy seafaring empire. Though eventually superceded by Great Britain, they didn't give up the position of top dog without a fight or three, resulting in the Anglo-Dutch wars. One daring strike that showed Dutch tenacity was the Raid on the Medway, where they sailed up the Medway in 1667 during the second war and burned  around a dozen vessels at anchor and towed away two prized vessels of the British fleet- one was the HMS Royal Charles, the fleet's flagship.

As mentioned before, the fluyt was a dedicated merchant craft. Despite carrying the same number of masts as a full rigged ship, there were significantly less sails to contend with. This and the small to non existent armament carried on board meant that the vessel could be handled with a fairly small crew- it is one thing to competently sail a vessel, another thing entirely to facilitate the hundreds of crew necessary to handle the large numbers of cannon carried by a military vessel. This lack of armament was intentional, as was the decision to not design the vessel to be up-gunned in times of war. Cannon weighed a signifcant amount, and the required space for an individual cannon was more than just that taken up by where it sat, with extra space needed for the crew to work it and for the gun to recoil amidships. Getting rid of the cannon meant more space for cargo- and more cargo meant more money.

The fluyt was primarily designed for use in the European trade theatre, particularly in the Baltic sea. The incredibly narrow top deck was purposefully designed in order to circumvent Danish taxes on passing through the three straits into the Baltic- this tax was based on the area of the top deck and  didn't take in to account the actual cargo capacity of the vessel in question. The Dutch East India Company made use of the vessel during their wide ranging and dominating hold on trade in the East Indies, dealing in lucrative commodities such as coffee, spices and slaves. With a little help from this tremendous vessel, the D.E.I.C. remains the most valuable company to have ever existed- adjusting for inflation, it was worth around $7.4 trillion by the end of the tulip mania bubble in 1637.

by Kafevend

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