Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Posts
    959

    Default Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier

    Iím currently reading ďAt Sea With PiratesĒ, by William Dampier, an English privateer, pirate, naturalist, sometime naval officer and all round adventurer, who lived in the second half of the 18th century. This account is of the time he spent between 1679 and 1691, in the Caribbean, the west coast of south, central and north America and in the East Indies. He has a lot of interesting observations on the people, the land, the bays and harbours and the wildlife, all from the perspective of being one of the first Europeans to record these things.

    Of interest to this group, perhaps, are his comments on the local boats he encountered. Here is his account of how the group of privateers/pirates (it's not clear that all of them had commissions from their sovereigns) he was with made dugout canoes, after the local fashion. In this case they were on the west coast of central America. The seemed to use the canoes not only as tenders to their ships but also as coastal scouting vessels.

    "Canoes how made.

    The manner of making a canoe is, after cutting down a large long tree, and squaring the uppermost side, and then turning it upon the flat side, to shape the opposite side for the bottom. Then again they turn her, and dig the inside; boring also three holes in the bottom, one before, one in the middle, and one abaft, thereby to gauge the thickness of the bottom; for otherwise we might cut the bottom thinner than is convenient. We left the bottoms commonly about three inches thick, and the sides two inches thick below and one and a half at the top. One or both of the ends we sharpen to a point.

    Captain Davis made two very large canoes; one was 36 foot long and five or six feet wide; the other 32 foot long and near as wide as the other. In a month's time we finished our business and were ready to sail. Here Captain Harris went to lay his ship aground to clean her, but she being old and rotten fell in pieces: and therefore he and all his men went aboard of Captain Davis and Captain Swan. While we lay here we struck turtle every day, for they were now very plentiful: but from August to March here are not many. The 18th day of July John Rose, a Frenchman, and 14 men more belonging to Captain Gronet, having made a new canoe, came in her to Captain Davis, and desired to serve under him; and Captain Davis accepted of them because they had a canoe of their own.
    "
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    victoria, australia. (1 address now)
    Posts
    43,115

    Default Re: Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier

    Dampier came to NW Australia in the Roebuck in 1699, and had been involved on the core story of Robinson Crusoe* that he recounted to Defoe, both having London lodgings in the same building. Defoe had a sock shop incidentally.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Roebuck_(1690)


    *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dampier

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Posts
    959

    Default Re: Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier

    RE: Juan Fernandez Island. In this book, Dampier recounts how they picked up a "Moskito Indian" from Juan Fernandez in March 1684, who had been marooned there unintentionally 3 years earlier, by them, when "we were chased hence by three Spanish ships in the year 1681". This was more than 20 years before the marooning of Alexander Selkirk, 1704-1709, on whom Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was based. The unnamed Moskito Indian seemed to have been equally ingenious in surviving alone and fared equally well as Selkirk.
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Posts
    959

    Default Re: Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier

    Proas of Guam
    Later in this voyage, Dampier and crew stopped at Guam on their way to the East Indies. He describes the proas of Guam. He sailed on one and had the presence of mind to take the log-line and glass to measure the speed. He measured at least 12 knots but it was actually higher, as the line ran out before the glass was turned. He estimates the speed could have been as high as 24 kts.
    He notes a common return voyage of 30 leagues each way being accomplished in less than 12 hours, including business transacted at the turnaround. That's at least 15 knots average, if all the time was sailing.
    He also notes a reported voyage to Manila of 400 leagues being accomplished in 4 days, which is 12.5 knots average. Pretty high for open sea conditions.

    Excerpt:
    "Their proas, a remarkable sort of boats: and of those used in the East Indies.

    The natives are very ingenious beyond any people in making boats, or proas, as they are called in the East Indies, and therein they take great delight. These are built sharp at both ends; the bottom is of one piece, made like the bottom of a little very neatly dug, and left of a good substance. This bottom part is instead of a keel. It is about 26 or 28 foot long; the part of this keel is made round, but inclining to a wedge, and smooth; and the upper-part is almost flat, having a very hollow, and is about a foot broad: from hence both sides of the boat are carried up to about five foot high with narrow plank, not above four or five inches broad, and each end of the boat turns up round, very prettily. But, what is very singular, one side of the boat is made perpendicular, like a wall, while the other side is rounding, made as other vessels are, with a pretty full belly. Just in the middle it is about four or five foot broad aloft, or more, according to the length of the boat. The mast stands exactly in the middle, with a long yard that peeps up and down like a mizzen-yard. One end of it reaches down to the end or head of the boat where it is placed in a notch that is made there purposely to receive it and keep it fast. The other end hangs over the stern: to this yard the sail is fastened. At the foot of the sail there is another small yard to keep the sail out square and to roll up the sail on when it blows hard; for it serves instead of a reef to take up the sail to what degree they please according to the strength of the wind. Along the belly side of the boat, parallel with it, at about six or seven foot distance, lies another small boat, or canoe, being a log of very light wood, almost as long as the great boat but not so wide, being not above a foot and a half wide at the upper part, and very sharp like a wedge at each end. And there are two bamboos of about eight or 10 foot long and as big as one's leg placed over the great boat's side, one near each end of it and reaching about six or seven foot from the side of the boat: by the help of which, the little boat is made firm and contiguous to the other. These are generally called by the Dutch, and by the English from them, outlayers. The use of them is to keep the great boat upright from oversetting; because the wind here being in a manner constantly east (or if it were at west it would be the same thing) and the range of these islands, where their business lies to and fro, being mostly north and south, they turn the flat side of the boat against the wind, upon which they sail, and the belly-side, consequently with its little boat, upon the lee: and the vessel having a head at each end so as to sail with either of them foremost (indifferently) they need not tack or go about, as all our vessels do, but each end of the boat serves either for head or stern as they please. When they ply to windward and are minded to go about he that steers bears away a little from the wind, by which means the stern comes to the wind; which is now become the head, only by shifting the end of the yard. This boat is steered with a broad paddle instead of a rudder. I have been the more particular in describing these boats because I do believe they sail the best any boats in the world. I did here for my own satisfaction try the swiftness of one of them; sailing by our log we had 12 knots on our reel, and she run it all out before the half minute-glass was half out; which, if it had been no more, is after the rate 12 mile an hour; but I do believe she would have run 24 mile an hour. It was very pleasant to see the little boat running along so swift by the other's side.
    The native Indians are no less dextrous in managing than in building these boats. By report they will go from hence to another of the Ladrone Islands about 30 leagues off, and the do their business and return again in less than 12 hours. I was told that one of these boats was sent express to Manila, which is above 400 leagues, and performed the voyage in four daysí time. There are of these proas or boats used in many places of the East Indies but with a belly and a little boat on each side. Only at Mindanao I saw one like these with the belly and a little boat only on one side and the other flat, but not so neatly built
    ."
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •