EUROPE owes to the Land of Dykes more than it generally cares to remember. Holland has been the schoolmistress of modern Europe. It first learned and taught the principles of modern government, and the true meaning of political and religious liberty ; it has led the van in art, in agricultural science, in physical research, in modern finance. It has taught more conclusively than Phoenicia, Venice, Spain, or Portugal the true meaning of Sea Power, of over-sea colonisation. And of the nations of Europe the British have best learned from her what she had to teach. Her mantle has fallen upon our shoulders.

To no man is the greatness of our debt to the Dutch more forcibly brought home than to him who has widely used the sea, in whom something akin to reverence springs up as he roams, and finds everywhere about the globe the footprints of this steadfast sailor race. The very sea-terms in everyday use all across the seven seas, alike by Briton, Yankee, and every Northern race, were in the mouths of De Ruyter and Van Tromp.

Not long ago I mentioned some of these aspects of Dutch history to a Transvaal Boer. 'What!' he said, 'were we ever a maritime power? Had we ever command of the sea?' I told him further how ultimately after hard knocks, it had been lost to Holland and won by Britain. He whistled in a thoughtful way, and then nodded his head: 'I see,' he said, 'it was by sticking to it, same as here.'

To this day Holland remains the land of the sailing boat par excellence. It is the Mecca of the modern yachtsman. From the Dutch English royalty and our old friend Samuel Pepys first learned about pleasure craft: from them came our earliest yacht models at the beginning of the nineteenth century. From them the Thames barge has its spritsail, leeboards, most useful of shallow-water contrivances, and no doubt its exquisite taste for bright paint.

Certainly no Western race is so amphibious as the Dutch, and no land animal except the duck takes so readily to navigation.

More than any types of boat, those of Holland have been influenced by the peculiar waters which they navigate ; better than most they satisfy their peculiar requirements. Indeed, no nation but the Chinese has had occasion in modern times so little to alter its accepted types of craft. Three centuries ago, in lines and in rig, Dutch small craft were almost the same as they are today. Our own special types, as such, are almost entirely developments of the past century, tracing certain peculiarities from older, rougher, and in general smaller craft, which were their ancestors, but owing their growth as a distinctive class to the great increase in coast trade and sea fisheries, and the unparalleled activity in boat-building which has been the result. In fact, the consideration of any sea-going fishing boat in the British Isles will show the very modern development of the majority of present British types. The nineteenth century has been an era of sea-boat building as much as it has been an era of steam. The small, open, bluff-bowed, roughly rigged fishing-fleets of the early part of the century, down in fact to the forties and the fifties, have given place to large-decked, clean-lined, sea-going fleets, rigged and equipped with scientific precision ; more powerful, more speedy, and infinitely more numerous.

But in Holland the requirements of her internal trade today are almost identical with what they were centuries ago. The country had reached almost highest state of agricultural and commercial efficiency at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Hence while in England, in the comparative backward state of her development, the small sailing-vessel was its infancy, Holland, great in the trade and the councils of the nations, had developed and perfected her types of craft, much as she had done her own methods of communication, of government, and of trade. And to these types, with the characteristic tenacity of the race, Holland has been true.

The old Dutch Zee schuyt of the seventeenth century is familiar to us from the etchings of Van der Laan, and the wonderful paintings of Van der Velde the younger, and of Bakhuizen and others of the great Dutch school of marine painting of the seventeenth century.


The pictures of these great artists, remarkable alike for their wonderful aerial perspectives, the wide light of their skies, the restraint of their colouring, and the boldness and accuracy of their drawing, show that while the present schuyt rig was in existence at that time, the sprit and squaresail rigs were very common. The Zee schuyt of the day, probably the earliest form of herring drift-net fishing-craft, had two masts, main and mizen.


The latter carried a single squaresail, which was frequently kept set when riding at anchor or hauling nets.


The mainmast was usually a pole, but sometimes carried a topmast. It was placed well back, even abaft the midship section, in the position rendered familiar by the old gun-ketches of the beginning of the nineteenth century. A lower course and square topsail were set upon it. In this rig we have the precursor of the schooner-rigged galliot on the one hand, and the three-masted square-rigged ship on the other.

It will be noted that the fore triangle with this rig was very large, and from some early etchings of the period it appears that it was filled very often by a short foremast with a single squaresail upon it, as an alternative to large forestay sail and occasional bowsprit and jib, which seem to have replaced it by degrees.


 The Scheveningen boats of the time are shown by Van der Velde, rigged with the two square-rigged masts, but in this case very often the arrangement of the masts was that of main and fore masts, the mizen being apparently omitted.

Bakhuizen shows this square rig without a mizen, and with yards braced round, and tacks so hauled down forward as to form practically a lugsail.

The vessels themselves had the round stern still familiar in Dutch craft. The poop was in those days higher than we are accustomed to see it. This high poop, retained to the present day in the seagoing junk of China, in the dhow and other Eastern craft, although considered by Western sailors to be ugly and unshipshape, is in reality a very seamanlike and convenient provision in any sailing-vessel ; and often when the writer had it not, he longed for it, and when had it, he thanked Heaven and the boat-builder for staunch dry poop whence the vessel could be worked with some degree of comfort and command when every other part of the ship was awash.


The leeboards of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were of the same shape as those still in use -- the long, dagger-like board in the shallow boats, the triangle of the ordinary sea-going craft, and the almost circular shape of many river boats.

The clinker build and the wide, flaring bow and curved stem-piece were the same as at present, and the tall pole-mast, gay colouring, large, easy-running blocks, and long vanes have little altered. The spritsail and the gaff mainsail are the same.


No European type of craft, with the exception of the open Norse skiff, has such antiquity as this of the Dutch.

Ruskin in a well-known passage condones the inaccurate drawing and ignorance of seamanship displayed in the works of marine artists of his day by the statement that art which reduplicates art is necessarily inferior, and that a ship in full sail or a perfect boat is an 'ignoble subject,' and can never become the subject of noble art because it is of man's making.

Yet the exquisite little studies of Van der Velde, with all their play of light and cloud, of wind and sea, cannot be surpassed in landscape painting. They depend for their effect on the accuracy of delineation of the outline of the wave-cap, the curve of the sail and spar, the strain of the rope, the heel of hull, or the direction of swing of an anchored ship.


These things tell truly the force and direction of wind in the picture ; they give the atmospheric effect which is sought to be expressed ; they are subject to unalterable laws, and if the artist is oblivious of them he may as well forget the laws of light or the law of gravitation. If the human frame must be studied and drawn with reference to anatomical facts, if drapery must hang truly, so much the more must the sail hang furled according to law, or draw and belly truly in the wind as Nature alone permits it. The sail cannot swell in untrue curves or fly against the wind, the sea-caps cannot run counter to it, any more than a building can stand without foundation or water run up hill.


Many a sail one has seen in pictures wrongly bent which would blow away or send a vessel stern first, many a hull wrongly drawn which would infallibly swamp, or could not have come out of any boat-builder's shop. This cannot be art, whatever imaginable colouring it is shrouded in. Van der Velde, using his vessels as accessories to interpret his thought and to illustrate the restfulness of calm, or the war and motion of high winds in the wide tide estuaries of Holland, has never been surpassed in his expression of atmosphere, sun, and wind, and this by following the very laws which sea painters in the nineteenth century so long thought they could dispense with.

In nothing did the Dutch Marine School more greatly show their artistic sense than in their appreciation of the fact that the sailing-boat itself is an object for the highest art, in so far as it is used as an expression of the spirit of the picture, or as a means of interpretation of Nature.

The fishing boat in harbour, except in so far as it displays the impress of its calling and the scars of the sea upon it, is no very striking thing, perhaps. But the moment it is at sea, breasting the rollers, heaving its rounded sides through the wave-crests, or throwing off the attacks of the threatening breakers, bowing beneath the persuading pressure of its sail spread, springing up and stopping to fist off the green seas, and plunging again into the long water-valleys, then it becomes a new spirit, a thing of life, of purpose, and of strength.

This is no longer the dead thing which was built by man. It has been kissed by heaven ; it is transformed into a morsel of great Nature. Its sails follow no curve ever made by man, its ropes tauten to a force coming at no man's bidding. It is caught and tossed, and swayed and slapped, by the playful buffets of a stupendous power of which yet it seems a part, the secrets of which it knows and bends to its own purpose.

It is this transformation into life, this tuning to Nature's keys, which laid hold of the imagination of the best of the Dutch masters, and made them see that if a ship is in itself wonderful and beautiful, it is in its highest form when in the hands of wind and waves, and that then it is indeed removed from the realm of mere things. And in this, its highest manifestation, it was their ambition to paint it.

Ruskin's comment upon the Dutch Marine School of the seventeenth century, although robed in the delightful language which is so peculiarly his, seems curiously inadequate.


He shows an utter lack, surprising in such a mind, of that appreciation of fen and lowland country scenery, which has given modern art much of its landscape inspiration. He perceives not the wide skies dear to the heart of the fenman ; he is impatient with the short waves which those who navigate in tidal estuaries must put up with. He forgets that the sailing-craft of that day was high pooped and was beflagged beyond modern wont, and he misses their historic accuracy. Surely Van der Velde, of all masters, had that 'high instinct of momentary perception' which the great critic declares to be necessary to the drawing of a sailing-boat?

Nor will criticism of the shallow impurity of the seas depicted by the Dutch painters avail if Turner's seas are to be accepted. For Turner followed the Dutch School as much in painting the sharp, short seas of shallow tidal coasts as in his studies of craft, in which, as in 'The Shipwreck,' the influence of the Dutch School is most marked.

Ruskin lived only to see his own sixth or 'modern' period of marine painting ; he did not know that later, or seventh period, as we may call it, which must always be famous to all lovers of wild, true nature in the works of Wyllie, Dixon, Somerscales, Napier Hemy, or of Blacke and his compatriot Andersen.

To this school belongs the honour of having rescued art from an untrue conception of the sea, and having demonstrated the presence of law and order upon the water as upon the land. By the aid of modern shipping they have interpreted the sea's moods, its toil, its fickleness, its glory and its strength ; by truth and by study they have set forth as the old Dutch masters of the seventeenth century essayed to do, and so well did, through the medium of the Dutch craft of that day.

Homage to Turner is yet possible to the man who seeks for truth to Nature's laws in all painting of the sea ; for wild as was his imagination, truth lay in his wind, and his craft were always possible, even if canvased at times in a way to strike terror to the average coastwise skipper. He was curiously unequal in his delineation of vessels, his square-rigged ships showing a general accuracy of drawing and understanding of sea matters which often seem quite absent in his fore-and-afters. But these faults are more apparent in his engravings than in his paintings, where they are redeemed by the magnitude of his conceptions. The back wave off his Calais Pier, the down-river light in his Blythe sand, so true to those wide eastern estuaries of Britain, are interpretations which must be appreciated by all sailors. His general influence in the direction of accuracy has been too much ignored by his admirers, and but for the modern sea-school of Wyllie we should still be immersed in untruth and clumsiness in all our seascapes, notwithstanding the assistance of photography towards accuracy in the delineation of certain phases of sea life.

The distinctiveness of Dutch craft is not less marked than that of the Chinese. Even to the artist, often so blind to nautical facts, many of the Dutch characteristics are frequently apparent. The great, commanding-looking rudder, the round, merry-looking bow, the comfortable tumble-house of the topsides, the tall, splendidly proportioned pole-mast and the long vane at its summit, the short gaff and long boom, the bright colouring and spotless polish -- all these are as much a part of Dutch scenery to the majority of minds as are lock-gates or windmills. The whole has an aspect of old-world incompetence and picturesqueness which is utterly fascinating.


Yet in fact, in that slow-looking ship, the Dutchman possesses a combined floating home and cargo carrier which is second to none in handiness, smartness, comfort, and speed in the waters she navigates.

Among the more familiar types are the Eel schuyts and the Scheveningen pinken. The former have been beautifully delineated by E.W. Cooke, and their appearance is well known to Thames estuary yachting men. They are perhaps the most representative of Dutch sea-going craft. They carry the usual short gaffed mainsail, setting an infinitesimal jib-headed topsail above it. The main boom plumbs the stern-post, thus being securely out of the way for passing through locks and pushing through crowded inland waterways. Everything on board a Dutchman is calculated with reference to the necessities of inland navigation. The bowsprit is a running one, and the huge stay foresail is ample head-sail for ordinary work where quick turning is required.


The stout rubbing strakes, which to the unaccustomed eye give such an appearance of clumsiness, enable a schuyt to jostle her way into the most crowded quarters with delightful impunity. The short gaff itself is a concession to riparian owners ; this bringing of the centre of effort of the sail-area low down prevents excessive heeling and saves many a farm window and many a pensive cow from unceremonious annihilation. Partly with the same object, and partly to counterbalance the want of depth of hull, the Dutchman has adopted the great beam, which is perhaps to the ordinary mortal his most marked characteristic. The rounded stern with stern-post and rudder outside is, except in some smaller boats such as small coast pinken, almost invariable ; and any one who has been through many lock-gates in a craft with a long counter will appreciate the value of this style of build.


The Dutchman is enamoured, and rightly so, of the full round curve, and has rarely descended to that ugly though admittedly useful method of ending a boat, the transom-stern. With exquisite taste he so uses his white paint about the great varnished rudder-head, and his green round the little stern-ports, that the stern of his ship is generally a thing of beauty indeed. But this form of round stern, with the heavy quarters and the bluff bow, although adding to the carrying capacity of the vessel, greatly increases her appearance of beam, and makes her look more clumsy than she really is. As in the case of the Chinese junk, however bluff or unwieldy the upper works appear, the underwater lines are generally very 'sweet,' and Neptune, to his credit be it said, has ever a soft heart for a full sweet curve.


The solidity and strength of Dutch construction is positively refreshing in these days of light scantlings, and the fashion of polishing the oak of the hull adds greatly to the impression of power in these vessels.

The Scheveningen boats are clinker-built and have the characteristics of Dutch craft almost to the extent of caricature. But going to sea or landing in the surf on that cruel coast call for a bit of good construction. It is noticeable that many of these boats carry a small mizen which is the peculiar sail of sea-keeping craft, and this sail, as might be expected, is never seen inland.

The old-fashioned 'galliot' was similar in construction and was generally rigged as what we now mostly designate a ketch, *1* but carried in addition to the modern fore-and-aft sails the older square topsail, t'gallantsail, and course on the foremast, as very many Baltic ketches do to this day.


The rig appears to have developed in two directions: by the gradual enlargement of the mizen, and the bringing of the mizen-mast further forward, until the sail assumed the proportions of mainsail, from which comes the modern topsail schooner so familiar among the small traders of our coasts ; and in the other direction by the gradual abolition of the square yards, leaving only the fore-and-aft sails of the modern ketch, or dandy, with the possible retention of a lower yard only for a lower squaresail, the superior advantage of which over a fore-and-aft sail for fair winds is admitted by every sailor.

*1* The Old French quaiche ; the Spanish queche.

The gradual development in both directions may yet be seen in all stages upon the Dutch, German, and Danish coasts, *1* while the results are more distinctly apparent along our own shoreline.


The topsail schooner has assumed with us something of the nature of a national rig for our small coasters, while the ketch has become equally distinctive as the rig of the British trawler *2* and of the billyboy, a type of flat-bottomed, leeboard-carrying coast trader.

*1* Chapter I.
*2* Chapter V.

The very commonest of the former is apt to find one to its merits, but it is in fact the best combination of the square rig with the fore-and-aft which exists, and it presents all the advantages of each.

•  •  •

The lower sails being of the fore-and-aft type, a deck-watch of two hands will suffice in ordinary weather to put about a vessel of 200 or 300 tons, and make and shorten sail ; the square topsail and topgallant sail on the foremast are not too large to be also easily handled by one or two men, and are big enough, especially with the big fine-weather course, to add many knots to every watch with the wind anywhere abaft the beam.


The advantage of a squaresail placed high up on the foremast in running before anything approaching a gale of wind with a heavy sea is well known to most sailors.

It seems peculiar that in America, where the best development of the fore-and-aft schooner rig is to be seen, the square topsail never seems to have been in much favour.


While on this side of the Atlantic the three-masted schooner and the barquentine are increasing in popularity, and the square-rigged foremast is made a great feature, in America the number of masts increase until five (and even seven) masts are reached, and never a square sail is seen aloft.

Yet it cannot be said that the Americans do not know what is best in schooner-building and rigging ; the high-flaring bow, the sail-carrying power of the wide quarters, the tall lower masts, long main-boom, and short gaff which are so distinctively American, also combine to make schooners the like of which we do not know.

•  •  •

Yet it is probably the old story, that each is suited to its own waters ; the very length of the lower masts and weight of boom in the American boats may be strong arguments against further weight from square yards being stationed permanently aloft, while the more moderate-sized spars used round our stormy coasts may render such top-hamper harmless, and even, as already hinted, of positive advantage four times out of five in a strong blow.


The Russians have followed the Yankees to some degree in adopting the fore-and-aft rig for vessels carrying even three masts, and many vessels of this type may be seen in the Baltic, as a rule neither remarkable for smartness or sailing qualities in the hands of the crews who man them.


The advantage of the fore-and-aft rig combined with squaresails on the foremast is every day more apparent in the increasing number of three-masted schooners and barquentines which are used in our coasting-trade, and which, like the brigantine, are a development of the topsail-schooner sail plan on larger craft.

In this connection no sea fact is more remarkable than the total disappearance of the brig-rig for small coasting-craft: Turner, Cooke, and all coast artists of the earlier part of the nineteenth century bear witness to the universal adoption of this rig along the coast, especially in the coal trade ; and in all early views of the Thames these vessels, with the big single topsail and topgallant sails and their enormous fore t'gallant staysail, form a conspicuous feature.

They have departed before the superior handiness of the fore-and-aft sail for weatherly work.


In the other direction, that of the ketch, the Dutch appear, as already remarked, to have set the fashion for this very handy rig in the Baltic and North Sea. It is seen in the Zee schuyts of the seventeenth century, and in our own and other navies for bomb vessels, in those days with squaresails on both masts ; and though it went out of fashion during the first half of the nineteenth century, the fore-and-aft ketch or dandy-rig of today may be said to be the rig par excellence of the North Sea. Not only the Danish coasters, but those of our own isles, use it extensively ; practically the whole of the trawling fleets of the North Sea, of whatever nationality, have adopted it. It is curious to note in this connection that our east coast fishing-craft, hailing south of the Humber, which only thirty years ago favoured the lugsail, have almost without exception altered to the ketch, or 'smack-rig,' as it is now often called.


Even Whitby has followed the fashion, and Grimsby also. Yarmouth and Lowestoft were, when Houldsworth wrote, well known for their fine lug-rigged boats ; yet now they and Ramsgate to the south, as well as many channel ports on both sides, have adopted the rig for trawling. What is the reason? First, the fore-and-aft rig was found more convenient than the lug for heaving to, as the trawler has to do for hours at a time, the main tack being easily triced up and staysail laid aback. Then the one mast of the old 'smack' went out in favour of the two, with the short main-boom and easily handled mizen. Every one who has sailed a ketch knows her handiness for a small crew. And for this rig we may largely thank the Dutch. As befits our stormy seas, however, we have reduced the tall mizen of the Dutch or Baltic ketch to a low pole-mast, which is not so handsome looking, but is more to the purpose in our seas. It is noticeable also that the short boom of the Dutch and Baltic mizen has been considerably lengthened in British seas to give that width of foot which is dear to the British sailmaker.


The 'swim,' a most primitive form of bow, such as with little difference may be met with in the rivers of Bengal or of Central Europe, as well as in many Chinese sampans, in which naval architecture has not progressed with particular rapidity (having remained practically stationary for some thousand years), may still be seen in the Botters at Haarlem and many places in the canals, as well as in the eel boats, of which a fleet is often to be met off Flushing. *1* In a vessel of light draught this shape of bow is far less injurious to speed than might be imagined, although in a short head-sea it is inclined to slam, and light displacement Dutch yachts of this build which are given a good sailspread are particularly fast in narrow waters.

A book might be written on the Dutch boats of the day, and a rich reward awaits the man who can devote himself to the study of them.

*1* I have seen one of these boats as far west as Hirst Castle.






Contents: Mast & Sail

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