The VOC is almost synonymous with the Dutch Golden Age, thanks to their highly succesful trade in oriental spices and Chinese porcelain. However, the main economic engine driving the Golden Age was coastal shipping in Europe: grain from the Baltic Sea region, wood from Scandinavia, cloth from the Low Countries wine from France, and earthenware, oils and dyes from the Mediterranean. Dutch traders could be found in every market.
The fluyt was especially designed for this form of coastal shipping. It was pear-shaped to maximize its cargo hold , had little draft and simple rigging to minimize crew numbers. For a hundred years, these fluyts were the breadwinners for the Dutch merchants. They were also adapted to suit specific markets. The fluytships active in Mediterranean were heavily armed to fight off pirates near the Straits of Gibraltar. These were called ‘Straatvaarders’.
Somewhere around 1650, such a straatvaarder perished on the Roads of Texel. It had just returned from the Mediterranean , with lots of buxus or Palmwood as cargo. This high-grade hardwood was destined for the luxury furniture industry. That is why the ship was named the ‘Palmwood wreck’. But this was not its only cargo. Divers also found a unique collection of seventeenth century textiles, as well as several accessories. Much of it in a pretty good shape, protected by layers of sand for nearly four centuries.
The treasures from the ‘Palmwood wreck’ are now being studied and preserved. Parts of this remarkable collection are regularly displayed at Kaap Skil. Recovering the original name of the wreck is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Hundreds of fluyts departed from the Roads every year. Six fluytships can be seen on the scale model in Kaap Skil. One of them is a typical ‘straatvaarder’: the Vrouwtje van Stavoren’, recognizable by the sailor sitting on the bowsprit, working with ropes and pulleys.