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Auke Visser in 1688

Peter Swart - 16th December 2022 - 0 comments

Assistant steward Auke Visser was 55 when he signed on the frigate Huis te Warmelo. With a fourth wife and five sons, this sefarer from the Dutch town of Medemblik already had quite a life behind him and must have been at sea for most of his life.. He was a member of the Medemblik skippers’ guild, and, with his eldest son, he owned a small freighter.(1) Thanks to a notarial deed from 1689, a chapter can be added to the seafaring life of Auke Visser.


At the notary

In March 1689, Auke Dirksz Visser, Karsten Dirksz and Willem Pietersz Brander visited notary Jan de Zee in Medemblik.(2) Shortly before, the three men had sailed with skipper Willem Claasz Huijberts, as boatswain, steersman and cook respectively. At the request of their skipper, they made a statement.
The notarial deed states that on 1st November 1688 they had run into trouble with their ship the Visser near the Dutch isle of Schouwen-Duivenland. Due to turbulent weather, they ran into shallow water and had to drop anchor. It did not cut the danger of running aground. At night the tide turned, their ship hit the seabed and they were forced to cut the anchor rope. Sailing along the surf, the crew found a new anchorage, between the seashore and the sandbanks. On 2nd November, pilots came on board to guide the Visser to safe harbour. Thus, the predicament ended well, and the damage was limited to the loss of an anchor and high pilotage costs.


Carrier for the prince of Orange

What was the ship de Visser doing off Schouwen-Duivenland in November 1688? This is what a charter contract in the Amsterdam City Archives reveals.
On 30th September 1688, skipper Willem Claasz Huijberts came to an agreement with Johan Teengs, master-attendant of the Amsterdam admiralty. In the margin of the charter contract, one can read that the master-attendant and skipper were acting on behalf of the Prince of Orange, Stadholder William III.(3) Teengs hired the merchant ship for a bold venture of the stadholder: a military invasion of England. He arranged as many as 144 fluyt ships, galiots, boyers and smacks in a short time.(4)
Skipper Willem Claasz Huijberts negotiated a rent of 1,375 guilders per month. He had to get his ship ready as soon as possible and supply provisions for at least two months. Of course, the skipper was also expected to supply a crew. The destination and cargo were kept flexible in the charter contract.


The Glorious Crossing

In October 1688, some 500 war ships and carriers gathered at the Dutch port of Hellevoetsluis. This fleet was to ferry an international army of more than 20,000 soldiers, thousands of horses and a large quantity of war supplies to England. After weeks of waiting for favourable winds, the ships set sail on 30th October 1688. But the invasion fleet was hardly on the open sea when a storm came up. This storm also hit Auke Visser’s ship. Pilots were sent out to bring ships back into the Goeree Estuary.
The second attempt was more successful. After four days of sailing, Stadholder William’s army set foot on English shore. The landing took place on 15th November at Torbay, on the south-west coast of England.
In mid-December, the newspaper Oprechte Haerlemsche courant reported that the military operation was going according to plan. Most of the hired merchantmen were expected to return to the Netherlands soon.(5) On 21st and 28th January 1689, some sixty carriers from England entered the Nieuwe Diep, at the north of Holland. Among them was the ship the Visser. It was cold. Ship and crew had to face heavy ice on their return.(6)



Auke Visser from Medemblik saw and was part of a historic event in 1688: the military invasion of England by the prince of Orange. This invasion brought William III to the English throne and made England an ally against France. The later crew member of the Huis te Warmelo was 28 years old then.

Chances are that by the spring of 1689, Auke Visser was already at sea again, heading for a new destination. Skipper Willem Claasz Huijberts signed a charter contract on 6th May to get a cargo of salt from Setubal, Portugal.(7) Was Auke Visser again one of his crew?


Figure: Stadholder William III’s departure from Hellevoetsluis to England on 11th November 1688. The large invasion fleet lies at anchor. (Rijksmuseum)


(1), Auke Visser from Medemblik.
(2) Westfries Archief, Oud Notarieel Archief Medemblik , no. 3222, deed 74.
(3) Stadsarchief Amsterdam (SA), Notariële archieven (NA), no. 5255, deed 363232.
(4) SA, NA, no. 5257B, deed 348159.
(5), Oprechte Haerlemsche courant, 11th and 14th December 1688.
(6), Oprechte Haerlemsche courant, 1st February 1689.
(7) SA, NA, no. 5258A, deed 459485.