“Yacht” a boat with decks, sails and cabins, It draws very little water & is excellent for short voyages. One is accustomed to using them for promenades & short crossings.”
Boating for pleasure is, of course, nearly as old as boating itself. As early as 3,000 BC, Egyptian pharaohs were buried alongside elegant and slender oared barges intended to carry them through the heavens in the afterlife, they were built in the same regal style as the ships in which they cruised the Nile. These ships were no small feat of workmanship, measuring up to 130 feet and carefully are fitted together without the use of nails. In addition, since wood was scarce and was imported from Lebanon, such vessels were most certainly a royal prerogative. This remained the case for centuries.
It wasn’t until the late 1500’s that water-borne recreation took on a more human scale and a less aristocratic mien. It should be no surprise that this transformation took place in that most maritime of countries. For centuries, the Netherlands had depended upon and cultivated its countless waterways as its primary means of transportation, both of goods and of people. The successful opening of trade with the Indies brought vast wealth to whole sectors of Dutch society, and it was only natural that this bounty expressed itself on the sea.
Even prior to the “great boom” of the early 1600’s, many of the Netherlands’ small, open or half-decked craft, such as the round-sterned kaag, were often used as pleasure craft. It was an easy and natural progression to deck them over and provide for a small cabin, usually aft, but occasionally in the middle of the boat. As Dutch town-dwellers grew more affluent, more and more of these crafts were being built exclusively for pleasure. By 1620 hundreds of yachts were plying Holland’s canals and its inland sea some owned by the Dutch East India Company and its officers, but many more owned by shareholders and other indirect beneficiaries. As early as 1630, boisterous racing competitions were being staged, often pitting neighboring cities against each other in friendly rivalries. Waterborne parades and even mock-battles became a staple of Dutch entertainment culture; even their pleasure-yachts celebrated the country’s naval prowess by carrying cannons.
Charles II was 16 years old when first transferred to an island off the coast of France for his and the Royal lineage’s security. There he began sailing to pass the time, and a deep and lasting love of the sea was kindled in him. After a failed attempt to avenge his executed father and reclaim control of England in 1649, he was forced into exile, traveling in disguise to Brighton (then called Brighthelmstone), where he chartered the 31-foot collier Surprise to make the crossing to safety in France. He soon moved to Holland, where his delight in sailing was readily and constantly fulfilled.
Upon his return to England in 1660, the Dutch East India Company presented Charles II with a handsome gift: a 66-foot yacht, finely decorated, provided with 6 3-pound guns and leeboards in the Dutch style. The King was to name this fine vessel after his sister, Mary a fond if ironic gesture, since Mary herself hated sailing and was terribly prone to seasickness. The King commissioned several more yachts, as did his brother James, Duke of York, beginning a royal patronage of the sport that was to last down to modern times. Charles II even sought out the tiny Surprise and bought her, converting her into a yacht appropriately rechristened as the Royal Escape.
During the 17th century, yachting began to flourish across Europe. Vessels of all kinds were commissioned as yachts to the wealthy and powerful, from tiny open boats to small frigates. Yachts were instrumental in discovering new lands and defending vital waterways. They served both as pleasure craft and as working ships, carrying people and messages swiftly and comfortably from shore to shore. Moreover, to this day, people around the world enjoy this “sport of kings,” both on small lakes and rivers and on the large open sea
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND SOURCES
Marion “van Ghent” Edwards (various articles).
James Bender, Anglo Dutch Wars (various articles).
Nick Burmingham et al., The Original Duyfken.
Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation, The story of the Duyfken replica, Construction, Expeditions and Voyages.
Houghton Mifflin, Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia, college.
Robbie Whitmore, The discovery of New Zealand.
Various articles at the National Maritime Museum, London and Greenwich