On my morning run yesterday I passed the Batavia, a replica of a 17th-century sailing shipl
Later in the day, we visited the shipyard next to where the Batavia is moored, where
workers are building a replica of another 17th-century battle ship. And they’re doing it the old-fashioned way: completely by hand. That means the blacksmith makes every nail that goes into the ship, sail-makers hand sew six tennis-courts worth of sail. And then we walk through the Batavia, listening to a volunteer talk about life at sea in the 17th century. In the best of times, it was a terrible trip, with 25 to 30 percent of the people on the ships dying of illness or from mutiny or pirate attacks. Ship designers built ship’s interiors so that the rich passengers and officers could barricade themselves in their quarters and hold off mutinying crew or marauding pirates.
Life wasn’t too great even for the rich at sea, this is essentially where they lived, ate and slept.The crew were squeezed into
tighter quarters and the soldiers were squeezed into decks just four feet high. And then, of course, they’d have to squeeze in a few chickens to serve later in the voyage. If you went on these ships, you must have been desperate or shanghaied.
Compare that with my experience aboard the Visionary, the ship I’m sailing through Dutch waterways. It’s an all-suite shipwith floor-to-ceiling windows, L’Occitane toiletries (I promise you, you do not want to hear about the toilet experience aboard the Batavia) and a much, much better galley. Whenthe Batavia was built, it took 1,000 men nine months. Compare that to the the 100 men it took to build the Visionary in ten months.