Come Sailing With Me

In 1606 Captain Willem Janszoon and his crew sailed along the northern coast of Australia in the little Dutch ship Duyfken – Little Dove. They journeyed from the Spice Islands of the Dutch East Indies to the Gulf of Carpentaria and mapped 330 kilometres of the coastline of Cape York as they went. They made the first recorded European landing on the Australian mainland and met the local aboriginal people as they travelled along the previously uncharted coast.

To do some travelling of your own, take a trip back in time by visiting the replica Duyfken at Fremantle in Western Australia. The replica was built using traditional 17th century methods at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in the 1990s and the design came from three known sketches of the original Duyfken. It is berthed at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and when it’s not out on sailing expeditions the ship is open to the public.


We are given a guided tour of the ship by volunteer guide Ellie who, like the Duyfken, is Dutch. She tells us about her childhood home in Amsterdam, built in the 1600s from the same durable timbers as the sailing ships. The ship is fully fitted out with rigging, sails, a masthead and maritime tools typical of the past.



In the galley it’s as if the sailors are just about to come for a meal, and below decks in the hold there’s a load of precious cargo.

The floor of the hold is lined with Dutch bricks, carried as ballast before being sold in the East Indies, and chests and hessian sacks are filled to the brim with precious spices. Spices were highly prized and valuable and members of the crew were never allowed in the hold because of the risk of theft. “One bowl of nutmeg could buy a house in Amsterdam in the mid-1600s,” says Ellie.



The musky scent of spices, the creaking of the rigging and the gentle lapping of water on the side of the ship all add to the feeling that we’ve left the 21st century behind. At any moment we might hear sailors calling as they raise the sails. The Duyfken is ready to leave on another voyage and we could be tempted to join the crew!


You can go sailing on the Duyfken. Read more at

17 thoughts on “Come Sailing With Me

  1. I am always amazed when I see these old sailing ships. They are so beautiful to look at, but to think that men lived in those cramped quarters for months at a time is astounding to us modern day comfort expecters………. A wee touch of brilliance to have a guide who could speak and share so knowledgeably of the ships genesis too. A most enjoyable post!


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