Bataviawerf and the Batavia

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

April, 2017

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

Lelystad is a modern town across the Markermeer from Enkhuisen, and is built on reclaimed land of the former Zuidersee.

In the C17th the Dutch East India Company was the most important trading organisation in the world with the largest fleet of sailing ships. Its trading empire stretched from Indonesia to the Americas. It had a fleet of 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees and a private army of 10,000 soldiers. Over the 200 years of its power, it built nearly 5000 ships. It pioneered globalisation and lead to a rapid development in cartography and shipbuilding.

Batavia was the flag ship of the company and was built in 1627 in Amsterdam. In 1628 she sailed with a merchant fleet of eleven ships and two warships. Nine months after setting sail, Batavia ran aground and sank on a coral reef off the coast of Western Australia. The captain sailed to Indonesia for help, leaving the passengers and some of the crew behind. Some of this crew mutinied and killed 125 men women and children and had plans to capture the rescue ship. They were captured and hung. A best selling book was written in 1648 based on the captain’s log book.

In the 1960s, the wreck was discovered and salvaged. One of the massive timbers was returned to the Netherlands and can be seen at Bataviawerf.

In 1985, Willem Vos, a builder of traditional wooden ships, decided to build a reconstruction of the Batavia. Bataviawerf has developed into a major centre for historical shipbuilding using authentic methods and materials. It is now a major tourist attraction with woodworking workshops, sail loft, blacksmiths as well as the Batavia herself.

There were no plans or records, so everything had to be worked out from scratch. It was chance for apprentices to learn traditional skills and they were trained on the job.

The Batavia was built in a dry dock and was eventually finished in 1995. In the C17th ships were completed in nine months. Oak was used for the hull, ribs and deck beams. Pine was used for the decks and masts. The masts were made of pieces of wood spliced together to give extra strength.

Ash was used for the tiller, pulleys and belaying pins. Lignum vitae was used for the pulley block sheaves as it is a self lubricating wood preventing ropes from fraying.

The ship had to be moved from the dry dock by pontoon and towed to Amsterdam where 250 tons of lead ballast were stowed in the hold, the ship was inspected and declare seaworthy. It was formally launched by Queen Beatrix. The Batavia was built to sail and was actually sailed for several years before returning to a permanent mooring at Bataviawerf.

In 2015, another project was launched, to build a replica of one of the war ships used by the Dutch East India Company. The Seven Provinces was chosen. This was one of the original war ships to have been built in 1666 and was in active service until 1692 when it was broken up for scrap. The project was to be funded by the EU and Dutch government. A model was built and is on display in the exhibition room.

Work began on building a full size replica in the yard and the hull and ribs can be seen. Unfortunately work stopped as the project ran out of money. Another €40 million are needed to finish it.

The site is open all year from 10-5, except for Christmas Day and New Years Day. Most of the workshops are accessible for wheelchair users, although the ship is not. Visits include a tour of the workshops before visiting the ship. There is a short but very informative 15 minute film which covers the background of the original Batavia and its reconstruction. This is well worth watching.

Visitors are allowed to wander round the the site and there is a written guide. There are a few volunteers around the site to answer questions.


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