A fluyt or a flute
is a type of sailing
vessel originally
designed as a
dedicated cargo
vessel. Originating
from the Nether-
lands in the 16th
Century, the
vessel was
designed to
facilitate trans-
oceanic delivery with the maximum of space and crew efficiency. It usually carried 12 to 15 cannons, but was still an easy target for pirates. To the end, the standard design minimized or completely eliminated its armaments to maximize available cargo space, and used block and tackle extensively to facilitate ship operations. This ship class was credited in enhancing Dutch competitiveness in international trade, and was widely employed by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries. However it gained such popularity beyond its native waters that it was soon in use by other sea faring nations.

The design of fluyts was largely similar to that of the early galleons. It generally weighed 200-300 tons and was 80 feet long. The pear-shaped vessel had a large cargo bay near the waterline and a relatively narrow deck above. This was a way to avoid high taxes collected by Denmark in the Oresund, which was assessed based on area of the main deck. The fluyt was square rigged with two or three masts. Masts were much higher than those of galleons to allow for greater speed. At times fluyts were also armed and served as auxiliary vessels, which was a common practice in the Baltic Sea.

Fluyts of 17th Century, Radierung von Wenzel Hollar, 1647  - Click To Enlarge