Detail of Fluit from “A) Galion, B) Fregate, C) Caraque, D) Flute ou Pinque, E) Est un Beulot ou Bâtiment,” Description de L’Univers, 1683, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, G114.M25 rare.


The fluit was a bulk carrier first developed in Holland, and then other countries, including England, began to pickup the design. The fluit was used for trade in the North Sea and the Atlantic during the early 17th century. Historians believe it was developed from the cog, carrack, and small fishing vessels. Merchants were able to build the ship cheaply, carry a small crew, a large amount of bulk cargo, and easily maintain the ship. The fluit was generally two-masted with a mainsail and topsail that were both square, the mizzenmast carried a lateen sail, and there was usually a spritsail on the bow. The hull was designed like a box, without a forecastle, and had a low, narrow aft castle. The ships ranged from 200 to 500 tons and moved slowly. The amount of cargo they carried was so great, that it offset the cost of this slow ship.