Hans-Christian Rieck of the Graf Ship Association based at Nordhorn in Germany has written to explain a bit more of the mystery of sailing tjalk Jantje’s sails. Here’s what he says:
‘I’d like to give you the update on the history of Jantje’s sails. It is amazing how such a little stamp on an old sail comes out to be a real mystery. We followed your suggestion about Mount Vernon Mills and even contacted them, but got no answer with the exception of a note that our photo was forwarded to some senior official.
‘So I phoned Hermann Ostermann and asked for help. He told me that this sail is something rare in Europe, as to his knowledge there was hardly any American sailcloth imported to Europe. But he used his lifelong connections to other European specialists and sent word around that this special foresail was found in Nordhorn.
‘Kees Hos from The Netherlands replied that this sail and the stamp on it are very extraordinary, both from the quality of the work and the sailcloth. He said that the amazing thing is that a roll of No. 1 sailcloth 84 yds. long must be very heavy – he estimates its weight at about 55 kg.
‘Then we received a very warm letter from Mrs Struik, the sister of the former owner of Jantje, and asked her about Jantje. Mrs Struik was very pleased to see that Jantje is in good condition again. She told us that the late Mr Struik used to sail Jantje with his kids until the early 80s, but then he fell ill and abandoned most of his activities on the ship.
‘Anyway we’ll keep intheboatshed.net informed.
Thanks Hans-Christian! Now can anyone in the UK shed any light on this please? Was Mount Vernon duck used in the UK? And if so, might that have been the source please? Or did someone set up a short-lived business importing the material to Holland? Is there a historian of the cotton duck trade out there?