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stepping stones of maritime history

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De Brak was part of the Dutch Republican fleet stationed in the Mediterranean  bases in Toulon. 1782-90

 She was from 1790 present in the Caribbean. 1793 defense of Curacao against the  French.

Late 1794 she was convoying DEI ships to Batavia. She called at the English port of Falmouth. In the meantime the patriots in Holland had seized power with French help. The Dutch Republic ended  and transformed in the pro France Batavian republic. Orange Prince William IV fleed to England. 

 In British service she was rebuilt as a two-masted brig. At the end of 1797 she was caught in a storm and dismasted. After repair she was assigned February 1798 to escort a convoy

 40 merchant ships bound for Virginia together with HMS St Albans. De Braak lost the fleet shortly after the Azores (2-4-1798).

Later it appeared that De Braak had seized a Spanish ship Don Francisco Xavier with 200 tons copper bars. 23th of May De Braak reached Cape Henlopen with her prize. There she capsized in a squall. 47 men drowned including capt. Drew. 35-man crew as some 12 Spanish prisoners.

 It was said that sailors who survived paid for their rooms ashore with gold doublons. Ever since the sunken brig has been the object of treasure speculation.


In Dutch service from 1781-1795

type: 14 gun brig-sloop

Length 25.6 m 84 ft (overall)
Beam: 11 m 28 ft

Brought into the Royal Navy as HM Sloop-of-War Braak, the cutter was re-rigged as a brig and rearmed with sixteen 24-pound carronades.

Commissioned 17-6-1797.

Complement: 86 ( British service)
Armament: 14 guns (dutch) 16 carronades (british)


In 1984 when Harvey Harrington's Sub-Sal, Inc., raised a cannon, an anchor, and a ship's bell bearing the name "La Patrocle." Sub-Sal became legal custodian of the wreck on behalf of the U.S.

District Court and with a one-year lease began working round-the-clock to retrieve as much as possible from the site. With almost total disregard for archaeological practice, divers tagged a portion of what they recovered and disposed of anything they considered worthless, including human remains, a rare stove, and objects too small to warrant their consideration.

Among the finds (ca 26.000) a gold ring of captain James Drew.

 Salvage controversy
 The way the hull and artifacts were raised from the bay lead to heated discussion between archaeologists and salvagers. The treatment of the wreck of the braak was a contributing factor to the passage of the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987

 The Braak is now owned by the state of Delware


Sunken Treasures


World War II

Dutch Presence in Cuban Waters

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