28 July 2012

Back to Vancouver

It was mid-afternoon on Wednesday, 25 July by the time we had finished with the three-day schedule of move, sea trial and surveys. Everything had gone smoothly, and after we had all shaken hands, seller, broker, surveyor, timmerman and Edi and I all drove off in our five separate directions.

Edi and I drove northward, past Volendam and out across the Afsluitdijk to Friesland and then further northward to Harlingen. We had been researching yards to do our proposed refit on Nieuwe Zorg. Among other yards, we had looked at the marvellously modern, but not-yet-completed new facilities at Kempers, and had met with Willem Dokkum, the works manager. We were now on our way to meet with Lex Tichelaar, principal at Scheepsbouw & Reparatie Friesland, known better as SRF. As we left our car and walked across the yard toward a couple of men talking, one of them stepped out to meet us. We asked where we could find Lex, and he said right here, pointing to his chest. Lex is a robust man, very alive and immediately likable.

He showed us around, beginning with a huge loft full of shelves laden with a vast assortment of old boat parts and fittings. Next he showed us a similar sized hall full of new parts, fittings and hardware. We saw a mast and spar building room, in which they build solid and laminated wooden spars and masts. We followed him through huge hangars with a broad range of ship construction, repair and refit projects in progress in wood, steel and composite. He showed us the cabinetmaking shops, the steel fabrication shops and we completed the loop up in his office sharing coffee. We liked the place; they appear passionate in their restoration and refit of traditional vessels, employing as appropriate both the old and the fully modern shipbuilding techniques and equipment.

Lex confirmed that they had space inside for our skûtsje in October to begin a restoration and modernizing refit over the winter. He asked for the current location of Nieuwe Zorg so he could look at her to gain a better understanding as we discuss work over the coming weeks. We left SRF convinced that it fully met our requirements.

On Thursday we drove out the causeway to Marken and wandered around the picturesque island of about 2.5 square kilometres. Until the diking of the Zuiderzee to form the IJsselmeer, Marken was an island about 2 kilometres from the shore southeast of Volendam. For centuries its residents, because of differing religious beliefs, refused to mix with the people along the surrounding shorelines, and the population of the tiny island became increasingly inbred. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the residents became the subject of much ethnographic and anthropologic research. 

With the construction of a connecting causeway in 1957, the island of 2000 or so residents became a peninsula. We strolled through the centre of town pausing along the way for appeltaart and coffee in a canal-side patio. Further along we looked at the variety of boats in the haven, among then a finely restored and well maintained skûtsje.

On our way back to Volendam we stopped to look at and old windmill, which we had driven past many times during the previous week without stopping.

In the evening we enjoyed superb beef tenderloin covered with a sauté of criminis, shallots and garlic, and accompanied by butter-glazed carrots and a clean-out-the -fridge salad. The star of the dinner was an amazing bottle of 2008 Feudi di San Marzano Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo di Manduria, which we had found in a small Volendam wine shop, well away from the touristed areas.

At 0330 on Friday we left Volendam and drove to the airport in Frankfurt, dropped the rental car, checked-in and boarded a flight to Toronto and then caught a connection to Vancouver. We had driven just over 4250 kilometres in a very relaxing two weeks, during which we bought a wonderful new boat, a skûtsje built of riveted iron in 1908 by Wildschut in Gaastmeer, Friesland. It had been a successful trip.

This post is also on our Sequitur Blog at: SailBlogs

25 July 2012

A New Concern

On Tuesday evening, the 17th of July, as Edi and I were driving the 160 kilometres northward from Loosdrecht toward Leeuwarden, we were mulling-over the merits and demerits of three barges. These were the results of many months of searching.

During the previous several months we had narrowed our search for a canal boat to ex-commercial barges. We had then sorted through the different types: aak, bolpram, hagenaar, klipper, luxe motor, steilsteven, tjalk and many more, and had decided we wanted a tjalk. We had then combed through the dozens of tjalken listed for sale in Belgium, Britain, France and the Netherlands, and had chosen the Netherlands because of the overwhelming selection and the lower asking prices. We had winnowed the listings down to a spreadsheet of seventeen tjalken, we had contacted the listing brokers and had headed from Vancouver to Friesland. During the previous few days we had whittled our spreadsheet down to these three.

Two of these were pavjonentjalken, one built in 1898 and the other in 1902 and the third was a skûtsje tjalk built in 1908. Essentially, we had already made up our minds which one we wanted. However, as we drove I played devil’s advocate and represented the other two, offering ever decreasing arguments in their support. We arrived at our farmhouse apartment at twilight, and before beginning to cook dinner, I sent an email to the broker with an offer on Nieuwe Zorg, telling him we would like to meet in his office on Wednesday to formalize the offer.

On Wednesday morning we received an email from the broker informing us that the seller had accepted the amount of our offer, and that he would await our formal written offer. At 1100 we met with Peter, the broker and when he had to leave for an appointment at noon, we continued with his partner, Ties. Among other things, we went over lists of recommended surveyors and insurance agents and looked at possible yards to haul-out for the survey. I was delighted to see on the short lists the names of the surveyors and insurers to whom the previous evening I had emailed requests for quotes. These names I had harvested from the list of links on The Barge Association site. We had rejoined the Association, having let the membership lapse after I had sold my previous canal boat in 2006.  

We headed back up to Leeuwarden, packed-up our belongings from the apartment and moved south to an apartment in Volendam. We had found a rather modern place in a location much more central to our anticipated activities over the following week or so. It has a well-equipped kitchen and a second-floor balcony overlooking a large, active marina. 

On Thursday morning we went on a walking exploration of old Volendam, through the labyrinth of narrow back streets and then along the old waterfront. There we admired the traditional Volendamer kwaks, the wooden fishing boats similar to Zuiderzeebotters. These kwaks fished the Zuiderzee for shrimp, eel, anchovies and herring in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and at its peak in 1910, the Volendam fleet numbered over 300 kwaks. With the closing Afsluitdijk in 1932, the former Zuiderzee waters around Volendam became the IJsselmeer, and as the waters slowly lost their salt content, the fishery changed.

We strolled along the dike top, which toward its eastern end is thickly lined on both sides with tourist shops. We decided that since we were buying a former fish boat, that we would need to play the part, so we had ourselves kitted-out in traditional dress. Today’s clothing certainly is more comfortable.

On Friday we drove up to Enkhuizen, where we proofread, amended and eventually initialled and signed the formal offer to purchase Nieuwe Zorg. The HISWA (Netherlands yacht brokers’ association) standard contract was clear and concise, as were the nearly four pages of appended special conditions, which had been compiled in face-to-face, email and phone consultations among the owners, the brokers and us. Peter then gave us an insurance application to complete, and he faxed it to the broker, phoned to see if all was in order, had us redo one page and re-faxed it. Our quote for insurance on Nieuwe Zorg came in at less than eight percent of our just cancelled insurance on Sequitur. It looks like the Dutch canals are a much lower risk than the Chilean ones.

Back in our apartment on Friday afternoon, using Skype and the reception office’s fax, I ordered our bank to send a wire transfer of the 15% deposit in Euros to the broker’s Stichting Derden Geld (third-party or trust) account. Meanwhile Peter had coordinated our chosen surveyor, a haul-out yard and Nieuwe Zorg’s owners into a very smooth three-day schedule of events beginning on Monday.

On Saturday Edi and I walked across the road from our apartment and caught a bus into Amsterdam for a walkabout. Edi decided that the best way to give me a flavour of the city was to begin with a canal tour. Across from the central station, where the bus had dropped us, were lines of tour boats. We joined a queue, and as we approached the ticket booth a young lady ahead of us asked if we wanted a two-for-one coupon; she had spares. We thanked her and saved €14.

Along the Amsterdam canals are nearly solid walls of woonboten. These live-aboard converted barges, boats and scows are one of the ways the city has increased its residential area. We saw a full range. Most are well-done and obviously cared-for, though along more remote sections of the canals there are increasingly ugly and neglected barges, including some truly derelict examples.

After an hour’s boat tour, we walked in through the heart of the old town, tottering at times trying to keep an even keel with so many of the buildings being askew and leaning. Some areas look like Doctor Seuss illustrations. We walked along Oudezijds Voorburgwal, through the red light district, and we remarked that business must be down. The ladies in the windows could not even afford underwear.

Amsterdam is laid-out in a series of concentric semicircular canals built between 1649 and 1662. We followed a couple of them, pausing for coffee and pastry in a canal-side restaurant, before completing the circuit and arriving back at the train station. Around the station were many hundreds, probably thousands of bicycles; car parking is scarce and expensive, while bicycle parking is everywhere and free. There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people, about 1.12 bicycles per person. Nearly 30% of all trips in the Netherlands are by bike, and traffic patterns reflect this. The order of priority seems to be: pedestrians, cyclists, boats and then cars. We need bikes for Nieuwe Zorg.

We took the bus back, but continued through Volendam to Edam, where we got off and wandered through the picturesque old town. Along the way we crossed over the Kwakelbrug, the narrow bridge for which Edi’s great-grandfather had been the toll keeper. In the centre of town we bought some groceries for dinner and then walked the four kilometres along the dike trails to our apartment on the far side of Volendam. It had been a wonderfully relaxing day.

On Sunday we drove to Driehuis near Haarlem to visit with Edi’s cousin, El with whom she had shared toddler years before moving to South Africa in 1952. We then drove the dikes to Wijk aan Zee, Edi’s birthplace and on through town to the top of the dunes. We sat on the patio of Hotel Het Hoge Duin, which had been built on a former Nazi bunker overlooking the Noordzee. We enjoyed good company and a tasty lunch of broodje kroket.

We were up early on Monday to drive to Hoopddorf to the EuropeCar agent to arrange for an extension of four days on the rental car. Then we continued on to Aalsmeer, where we met Bram, our granddaughter’s other grandfather. We did a car convoy with him onward to the Kempers boatyard in Leimuiden, where we dropped our car and then rode back to Aalsmeer with Bram, arriving at Nieuwe Zorg at 1002, two minutes after the appointed time. We surprised the owners Henk and Martha, who been told that we would be arriving at noon. This was to be the only glitch in the complex schedule involving eleven people, four locations, three days and two languages. 

We relaxed onboard having coffee with Henk and Martha and waiting for their daughter, Jacqueline to arrive. Edi and I were feeling comfortably at home onboard as we increasingly realized how suitable Nieuwe Zorg is for us. We reflected on the meaning of her name: Nieuwe Zorg translates to New Concern or New Worry, and we thought that she should instead be called Zonder Zorg: Without Concern, Without Worry, Carefree as we are.

Jacqueline eventually arrived, and we headed out of the little port and down the canal toward the Westeinderplassen, scooting easily under a low bridge, while other boats lined-up waiting for it to open. Nieuwe Zorg’s air draft is only 1.95 metres, which gives her a great exploratory range. Henk gave me the tiller and I quickly gained a feel for how easily she handles.

We arrived at Kempers, and Henk being unfamiliar with the marina layout, headed in through a narrow entrance and weaved his way between lines of moored boats toward a couple of people on the bow of a cruiser to ask directions. The way was back from where we had come, and I was pleased with how easily Hank handled the barge in the confined spaces. She appears very responsive, and I noted she has a left-turning screw, which in astern gear gives the stern a kick to starboard. This will be very handy for mooring with the preferred starboard-side-to. We found the proper entrance and came to bollards on the wharf short of the travel lift.

Edi and I drove Bram back to his car in Aalsmeer and saw him off before we turned around and drove back to the Kempers yard and waited for our surveyor to finish with a cruiser berthed ahead of Nieuwe Zorg.

Marine engineer Rutger Versluijs arrived onboard and began a systematic inspection of the engine and the machinery spaces. He paused from time to time to explain to me what he was doing and what he was finding.

First with the engine and generator off, and then with them running, Rutger continued inspecting the machinery spaces for over half an hour, including the engine cooling and exhaust systems, the through-hulls, the electrical systems, the generator, the batteries, the heating system, the propane tank installations, the engine mounts, the transmission, the thrust bearing, the stern gland and its associated greaser, and so on. During this process, he used an electronic temperature sensor to take readings from a variety of places on the engine and its ancillaries.

He then had Henk motor out onto the lake and we did a half hour sea trial, including ten minutes at full throttle with Rutger down in the engine room with his flashlight and instruments. Back alongside, Rutger performed battery load tests and did inspections of the galley and heads systems. It was early evening by the time we were finished with first part of the survey; the second and third parts, the hull and the rigging were scheduled for Wednesday.

We were delighted with the thoroughness of the surveyor, and with his findings thus far. We drove back to our apartment in Volendam, where we dined well and slept well. On Tuesday morning we arrived back in Leimuiden for the scheduled 0800 haul-out.

The past few days the weather had been clear and warm, and forecasts had this continuing for several more days. It was glassy calm as Henk motored Nieuwe Zorg the short distance into jaws of the travel lift.

We admired the efficiency of the haul-out process. It consisted of one man with a push-button remote, calmly and methodically doing what we have seen teams of three and more chaotic and scrambling men perform in Vancouver, Puerto Montt and St Augustine.

Henk told us that Nieuwe Zorg had last been out of the water in 2005, when he had re-plated her bottom. We had expected to see a heavily fouled bottom, encrusted with mussels and other growth. Instead, there was only light vegetation and a few small crops of mussels. As Nieuwe Zorg hung in the slings, the lone operator power-washed her bottom. 

The scales on the travel lift showed that she weighs 18.52 tonnes, which is about 40,830 pounds.

With a touch of thumb pressure, the operator single-handedly nestled Nieuwe Zorg onto the stands as he adjusted the wooden blocks and wedges to evenly distribute the old girl’s weight. The one-man operation was much calmer and took less time than any of Sequitur’s haul-outs.

After taking another series of measurements of her interior, we left Nieuwe Zorg resting on her stands and headed north again. We drove to Alkmaar in central North Holland and explored the range of furniture and kitchen appliances in the crowd of large home decor stores across the canal from the historic centre of town. With the shopping craving satiated, we headed across the bridge and strolled through the old town until a canal-side restaurant caught our eye and we paused for lunch.

Back in our apartment in Volendam on Tuesday evening I prepared a huge pot of mussels. I began with a butter sauté of julienned garlic and shallots and diced red, green and yellow peppers, then added the mussels and a generous splash of beer. The steamed mussels were garnished with chopped parsley and served with melted butter and fresh baguette slices accompanied by a bottle of Champagne Veuve Clicquot. It was a delicious, if maybe a bit premature way to begin celebrating our pending new adventures.

On Wednesday morning we arrived back at the Kempers yard at 0800 to find that Rutger had already begun the bottom survey. He had completed the port side and was halfway back on the starboard with his electronic sounder. Unlike previous versions of this instrument, which I had seen with Lady Jane’s surveys in France in 2000 and 2006, this one does not require removal of the bottom protection layers.

Application of a conducting gel to the hull’s surface and then applying the sensor to the gel gives an instantaneous reading of the metal thickness. This is a wonderfully nondestructive process, much better than the former necessity of scraping or grinding away the coatings, and dramatically better than the earlier need to drill holes through the bottom, take measurements and then weld closed the holes. Henk was very interested in the process, as was I. 

Something that I had quickly noticed when the barge was hauled on Tuesday also caught Rutger’s attention. Henk had added a second raw water intake for engine cooling to handle the expected dirtier water before he went to France a few years ago. I saw that the unconventional installation was vulnerable to being compromised or knocked off by large flotsam as well as by canal banks and lock sides. I was pleased to see Rutger think the same way and condemn it.

Rutger found the rudder bearings to be well within tolerance, but found the propellor shaft with a rather large amount of play. The tolerance is 2% of the shaft diameter, so he applied his dial indicator to the shaft as Henk pried the propeller up and down against the skeg. The readings calculated to exactly 2%, and Rutger explained that in a case like this, the owners and buyers should share the replacement expenses. We agreed.

The aluminum anodes showed erosion, not excessive, but sufficient to indicate that they had been doing their duty protecting the more noble parts of the boat. Rutger declared that these and the remainder of the underwater were gear good.

We next went aboard and inspected the inside of the hull under the floorboards. The flash on my camera made this process much easier than contorting behind a flashlight and trying to get a viewing angle. The photos showed a dry and dusty environment with virtually no rust on the century-old riveted iron bottom.

The only place where there was any appreciable amount of rust was in the well beneath the mast tabernacle. The foot of the mast, with its 1100 kilogram counterweight swings through a slot in the foredeck as the mast is raised or lowered, and the cover over the deck slot is very prone to leaking. Rutger called this the weakest part of a skûtsje. He hammered and sounded and declared it still good. We both remarked that there were no bilge pumps in Nieuwe Zorg, neither here nor in the engine room. This had been noted in her sale listing. Though not critical, Rutger recommended we scale and treat the area.

As we were finishing the hull inspection, Peter, the broker arrived. We all met: seller, broker, buyer and surveyor, and we received the verbal survey report. There were a few things for Henk to correct, repair or replace before the completion date. There was nothing major:
  • un-seize, clean and grease the starboard leeboard winch;
  • repair a broken cog on the port leeboard winch;
  • relocate the secondary raw water inlet and blank-off the old hole;
  • replace the propeller thrust bearing rubbers;
  • repair leak in the cooling water pump; and
  • repair the interior heating system.
There were two items that will be shared 50/50:
  • replace bow-thruster battery bank; and
  • replace propellor shaft stern bearing.

We agreed to have Peter investigate the costs involved in the shared items, and we would then come-up with an amount to deduct from the balance owing on the purchase. 

We arrived at an easy agreement and then we got into our four separate cars and Henk led us around the Westeinderplassen to Hoofddorp, to a warehouse where he has been storing Nieuwe Zorg’s rigging. We first looked at the leeboards, which are in fine condition, with beautifully executed stainless steel plates, stars and edge trim.

We were aware from the listing that fittings and rigging are missing and that there is no jib, only a mainsail. The sail is in good condition, still crisp and as far as we looked, with intact stitching. The laminated oak gaff looks good, but needs fittings.

The mast has a deep split running about half its length, and this had been exacerbated by an earlier repair attempt. Henk had invited a carpenter to attend the inspection, and after a quick examination, we all agreed that it was uneconomical to repair. The boom is in far better condition, though missing a few fittings. In our contract, the seller is to install the leeboards and deliver the remainder of the rigging onboard Nieuwe Zorg before the closing date. We told Henk that he could exclude the mast from this, but to include the mast counterweight. It was mid-afternoon by the time we had all shaken hands and had driven off in our separate directions. Everything had gone smoothly; totally zonder zorg. We were well pleased.

This post is also on our Sequitur Blog at: SailBlogs

18 July 2012

Something Completely Different

We had arrived back in Vancouver on Thursday evening, the 5th of July emotionally drained and grieving from having left Sequitur behind in St Augustine, Florida. She had for the past four years taken Edi and me safely, confidently and in grand comfort and style to some very remote and wild corners of the planet. We were still addicted to boating, and we were suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Realizing that we are approaching our best-before-dates for the type of cruising we had been doing, we have decided to look for a more sedate and gentle style of boating.

We rattled around in our loft in Vancouver, disoriented and restless. We spent a steadily increasing amount of time on the internet, searching, reading, researching and dreaming. By Monday we knew we needed to take action, so we booked flights, rented a car and reserved an apartment. Shortly after sunrise on Thursday we were rolling our carry-on bags toward the SkyTrain for a trip to the airport.

Both legs of the flight went flawlessly, the rental car pickup was seamless, the GPS unit took us easily in four and a half hours from the airport in Frankfurt to the apartment in an old farmhouse on the northern edge of Leeuwarden. It was Friday the 13th and we were in Friesland to begin in earnest our search for a new boat.

My fascination with canal boating began in 1966 when I was posted to France with the Royal Canadian Air Force. This fascination was reinforced in the 70s and 80s while on climbing trips to the Alps and wine explorations in the Champagne, Alsace, Rhone and Burgundy, and in 1984 I rented my first canal boat in France. Through the 80s and 90s I was in Europe a couple of times a year on wine buying trips or setting-up and conducting wine and food tours. While in France, I always took time to look at the canals and at the variety of boats using them. In 2000, I bought Lady Jane, a 14-metre Dutch cruiser and by the time I sold her in 2006 to go sailing again, I had explored more than 2500 kilometres of inland waterways in France.

Edi and I had initially begun thinking of another canal boat when we were stuck in Valdivia, Chile for months waiting for repairs to Sequitur. Then after we had rounded Cape Horn, it seems that whenever we had an internet connection, we spent hours online looking at various canal boat options. We started by dreaming of what we would do after we completed our circumnavigation. We thought of having an Aqualine replica Dutch barge built for us in Gdansk, Poland.

Then we thought of buying a new Dutch cruiser, such as a Linssen from Maasbracht, Netherlands. Somewhere along the way, while dealing with the increasingly adverse bureaucracies in Uruguay and Brazil, our desire to continue butting against Third World nonsense on our way around the world gave way to a more fast-track transition to the canals.

During the exploration process, our thinking slowly morphed toward buying a converted ex-commercial barge. We pored over the online listings of the many brokers in France, the Netherlands and Britain. We looked at listings of converted Aacs, Bolprams, Klippers, Luxemotors, Skutsjes, Steilstevens and Tjalks.

As we grew more familiar with the various barge types, we were increasingly drawn to the tjalk, the most typical of all the Dutch small ships. The name is from the old Dutch language and was first mentioned by Witsen in "Architectura Navalis" in 1690. Tjalken are flat-bottomed sailing cargo ships with shallow draught ideally suited to use in the shallow rivers and coastal waters of Friesland. 

The shape of the ship, with its tumblehome gunwales and pleasing sheer, is reminiscent of the Dutch wooden shoe. Because of the tjalks' flat bottoms they were fitted with leeboards instead of deep keels, and they could easily dry-out on the beaches with the tides.

Most tjalken had easily lowering masts so they could pass under the low bridges. As they approached fixed bridges on the canals and rivers, they would quickly drop the fully rigged mast and sails as a unit, pass under the bridge, and easily re-erect the rig once clear. Tjalken were initially built of timber, but during the 1890s the builders gradually turned to using riveted iron instead of wood, and during the first decade of the 20th century, riveted steel replaced iron.

We arrived equipped with a complex spreadsheet of data from seventeen tjalken we had chosen to look at. Most of the ones we had selected were built in the 1890s or the first decade of the 20th century, and they ranged in length from 16 to 20 metres. Since there are much more rigorous licensing requirements for vessels over 20 metres in Europe, we wanted to stay under 20.

There was a well-equipped kitchen in our rental apartment, and there was a large supermarket a five minute walk away, so shortly after we arrived, we went shopping for groceries. We had appointments through their various brokers to view several barges on our list, and we were awaiting responses from four other brokers.

Our first appointment was in Leeuwarden on Saturday morning. After breakfast, our car's GPS took us to the canal alongside our first barge. She is a 19.98 by 4.60 metre tjalk built in 1907 and still has her complete sailing rig. 

Her interior is well finished, and fully set-up for comfortable living. However, the systems and galley equipment are very dated and the interior layout is not to our liking. We would have to gut the entire interior and start over. Her high asking price reflects her condition and equipment, much of which we would have to throw away. Also, her generous headroom gives her a very high air draft at 3.5 metres. This makes her too high to fit under the lowest bridges on three of the finest canals in France; the Bourgogne, the Nivernais and the Midi.

On Saturday afternoon we drove to near Koudam on the shores of the Alde Karre, near the IJsselmeer for an appointment to see the next tjalk on our list, a 19.90 by 4.15 metre vessel built in 1910. From the outside she appears to have long since lost the love of her owner. This was strongly confirmed by a visit to her interior. The owner explained the wet bilges to be from a leak she had not yet tracked down, and the stains and rotting floorboards forward pointed to other leaks from above and below. It was quickly scratched off our list. 

Making our trip worthwhile was the sight of a tjalk sailing past in a stiff breeze on the Alde Karre.

Our next appointment was in Lelystad to see a 19.80 by 3.80 metre tjalk from 1903. She has a full working rig in apparently good condition. 

However, her interior is absolutely basic and is diminished further by carpentry of a very poor standard. The headroom is a bit less than 1.5 metres, and requires a constant stooping. Her interior is easier to gut than the first barge we looked at, but extensive steel work is required to heighten her house to livable dimensions. The decision to continue our search was easy.

With our day's appointments completed, we drove back by way of a stop in Harlingen. We walked along the canal in the centre of town, in awe of the beautiful old buildings and admiring the obvious pride of the home owners.

The canals were filled with boats moored along both sides. Some areas were mostly filled with new fiberglass sailboats, but among them were many of steel, including new reproductions of traditional tjalken and skutsjes. 

Out near the waterfront of the Waddenzee is a basin filled with large charter sailing tjalken. We watched as one left its moorings with a full deck load of passengers and headed out toward the zee.

We had an early dinner back at the farm and went to bed early to continue working-off the jet-lag from our eight hour time change. On Sunday we had no appointments, so we went exploring, hoping to find a suitable tjalk with a Te Koop sign on it.

We also went looking for one of the listings on our spreadsheet, about which we had not received any response from the broker. This 19.98 by 4.49 metre tjalk was built in 1897. After some questioning, we finally tracked it down alongside a farmhouse outside of Kollum. We barged-in and met the owners on their patio and they gladly showed us their boat. We could find nothing positive to say about the vessel.

We then drove to Warten to look at boats in the marina at Boten en Meer. After sharing coffee with us, Auke van der Meer, the owner of the marina and its associated brokerage showed us around. He had nothing suitable onsite, but we were very taken by a beautiful little 5.4 by 2.2 metre boieir built of oak in 1941 for a Nazi general during the occupation.

Auke also is the listing broker for one of the tjalken on our spreadsheet. Its owner has moved the barge to a boatyard in Heeg to have it stripped-out to a bare hull in preparation for a new fit-out. It is a 19.66 by 4.22 metre pavjonentjalk built in 1898 and still with its full rig, but this had been removed for the work. The yard is closed on Sunday, so we made an appointment to meet Auke on Monday morning for a visit.

On Monday morning we liked what we saw. It was stripped-out, the engine and machinery were removed, the deckhouse had been cut away, the poured concrete ballast had been jackhammered out and work had begun with some bottom re-plating.

We talked in broad terms of various refit possibilities with Auke and the yard manager. The barge was still sufficiently original that it could be easily restored and accepted for listing as an historic vessel. This would allow moorage at museum harbours throughout the Netherlands. We looked at the leeboards and other bits and pieces of rigging that had been removed, and then we went back to Warten with Auke to talk details. One clog in the works was that, since he had begun work, the owner had rather steeply raised the asking price from what we had seen in the listing. Another detraction was the estimate of nearly a year to complete the fit-out. At least we had found a tjalk that we hadn't rejected.

On Tuesday morning we drove to across the Afsluitdijk to North Holland for an appointment with Peter Rood of Scheepsmalelaardij Enkhuizen. The GPS took us through the convoluted maze of central Enkhuizen to the canal front office, where we had coffee and a good conversation with Peter, giving him a better understanding of what we are looking for.

Peter had four of the listings on our spreadsheet, two of which we had already viewed through him on Saturday and Sunday. He had made appointments for the other two for us for later in the afternoon and our meeting with him was on our way south to see them. We also had an appointment to see a tjalk from another broker. We were illegally parked in front of the office, so we cut our meeting short before the parking police came by.

First on our list was a 19.80 by 4.20 metre live-aboard in Amsterdam. It was built in 1930 and we found it comfortably finished, but completely wrong for our tastes. We would have to gut it and start over, and because of its level of finish, the asking price is high and makes it unreasonable to consider. 

The second barge on our day's list is in Aalsmeer, south of Amsterdam. It is a 1908 skutsje tjalk, and at 16.38 by 3.44 metres it is the second smallest on our spreadsheet.

It is a very pretty little barge, which was bought by her current owner in 1975. He converted the vessel and has lovingly maintained her for 37 years. Her sailing rig is ashore in a shed, where the owner was restoring it until he became too ill to continue.

The interior, while rather smaller than we had set out looking for, oozes charm and shows a distinct pride of ownership. We now have a second barge on our list to consider; how very different they are from each other. 

The final barge of the day is in Loosdrecht, southeast of Amsterdam. It is a 19.14 by 4.10 vessel built in 1902, and is owned by a marine engineer and his wife, and he works in the boatyard where they are moored. The tjalk is fully fitted-out, rigged for sailing and is very well maintained, as can be expected from a professional boat maintenance person. 

I was impressed with the engineering fit-out, by the completeness of the systems and equipment and by the orderliness and cleanliness of the barge. While the interior is not completely as we would like, its modernization refit would not be such a huge task.

All of a sudden, we found ourselves with three choices, each dramatically different from the others. During the 160 kilometre drive back to Leeuwarden we had much to discuss.

This post is also on our Sequitur Blog at: SailBlogs