Welcome to our blog. We are Martin and Sarah, and we live in Lechlade-on-Thames, Gloucestershire. We have decided to buy and live on a Dutch barge. This blog is about the pitfalls and pleasures that we have (and are still) encountering along the way to buying and bringing our boat back from the Netherlands. From the 424 miles by car, bus, plane and train that it took to get to Sneek on our initial trip to go and view boats, right through our journey through The Netherlands, and Belgium back to the UK.
It was whilst canoeing on Boxing Day 2016 that we decided that we would like to buy a boat and live on it. Martin already had a narrow boat, but it wasn’t really big enough for two people, and so we decided that a wide beam might be more suitable.
The conversation about boats stopped there throughout the rest of the Christmas and New Year festivities, and our attention didn’t return to thoughts of buying a boat until one cold January evening (January 6thto be precise), when we sat browsing through various marine service and brokerage websites, and eventually stumbled upon ‘Finja’ a Dutch barge of the Tjalk type (sounds like the English word ‘chalk’ but pronouncing the ‘l’ in the middle), and instantly fell in love with her. Finja had a broad round shaped hull, and the fact that she had a mast and sails made her look much more graceful than an English narrowboat. She was also fitted with teak throughout, which made her as attractive inside as she was outside.
A trip to The Netherlands
She was for sale through Bowcrest Marine Ltd, a Dutch barge specialist in Ferndown, Dorset. However, we later learned that she was for sale through a partner company called Scheepsmakelaardij Goliath, (which basically means Goliath Ships brokerage), and was moored in Sneek (pronounced ‘snake) in the Netherlands, and we decided there and then to go and view her as soon as possible (even though we didn’t know very much about Dutch barges, and we would have to get to Sneek to see her!). Sadly, Finja was not for us, she was just too small. We soon found out that many Dutch barges, although converted into liveaboard boats often have large sections with restricted height….and I mean very restricted, like crawling around on your knees with your head scraping the ceiling, and Martin and I are not tall (5’7” and 5’2” in our socks). On our very last day, after having seen many other boats, and feeling almost certain that we would come home with nothing, we found our boat!! She is currently called Hiljo (a name that we plan to change once we register her in the UK). Hiljo, originally built in 1909 and later converted into a houseboat is also a Tjalk, but in Friesland, they have their own name for a Tjalk, a Skûtsje (pronounced scootshuh). Now, that we have bought her, we need to bring her back home.
At present, she is moored with Jachtbemiddleling vdVeen at Terherene not far from Sneek. Take a look at her below