BLUE FLAG &BARGE NEWS
This is all I can find of the stuff that I have written for the two barge magazines over the last 2-3 years. Some of it is pre-publication copy and consequently it is sometimes poorly edited and may contain spelling errors. However, there is a load of useful info and historical background to delve through.
- A Time & a Place ………historical background
- The main sailing barge types
- The barge skipper & family……….historical
- First CelticFringe……….assorted stuff
- Sinking barges
- Getting out on the water
- Fitting out, treatment for wood
- Coasters & Kempenaar
- Lee boards, manoeuvring & load lines
- First BCA article
- Storm & Birth………….genuine recollections of a real barge skipper
- Smildiggers……real life skippers, historical
- More rigging
- Anchors & ground tackle
- Water Works……..DAF 475, problems & solutions
- Coasting……..along the south coast
- Understand your Meetbrief & tonnage explanation
- The A-Z of barge bits……Dutch words translated
- Jan Willem data
- Historical shipbuilding measurements
- The river Vecht
- On the slip '99
A TIME AND A PLACE
All our boats are products of a certain phase in the commercial development of the Nederlandse Binnenvaart and to the outsider possess a bewildering variety of sometimes unpronounceable names. What is a Kraak and how is it different to an AAk? What exactly is a Dorstense AAk or a Poon? Why do so many apparent contradictions occur? Why are all Tjalken actually Kromstevens and all Luxemotors strictly speaking Steilstevens? To throw some light on all this and to gain some sense of perspective, let's start in the 16th century.
Large areas of the low countries in the 16th century were under a very unpopular Spanish occupation. How this came to be and why in a very real way it contributed to the Spanish Armada and thus made a folk hero of Francis Drake, are history for another day. This period has left us with many first hand accounts of events however and this leads us to the siege of Leiden. The Spanish occupation was never unresisted and the free city of Leiden was surrounded by Spanish troops and slowly starving. In 1574 the siege was finally lifted, when the sea dikes were opened by William the Silent and a flotilla of shallow draft flat bottomed ships were sailed 50 miles inland across the flooded fields to confront the besieging Spaniards. These ships are variously described as Fly boats (Fluits), Hulks, Boyers and Crowsteves. The Boyers as a type survived into the twentieth century as did the hull form known then as the Crowsteve, or Kromsteven. By 1600 the Netherlands were united as a trading nation and the full ended, almost bulbous Fluit, was the number one cargo carrying vessel of its time. It was never intended to carry armament, just cargo and lots of it. It could also be managed by half the crew needed to man an equivalent French or English ship. Amsterdam was the entrepôt of Europe, home trade and the herring fishery were dominated by Dutch ships and in the East, the Dutch East India Company was set to dominate the silk and spice trade. The Netherlands whole economy was based on trade and an enviable ability to build the right ship for the right time and place. Hugo De Groot proclaimed "Mare Liberum" or free use of the sea. The English responded with the various Navigation acts or "Mare Clausem"!
In 1650, Nicolaes Witsens, the mayor of Amsterdam, wrote an illustrated book on ships and ship handling. Some of the craft are referred to as "Tjalk like". These had the distinctive curved stem or Kromsteven. When the second edition was printed 20 years later the Tjalk is listed as a true ship type. Paintings from this time often show water born activity and although the larger craft are mostly sprit rigged and without lee boards, the smaller canal craft have unmistakeable long narrow lines. A book which is still in print is Hollandse Schepen which first appeared in 1789. This is a collection of etchings by G Groenwagen and in here we begin to find more familiar names and hull forms. The Kof Schip has definite Tjalk lines, loose footed sails and lee boards. So too do the Turftjalk and Poon. All these have the Kromsteven typical of the breed. The Kraak with no stempost at all exhibits the familiar Aak hull form.
The trading barge was not restricted to the Netherlands of course and to gain a sense of perspective it is worth remembering that at this time in England the Thames barge was already well established, with its blunt ends and "stumpy" sprit rig. In Yorkshire and Lincolnshire the square rigged Keels were carrying coal to Barnsley and the gaff rigged Sloops were sailing up the Humber, whilst the cutter and ketch rigged Billy Boys were plying their trade coastwise. In the south east the Wherry was sailing and quanting its way around the fens and in the west the Severn Trows were navigating the rivers Severn and Avon to Bristol and beyond.. Further north on the Mersey the Flats worked in and around Liverpool.
However this article is concerned with areas further east and so we must return to the Netherlands as the 19th century dawns The sprit rig had all but vanished on inland waters and now most ships carried the more typical Dutch gaff rig. The Dutch learned that weight aloft and a high centre of effort in the sail requires a well stayed mast and since the average inland barge was constantly raising and lowering its mast a simple rig was needed. The answer was a taller mast with first a long gaff and later the more typical short and sometimes curved gaff. This rig was simple, relatively light easily managed short handed and in some cases a totally unstayed mast could be employed.
On the great rivers the large two masted gaff rigged Dorstense Aak was voyaging up the Rhine into Germany and the single masted Tjalk in its many regional guises such as Skutsje, Poon, Turftjalk and Ijsseltjalk was to be found all over the Netherlands. The Aak too was spread across the whole country with regional variants of Hagenaar, Hasseltraak and zandaakje. Around the coast the Lemmeraak. Wieringeraakand Palingaak were fishing in and indeed crossing , the North sea.
All the types in which we are interested were still built primarily from wood, with iron being incorporated more and more into various fitting. Iron came to the Rhine ships in the form of "Puddleijzer" (what we would call wrought iron) in 1839 when the first iron steam tug boats appeared. At the same time some metal hulled cargo boats, with and without sailing rig were built and these are mostly referred to as Kasten. 1872 is an important year to us as this is when the Iron hulled Klipper first appeared, more or less in tandem with the Kraak. The Kraak although a name from the past was nothing like its earlier namesake. The "new" Kraak was really the updated metal version of the old wooden Dorstense AAk and varied in size from 13m to a more typical 30-35m in length. They had a counter stern, often with a horizontally mounted wheel right aft, and a blunt straight stem or "steilsteven". The Klipper has no wooden binnenvaart ancestors and the "Industrie" an iron three masted river Klipper was the first of her breed. Although conceived as an all new replacement for the Dorstense Aak, apart from being long and narrow, the resemblance was minimal. With a swept forward hollow bow and graceful counter stern, modelled on the sea going Clippers in the tea trade, the river Klipper was both graceful and efficient. The Klipper was always more popular and numerous than the Kraak and was used not only on the great rivers but all over the Netherlands, evolving eventually into the beautiful and seaworthy two or three masted Noord Zee Klipper.
Another variant was the Klipperaak, with an Aak stern and a Klipper bow it was often referred to as "Klipper met peerdekont" or Klipper with a horses ass!.
Around 1890 we can begin to see the signs of a ship that will later be known as a Luxemotor. The Stevenaak was basically an Aak hull but with an "S" shaped stem, blunt in appearance, it is neither Klipper or Tjalk like, but something new. The Zeilkast has a Klipper stern but a long almost rectangular hull with a straight stem that clearly shows the shape of things to come. The first ships with auxiliary motors had the engine mounted on the foredeck, with a long propeller shaft angled back and down over the starboard side. This "Lamme arm" as it was known appeared in all areas of the binnenvaart fleet, but was not particularly powerful and sail power was still the major influence. At this time over 60% of the binnenvaart fleet was powered only by sails, that is to say unassisted by steam tugs or auxiliary s of any type. By 1900 some sailing ships had been fitted with inboard engines. The Steilsteven with its AAk or Tjalk stern and straight or "steil" stem was popular for this, as it was lightly built and the round stern could take a tail shaft fairly easily. It is after the 1914-18 war that the ships built primarily for motorisation appeared. These known by the prosaic but unromantic name of Motorschip had a hull form reminiscent of the Zeilkast with the straight stem making them technically Steilstevens. They were without lee boards and now had a wheelhouse with the accommodation aft of this. They still carried a mast however and although primarily used as a boom and derrick for cargo handling, they were still able to fly a gaff mainsail and self tacking jib for motor sailing to windward and could sail quite effectively down wind. This all made the life of a barge skipper much more comfortable, although most begrudged the price of fuel! Somewhere around 1920 the name Luxemotor was coined and .now there was an equal 50-50 split in the fleet between power and sail. From then on nearly all the new Motorschepen in the binnenvaart were Luxemotors. The Northern and Eastern provinces built them with short fat sterns and are generally more blunt in appearance, whist those from the South and West have a sharper bow and longer overhang in the stern. Large examples up to 40m were almost coaster like and smaller craft of around 20m, Beurtschepen handkerchiefs were built especially for venturing into the smaller canals. Belgium too built Luxemotors and also the larger and less elegant Spits.
The next war saw a revival in the fortunes of the sailing barge with fuel being in short supply and in 1940 around 40% of the cargo fleet was still under sail. From then on however the sailing fleet rapidly declined and the cargo fleet evolved into the high tech monsters of today. Thus it is left to us as latter day binnenschippers, with leisure now being our cargo,.to rediscover the delights of our Luxemotors, Tjalks, Keels et al and continue the centuries old tradition of the binnenvaart.
THE MAIN BINNENVAART SHIP TYPES
TJALK, AAK and KLIPPER
At the turn of the century there was a bewildering range of binnenvaart ship types. However, the vast majority of the true inland freight ships sprang from one of two very old hull forms. These were the tjalk and the aak. By the end of the nineteenth century, the tjalk was the most common of all the Dutch binnenvaart ships. The change from wooden to iron construction saw little appreciable change in the tjalk form. The use of metal rolling techniques allowed a curved bilge to be introduced, replacing the harder chine previously seen in wooden construction, but otherwise the design remained unaltered. Although the tjalk shares many features with other binnenvaart ships, they can be recognized primarily by their distinctive hull form. Tjalken were built to carry cargo, as much cargo as possible and so they are recognizable by the rectangular shape of the hull. The curved "voorsteven" (stem), which also leads to them sometimes being referred to as "Kromstevens", or bent stems and the inward turning "boeisel" (the upper portion of the hull), are all indicative of the tjalk hull form. A heavy iron band, the "berghout", is carried all around the hull for strength and to act as a rubbing strake. The bottom is flat with no keel or keelson and has a noticeably rounded bilge. The wooden rudder is very large and mounted on the stern post on conventional gudgeons and pintles.
The aak is at first glance very similar to a tjalk, some variants more so than others, but an aak hull is constructed in a different way to the tjalk. The roots of this design go way back in history. As early as 800 ad wooden aak type ships were used on the Rhine. A little later, in the sixteenth century, again on the Rhine, the aakschip known as the Keulenaar was voyaging into what is now Germany. By the nineteenth century the predominant Rijnschip was the Dorstense aak. These ships were all long and relatively thin, lightly built and with a large spread of sail. The aak hull extends the flat central bottom plate to bow and stern, curving up to form a particularly blunt shape. In most aak forms there is no voorsteven, just the flat plate known as the heve plate. This also leads to them being called Hevelaken. In a few types such as the IJsselaak and the Rietaak a voorsteven is used as well as the heve plate, these are then called Stevenaken. In both types a loefbijter (a small skeg fitted to the stem) may be fitted to improve the sailing qualities. Above the berghout, at kop and kont (bow and stern), the plates do not in general have any tumblehome as the tjalk does. This gives them a distinctive look that easily distinguishes them from a tjalk. Many aken were built for fishing and although built in a similar fashion to their inland cousins they were fitted with long thin leeboards in the same way as the more well known fishing craft, the botter. In the case of both tjalk and aak, steering was originally carried out by means of a long heavy tiller. Many skippers seized the opportunity to convert their craft to wheel steering with the introduction of the "Engels stuurwerk", an English steering gear produced by John Hastie and Company, in the early part of the twentieth century. Craft so fitted can generally be identified by the way that the helmsman must steer with the wheel behind, or alongside him.
All tjalken and aken were originally fitted with a zwaard (lee board) on each side. These were of wooden construction and had a subtle airfoil form. They were fan shaped, distinguishing them easily from the deep water craft whose zwaarden were long and thin. The sailing rig consisted of a loose footed gaff grootzeil (main sail) on a heavy boom, a small fok (staysail), self tacking on a horse just forward of the mast and one or more kluivers (jibs), carried on a kluiverboom (bowsprit). The use of ketch rig and top sails originally occurred only on the larger tjalken engaged in the coastal trade and the larger Rijnaken. The typical length was between 15 to 25 metres and the weight from 20 to 150 tons. The length to beam ratio was normally in the order of 4-5 to1.
Probably the second most common sailing binnenschip type to be seen today is the klipper. This ship has no wooden ancestors and appeared late in the nineteenth century constructed at first in iron and later in steel. The hull shape has its roots in the large ocean going ships of the time and it immediately made a big impact on the binnenvaart scene. They were elegant, flamboyant, one two or even three masted ships and were, without exception, all roefschepen with an aft, open, wheel steering position. This ship is completely different to either the tjalk or the aak. With its long overhanging bow and elegant counter stern, it can not easily be confused with other types.
THE THREE BASIC DECK CONFIGURATIONS
On deck the layout of the skippers accommodation was largely a matter of personal preference. Generally a small ship did not have the space for a large cabin and equally well a large ship did not have to stint on head room. Whatever the ship however and whoever the skipper, any binnenvaart ship must conform to one of three basic layouts.
In the case of the dekschip, it can be seen from the photographs that the cargo hatches are uninterrupted from aft of the mast to the cockpit, which in turn is located as far aft as possible. The rather low accommodation is located under this area, in turn giving rise to a very shallow cockpit, having the distinctive koekoek (sky light) in the aft centre under the tiller.
The roefschip is the most common of the larger tjalken and was principally constructed in Groningen and Friesland. It derives its name from the built up structure forward of the steering position called the roef. Originally, on the wooden ships, this roef was a self contained living space bolted or lashed to the deck, thus maximizing cargo space. This structure was made of wood and generally only inhabitable in the summer months. When the change to iron construction came these roefs still tended to be of wooden construction for greater insulation. These independent structures earned themselves the name of zomer roef (summer roef). Many of the larger tjalken, whether of wooden or iron construction, had a permanent roef which was appreciably lower than the zomer roef, as use was made of the hull space both below and aft of the roef. A. constant problem with iron construction was condensation and so even on an iron ship with an iron roef the deckhead was often still of wooden construction to take advantage of the greater insulating properties offered. The wood did not suffer from condensation, but often leaked when it rained. On balance it was accepted as the lesser of two evils!
The paviljoenschip is very similar to the dekschip in that no roef is fitted. However, in this case the accommodation is aft of the cockpit and has a built up structure over it called the paviljoen, providing higher after sections and a deeper cockpit. This structure gives the ship its name, although the name originated in a much older ship type carrying a large sterncastle. Because the tiller has to reach forward over the paviljoen, it must be very long and often elegantly curved. This means that to achieve "full rudder" the tiller must be pushed right outside the confines of the cockpit. This earned them the name Draai over boord, meaning, "to turn outside the boat". The paviljoen always had its entrance on the bakboord (port) side, a koekoek, in the centre under the tiller and two ports under the berghout on either side of the achtersteven (sternpost). The smaller versions, built in the south west of the region, were sometimes called Wagenbruggers as they were able, with their mast lowered to pass under the Wagenbrug, or wagon bridge, in Den Haag.
THE BINNENVAART SKIPPER & HIS FAMILY
During the nineteenth century, the vast majority of tjalk skippers owned their own ships and arranged their own cargo. They were both merchants and sailors and well respected in their home town. The cargo these merchant-sailors carried was diverse and reflected in the evolution of the ships that carried it. Peat, hay, reeds, potatoes, cheese, sugar beet, manure, all generated differing techniques of carriage and slightly different ships. By the end of the century the growth of "big business" meant many skippers were being forced to relinquish their role as merchants and to put this function in the hands of a middle man. The skippers resented this departure from their traditional freedom and as the power of the land based merchants grew they saw their own influence waning. This continued in spite of attempts by the skippers to avoid exploitation and the effects are still felt by today’s binnenvaart fleet.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, canals and rivers still formed the backbone of the Netherlands inland transport system. The railways were spreading, but theirs was still a secondary role. Wherever the lines crossed a canal, or small river that had recognized navigational use, it was necessary to construct a movable bridge to allow free flow of water traffic. When a railway line crossed a wide waterway, such as the Rhine, it was necessary to construct a fixed bridge. A lifting, or swing bridge, would have been technically difficult, as well as expensive to construct. In these cases, the railway companies paid for those ships using the waterway and lacking a mast lowering facility, to have their ships converted. The men who looked after the thousands of bridges, road and rail and also the sluices, played an important part in keeping the trade moving. The skippers paid for every bridge, or sluice, that had to be opened. This provided the funds to maintain the canal system. The general rule was, that a bridge or sluice "watcher", as they were called, would be on duty from one hour before sunrise, to one hour after. It was not forbidden to use the canals at night, but the skipper had to stop sometime and generally night travelling was not done. When it was attempted, perhaps as a skipper wanted to get an early start, the rule was that it would cost ten cents, this was four times greater than the day fee. Even then there was no guarantee that a man would get out of bed for ten cents! The bridges and sluices were all manually operated and this could mean a long hard day. However, the watcher was generally well paid and a house normally went with the job. Often a cafe would grow up at these sites and the skippers would try to reach these points before nightfall. Here they could meet friends, exchange news and stories and, if the wind was foul, arrange for a man and horse to tow him on his way. This job was often undertaken by the farmers who owned the land beside the canal. They would farm with "one eye on the canal" and then provide a horse to tow the barge through their "territory". If the skipper was lucky he would soon find another tow, but if not, it was up to him and his family to provide the power. It was that or wait for the wind. Although the work was hard, so too were most occupations for the non city dweller. Although some merchants in the cities owned several ships and employed regular crews, most ships were owned by their skipper and operated from the towns and villages of the countryside. At the end of the nineteenth century, people did not, by and large, travel very far outside their home town. Those that did travel were looked up to and engendered with a certain mystique. In Drente, for example, the skippers of the small barges that carried turf, had a higher status than a farmer, but the skippers who sailed the bigger craft, across the Zuiderzee to Amsterdam, were seen as real seamen and looked up to even further. They were seen as real gentlemen and addressed as "Sir".
The Zuiderzee was a physical and social barrier to the people who lived to the east of it. To the skippers it represented a real challenge and a whole new set of techniques and equipment were needed to cross it safely. The water authorities provided warehouses on its shores, where the skippers could store the heavier sails, hatch clothes and ground tackle, needed for this "overseas" trip. When they had brought their ships successfully to Amsterdam, each group of skippers, from similar areas and towns, had their own meeting places, where they felt secure. The Drentse skippers stayed in the "Haarlemmerstraat" and those from Hoogeveen at the cafe "De Ramskooi". On their return to the eastern shores of the Zuiderzee, they would exchange their heavy sea going gear once more and return to their families. They made a habit of staying away no longer than three weeks and would not sail at all at Christmas and Easter. They were a religious people anyway, but the skippers in particular were rather pragmatically more so, they experienced the forces of nature regularly and were aware of their own vulnerability.
The skipper of a tjalk or aak, was nearly always himself the son of a skipper, who had, in turn, married a skipper's daughter. This intense family involvement in the binnenvaart produced strong ties and loyalties. In times of hardship, or personal difficulties, these people would "close ranks" to protect their own. These were an astute group of people, as good at conducting business as at sailing ships. They were aware of the advantages that a good education could bring and although school was not yet compulsory, often went to great lengths to ensure that their children attended school as regularly as possible. This meant that a skipper's son, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, would already have a good academic, commercial and practical background. A son would learn his trade from his father, working as a deck hand on the family craft until he was able enough to be employed on another ship. When he had saved sufficient funds, he could approach his parents and some of his many relatives for loans to enable him to buy his own ship. A ship that was for sale would often discretely display a handful of twisted straw pushed through the hook at the outboard end of the tiller. Another skipper would know what this sign meant but most other observers would remain in ignorance. The inboard end of the tiller might proudly display a handgrip in the form of a barrel, this traditionally meant that the ship was paid for and the sole property of the skipper. The young owner was not seen as a "real" skipper however, until he employed a knecht (deck hand). When he got married, his wife would live on his ship with him and they would raise a family on board together. The skipper's wife was often mother to all on board, the skipper, the deck hand and the children. She would cook for all, in the tiny confines of the roef or paviljoen (living space), all the time listening for the sound of a child falling overboard, or the skipper and hand arguing. It was her job to mediate and calm things down with a cup of coffee. Sometimes, the skipper, his family and the deck hand, would all live together, but often the hand was expected to make a bed for himself in the forecastle. In the larger ships he would even have his own stove. Generally though, living was cramped, a tjalk made its money from carrying cargo, not people.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Dutch binnenvaart fleet expanded more quickly than any other form of maritime activity. Dutch binnenvaart skippers sailed to all accessible parts of Europe. It may justly be said that through their hard work and skill they formed the backbone of the Dutch economy.
RIJNKLIPPER TO ZEEKLIPPER
Around 1850, further to the west and closer to the sea, the shipyards supplying the coasting trade had started to build what became known as klippers. These made use of the lines of the ocean going tea clippers to introduce a new hull shape, with a fine entry and exit as opposed to the typical rounded rather blunt shape which was common in binnenvaart ships at the time. As early as 1860, the shipyard of C. van der Giessen in Krimpen a/d IJssel was building iron river ships with the "new" hull shape. The first of these were still rather straight in the kop, but instead of the rounded after sections of the aak or tjalk, they now sported a graceful counter stern. On deck they were much like the stevenaak and Dorstense aak, with the central roef, hatches both before and after the main mast and ketch rig, often with a top mast on both masts. They were sometimes called stevenschepen, sometimes Rijnschepen, but more and more, as they developed a graceful curving clipper bow and central bowsprit, they became known as Rijnklippers. They also lost the old fashioned deck layout, in favour of a roef aft of the bezaanmast. A ketch rig, without top masts, was the normal rig, whilst retaining bokkepoten to lower the main mast.
The counter stern allowed wheel steering to be a standard fitting from the beginning and this was immediately popular with the skippers. The Rijnklippers were large ships of 300 tons or more, but without the wide beam and tall free board of their coastal cousins. The klipper was built in large numbers and various forms all over Noord and Zuid-Holland. It converted well to motorisation and some are still in service in the binnenvaart today. Others are sailing as charter ships and the examples given can all be seen sailing on the IJsselmeer during the summer months.
In many places the size of the waterways dictated the size of the ship. In Noord Brabant for example, in the town of Roosendaal, due to the size of the town locks, the Roosendaalse klipper was built to just 23.5m by 5.7m. In general though, the different types can be distinguished from one another by their length to beam ratio.
The ships that were built to work mainly on the great rivers and make the voyage to Germany, were two masted with a lowering mainmast and they were built long and narrow. The two masted river klipper Strijd, built in 1899 by the Kalkman shipyard in Cappelle a/d IJssel, is 32.6m long by 5.8m in the beam. This gives a ratio of almost 6 to 1. Another example of this is Avontuur, formerly Wij gaan Voorbij (We go past), built by the Boot shipyard in Leiderdorp in 1911, specifically to be a fast sailer. This ship measures 31m by 5.5m, again a ratio of almost 6 to 1. Where a klipper was expected to venture on the exposed waters of the North Sea, or through the Waddenzee to the Baltic, a more robust build was called for, with greater freeboard and the additional stability that a wider beam can give. With a beam of 6.1m on a length of 27m, Verandering has a ratio of 4.5 to 1. Built in Papendrecht in 1898, Verandering is an excellent example of a Zeeklipper. At the other end of the scale are the smaller single masted klippers built to a more or less common size of 25m by 5m. Anna Trijntje, 25m by 5.5m, 1902 from Delft, Quo Vadis, 25m by 4.9m, 1894 from Waspik and Jacoba, 25m by 5m, 1902 from Belgium, all serve to illustrate the point.
There can be no argument that a ship with fine lines like the klipper will be a good sailer. However although indisputably a sailing ship that won't sail is no good at all, a good sailer that can carry only a small cargo is equally useless. On the Rijn with its fast current a ship had to sail well, but further downstream where the current was less of a factor, a ship could be allowed to become a little fuller in the ends and hence load more cargo. This lead to hybrids such as the klipperaak and the Kraak.
Celtic Fringe Section
I, oh yes, my new section. I feel that there is a section of the barging community that is largely unrepresented, these are the folk who do not in general own giant luxemotors, are not desperately interested in the vintage of their wine as long as it hits the right spot and have to peer deep into their wallets before mooring alongside for the night or popping into that sweet little bistro. Know what I mean?, rings a bell? all those who are nodding their heads,.....Welcome to the Celtic Fringe Section, the section that caters for all those, from any area or country, that enjoy their barges, or even their dreams of barges, without ever consulting the Financial Times Index. All those with bent backs from carrying coal and gas bottles, those with permanently muddy wellies and those whose shore power leads have a colony of spiders so ancient they speak Sanskrit. Welcome, Welcome to your own section, the Celtic Fringe Section.
However The Celtic Fringe is more than just a geographical sub-section, I instigated this section in direct response to last years furore over name changes etc. and also because I felt that a platform was needed to take up the cause of the impoverished barge owner, as opposed to the recently retired, comfortably off, second home owner and to represent all who struggle along in slightly unorthodox fashion to allow them to live on the water, or in many cases for much of the time, live on the mud! I love to read the articles about electric toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and micro-waves. A really handy hint recently was that still warm bath water in conjunction with a 750 watt AC pump cleans a sewage tank out really well. It’s also good to know where all the good canal side restaurants in Europe are located. Much of this though is worlds away from everyday existence on the beaches and mud banks of the "Fringe’. Here we do not have access to mains power in any shape or form, access is by a muddy path when the tide is out and via a fabricated scaffolding shore bridge (nicknamed "the bridge of doom") linked to the barge next door when the tide is in. Water must be carried on in 25 litre cans, or the main tank of 1500 litres capacity topped up by a trip across to the fishing boat quay. Much as I would love it, a bath is out of the question. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning and "Jan Willem" is probably better equipped in many respects than most of the boats on our beach, and better still, at least in my view, able to sustain comfortable life aboard for extended periods afloat, without ever needing to tie up to a quay or dockside. The three items of kit that we would find it hard to do without are; "Charlie", our Ampair 100 wind charger, an ageing German portable 3kv generator, built like a tank with a Briggs and Stratton side valve engine, used to power my various tools, the iron, spin dryer and Hoover (luxury-luxury!) and "Etna" our multi-fuel burning stove, as happy on firewood gathered from the banks of the creek as she is on coal. We are, I’m sure, typical of many of the creek dwellers that exist around our shores and also of many of those travelling around Europe and indeed the world, on a very limited budget backed up by initiative and bags of enthusiasm topped up with optimism!
continent. The writer goes on to say that because of the favourable exchange rate, many retired people could buy a Dutch ship cheaply and in his words "Live like God in France." This is an image of us that a lot of people have and although it may have been true once, it is, I think, no longer the case. Certainly some high profile barge owners are comfortably off, but many of us and here I include all my Celtic Fringe members, have made what some might see as considerable sacrifices (or bizarre choices depending on your outlook) to enable them to live on board their own ship and cruise whenever circumstances permit. Once again I salute all of you with tar under your fingernails, wood shavings in your hair, low power lighting, dubious drinking water and an irrational fear of ferrous oxide..
THE CELTIC FRINGE SECTION
To become a member one should ideally live anywhere except the South East of England, be relatively poor, and not own a large Luxemotor. However in true eclectic style this section excludes no one. To join all you have to do is add the words "Celtic Fringe section" whenever you mention "DBA", "BA",or whatever we end up with. As members you can hold your own seminars, meetings even rally s. In the latter case your chances of winning the farthest travelled award, smartest ship award and ship handling competition will be greatly enhanced.!!
( Oh, by the way, "Bokkepoot" is the name for the mast lowering legs seen on the foredeck of many Dutch sailing barges. It actually translates as "Goats legs")
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