Sunday, August 11, 2013

Boating pleasures and pains

Somewhere before I know I have mentioned that classic Dutch phrase here "Koop een boot, werk je dood." If you understand that the word 'koop' means 'buy', it's probably not difficult to figure out what the rest of the expression means. Not to put too fine a point on it, the saying goes that if you buy a boat, you're probably going to work yourself to death! This doesn't sound very romantic, does it? Not quite the scenario most people have in mind when they think of life on the water.

I was thinking of this myself only yesterday. For the past few days, I have spent every available moment sanding and painting the paintwork on the Vereeniging. Jodie and her boyfriend have been hard at it as well. It's been a tremendous amount of work and we're only half way through it. For a small barge, there seems to be an unconscionable amount to be done.

The read stripe all round the barge and the red trim on the windows
 Part of the problem is that we didn't manage to do anything other than the hull last year because of the dreadful weather over the summer when we had time to do it, and partly because the Vereeniging has so many different bits that need painting: the foredeck, the steering deck, the engine room roof and sides and the cabin roof and sides, the red trim all around these two, the green panels with their black painted supports, the red stripe all around the barge, and finally the black trim all the way round above the red stripe. To add to that, the berghout which I think is the rubbing rail in English, is made of hard wood and has to be oiled. See, four entire lines already to list all these jobs! And I haven't even mentioned the mast foot, the mast, the teak entrance to the back cabin, the engine room hatch and the foredeck hatch, or then again, the spraying of the tarpauline with waterproofing. That's  a disproportionate amount for the smallest barge in the harbour, don't you think? And what's worse is that it should all be done every year if it is to be well maintained. Yes, Koop een boot, werk je dood. You will if you let yourself.

The mast needs doing regularly too.

There are upsides, though. For example, I get to sit in my little rowing boat and paddle round the barge as I paint. I can also sit in the self same little boat with a cup of coffee and feel the sun on my neck. Wonderful. Meanwhile, I can talk as an equal to the ducks who are currently zooming around followed by their most recent crop of ducklings. I am convinced they are doing training before they go to the duck distribution depot where they will be assigned to one of the millions of ponds, canals, drainage ditches and creeks in the country. Sometimes, on rare occasions, even the swans come and say hello, although I'm slightly nervous of getting too close to these. They can have mean tempers if they think you've got something they want - like a snack. Generally, though, this is one of the simple pleasures that I love and I know not many other people can do, not just whenever they feel like it anyway.

Spuddling in the little boat

We can also do tours round the harbour in our little rowing boat. Seeing all the other barges from a ducks eye view is fascinating. We've been known to do this winter and summer and I well remember doing the rounds with my daughter Mo in, I think, November. We were wrapped up to the eyeballs, that I do recall, and we couldn't find our oars, so we used a broom and a homemade oar made from a stick and a short plank of wood screwed together. Unforgettable.

Mo and I 'rowing' round the harbour with a broom
and a makeshift oar

A Duck's Eye view of the harbour

Another upside is being able to have your own private terrace on the water and not have to pay for the privilege of sitting there. We can sit on our deck till the moon is high in the sky, drinking glasses of cool wine and enjoying the warm summer evenings without anyone telling us time's up or we have to leave to make room for other customers.

So there it is, the pleasures and the pains of owning an old barge. I think that overall, the pleasures far outweigh the pain and for that reason alone, the work will never kill us.


  1. And, occasionally, you can go 'faring', which must be the real reason for your buying a boat in the first place! The paint work looks lovely. I'm sure that she will continue to be the belle of the Oude Haven. :)

  2. Christina, we can indeed :-) Faring is an even greater pleasure. I wish I could say that these photos are all current. I regret they aren't and are just examples of work done in past years. We are still busy with the mast and the teak entrance doesn't look as new as it did in this photo. Weathering has already given it an much darker colour. I will post new photos once the job is all done, but thank you very much for your kind words. I think she is the belle of the Oude Haven too, but I admit to being biased!

  3. There is also the satisfaction of sitting back and admiring your work (a bit like brass cleaning but on a much bigger scale). I like the idea of chatting to the ducks, bet they make more sense than some people I know! Keep up the good work, it's worth it in the end xxx

  4. All that hard work - and what wonderful rewards! I can see why you love it, Val.

  5. Hi Val .. owning anything costs doesn't it .. the easy bit is the buying - it's then that the pennies start rolling out ...

    But it's great to have a passion and a love for something ..

    Great you're enjoying nature too .. cheers Hilary

  6. You paint a lovely picture of sitting on the deck in the moonlight sipping wine,that would suit me well. As for the painting well,I'm a dab hand at that so I'd give you a helping hand too.

  7. Thank you all!

    Fran, I love the ducks! They are fascinating to watch and they are so busy all the time. I actually think they're a lot like people only more colourful :-)

    Jo, I do love it, yes, and oddly enough, I like the work as well! I'm much more suited to that than, let's see, cooking?

    Hilary, it combines many of the things I enjoy most, but the costs in time and also financially are not small!

    Thank you, Anne. Sitting on deck on a warm evening is a kind of heaven. You'd be very welcome to come and help with the painting. I spent another couple of hours on it this morning, and there's plenty left to do :-)

  8. I believe life is simpler and easier, even with all that work, where you live than it is where I live. A summer evening on your own waterfront deck sounds awesome.

  9. Thank you, Carol. It is definitely simple! Some might even say primitive :-)

  10. It seems like it's been worth the effort, as you've been bonding with Jodie while getting an intense workout. There are so many details that go into maintaining a large boat and it shows.


  11. Love the idea of being able to sit on your private terrace but not so sure about all that hard work! When we used to take our old dog canal boating the only thing we had to be wary of were the swans. They hated him and would have devoured his nose as soon as look at him if they could!

  12. Ros, yes, swans are pretty scary aren't they. We were chased by an angry swan once when we were out in our little boat. It was quite terrfying! Luckily, we had an outboard motor and we could go just faster than the swan, so it gave up in the end, but I was a wreck by the time we got clear.

    Julie, thanks! Yes, all that work does create a bond :-)

  13. Water does take a toll on vessels.
    I hear this type of hard work from friends(commercial fishermen) who own boats.

    You are a dedicated barge owner. And all the hard work pays off with the peaceful pleasures of it all! :)


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