|A skipper's work is never done|
It is of course possible that when I say I have a liveaboard Dutch barge, the image this conjures is of one of these luxurious, newly-built copies that are rather popular in the UK and also in France. I won't say I'd love to own one because I wouldn't trade my century-old heap of rusting iron and rotting rivets for a single part these replicas. Beautifully designed, they undoubtedly are; fitted to perfection they might be with the last word in compact kitchens and bathrooms, not to mention storage space where you wouldn't believe it possible to create a mouse-hole let alone a cupboard (Okay, maybe I am a bit envious of the cleverly designed interiors). But apart from that, I would neither want nor could I afford one of these - shall we say - generous-pension-fund-retirement investments. They are very, very expensive.
No, when I talk about owning a barge, the most impressive thing I can say about mine is that it's genuinely a piece of floating history. This year, my barge is 116 years old. There…isn't that something? And, as I mentioned in my last post, it was one of the first Dutch barges to be built as a motor vessel. In case you didn't know already, at the end of the last century, most barges were still sailing craft. Some were built for both and allowed for an engine as an auxiliary to the sails, but few were constructed with just a motor and no sails at all. So I'm a little proud of this part my dainty dameschip has played in the history of transport.
But all that aside, the fact that it is so very, very old brings its own set of maintenance problems. One of these is simply keeping it clean. I don't know why it should be but old boats don't just attract dirt, they act as magnets for any and all grime, sand, mould and associated fungal growth that's around. Moor up next to a new built barge or cruiser, and you'll see what I mean. These wonders of modern design and materials never seem to show so much as a smudge. And yet my barge looks as dirty and grubby after I've scrubbed, washed and drowned it with rinsing water as it did before. It just isn't fair! Even worse, every winter, it grows a green coat, which is slimy and horrible. It doesn't matter how diligently you brave the snow, ice and howling gales to try and keep it at bay, the dreaded furry growth spreads like some nasty science fiction disease.
|How I love to see my barge - Freshly painted and CLEAN!|
You might justifiably be wondering why I'm on this mini rant today. Well, for the past two weekends, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning our two very old (but much loved) boats. Next to one of these, our little Henni H, lie two Dutch barges with everything new on them, and I am constantly ashamed to be in their company. Every time I go to the Henni H, which is most weekends, I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time cleaning, so I rarely get the chance to do what is really needed and that is the painting. The same is true of the Vereeniging, but luckily, my gorgeous monument is moored next to a bunch of other equally ancient barges, so despite my mutters, it doesn't compare so badly.
|The Hennie H - also freshly painted, but not as monumental|
as the Vereeniging
All the same, it would be lovely to see some benefits for my labours, don't you think? The trouble is I know that if I really want that level of immaculate perfection, I shouldn't go for - what was it I called it? - an old heap of rusting iron and rivets. Just as nothing is ever straight on an old barge, nothing is ever smooth either, so all those little pits and crevices that are the result of years of wear and tear are just asking for the world and his gunk to settle in them.
So, people with cleanliness phobias beware, an old barge is a dirt trap and unless you are a career cleaner, or you have the whole thing re-built (in which case it's not old anymore), there's no miracle on earth that's going to keep it clean. As for me, I just have to keep the buckets and brushes primed and deal with it. I suppose it keeps me fit if nothing else. There have to be some compensations...