Days of Yore
The Waterland Milk Barge is back after 104 years
AMSTERDAM – For centuries, the farmlands above Amsterdam kept the city in milk. It was shipped in large bins on barges, the last of which was sold in 1909. This year sees the return of the “Waterland Milk Barge.” Named for the canal-laced area north from Amsterdam, a splendid oak replica is coming to life in the hands of carpenters led by boat builder Peter van Lieshout.
“Call it experimental archaeology. We really don’t know much about the barge,” says Anton Wegman of the Waterland Milk Barge foundation which relies on old photos and paintings. “We need to discover how the boat was sailed,” he says on a YouTube video of the sailing magazine Zeilen. “We are rebuilding a boat and trying to figure out how it was sailed. For instance, it had loose side board for a keel that was moved to the other side when the craft came about. That was a hefty board, 2 meters long, 60 centimeters wide.”
The barge had a skipper, 4 or 6 crew and, often, 2 unstayed masts. It could also be oared. Curiously, it was partly carvel, partly clinker built. The barges plied the IJ waterway that cuts across Amsterdam for more than 300 years. The oldest image of one dates back to 1607. They were simple but fast craft with fold-away masts holding up triangular sails that could be easily lowered
The replica is being built with the aid of donors who buy part-shares in the craft _ a form of ownership that was already popular in the 15th century. The replica has already attracted some 15,000 euros in sponsoring.