Launched, Kromhout, Jannetje, Vitesse, 29th August 1922, Boot de Woubrugge, Mercedes OM321, 9th September 1937, operation sea lion barge, Drachten, Netherlands, Trintje Hoekstra, Vitesse, Fikkers, Groningen, Wartena, Stichting Yachthaven Wartena
She was launched on 29th August 1922 as the motorschip "Jannetje". As was common at the time, she was named after the owners wife and constructed by the reputable ship builders, Boot de Woubrugge in Holland.
Originally built with the now classic 26 horsepower Kromhout "Oliemotor" or medium pressure heavy oil engine, it functioned well for nearly forty years before being replaced by the present "modern" 5 litre Mercedes OM321 in the early 1960's.
Jannetje was lengthened in 1927 in order to carry more cargo and carried stront around Friesland and the Ijjselmeer region of the Netherlands until 1937, when she was relocated to the major port city of Antwerp in Belgium.
Renamed "Vitesse" on 9th September 1937, she continued carrying cargo in Belgium until the second world war intervened.
Along with many hundreds of other barges, Vitesse was requisitioned by Germany's Nazi government for the planned invasion of southern England or "Operation Sea lion" as it was to be known. Dutch barge
Thankfully, Operation Sea lion never took place and she survived the war, eventually being returned to her owner by the General authorised for the Dutch reconstruction department in Rotterdam.
Vitesse was retired from commercial work in the early 1980's because her size and capacity no longer made her commercially viable.
She escaped being scrapped due to the quite exceptional condition of her incredibly strong, close chined, riveted steel hull and beautiful counter stern and was converted into comfortable living accommodation which provided a cosy, permanently moored home until 2004 when I came upon her in Drachten in the Netherlands.
Luckily for me, her owner had fastidiously maintained Vitesse's mechanics, which were in excellent condition considering that the barge had moved no more that one hundred miles in the previous twenty years.
It really was love at first sight and within two weeks I had Vitesse lifted from the water, a thorough survey carried out on her hull, some minor plating work done and signed on the dotted line in Groningen.
She recieved her new name on the full moon of October 2004. The name simply meaning, "Heaven" in the Indian Sanskrit language. After so many years spent in India, I'd now found my personal Heaven.
Since the purchase, I have immersed myself in the world of barges, bilges, barging, engines, electrics, plumbing, inverters, sea cocks and generators to name but a very few of the vast number of things you have to learn about. It has been a wonderful experience and character building education at the same time.
Within days of purchase I started cruising her around while at the same time taking training that would lead to the qualifications necessary to pilot such a large craft safely.
At the same time I commenced the almost total reconstruction of her interior and systems. Some of that work was completed during winter 2004 and in May 2005 I waved goodbye to my winter home of Wartena in Friesland and cast off for France. The real adventure was only beginning...
You can see photographs and read how it went by clicking here
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