One of my modes of transport on this Shannon Journey was a 100-year-old Dutch Sailing Barge called Nieuwe Zorgen. This type of barge is known as a Skutsje Tjalk, and this particular one is my brother Eric’s home.
A Tjalk is one of a variety of Dutch commercial barges, each type built for a specific purpose. The Nieuwe Zorgen was designed for carrying cargo on the shallow lakes, canals and rivers of Friesland in the North of The Netherlands, thus the low stern and bow. To pass quickly under the many low canal and river bridges, the Skipper had to drop and raise the mast and sails repeatedly, so the mast has a counter weight which allows it to pivot. Probably the most distinctive feature of the boat are the fan-shaped leeboards.
We know that Nieuwe Zorgen was built in 1904, and started out as a freight carrier. Many of these sailing barges were confiscated during WWII to be used against the allies by the occupying forces, but the Zorgen escaped this fate when the owner sank her to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on her. She was then recovered when the war ended.
Nowadays these types of Tjalk are used for racing in the annual Skutsjesil, a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century when the skippers used to race each other to get the best spots on the town quay.
By the way, in case you are wondering – Nieuwe Zorgen means ‘New Worry’. Don’t ask, we don’t know either!