Sepia Saturday 325

Sepia Saturday 325


Another theme for Sepia Saturday that feels like it was made for me!  While my boats carry the flag of Holland and aren’t being rowed  under a bridge, this was just TOO good of an opportunity to pass up.  In the photo above, we see an “aakschip” or quite literally, a “barge boat” in a canal in Holland, with the photo likely taken in the mid 1930s.  Hilje Dijkema, my husband’s grandmother, is the person in the checkered print dress on the left, the person at center is likely her sister Ellechien and the man in the dark clothes to the right is probably Hendrik.  The barge’s name is the “Vertrouwen” or “Trust” and was built in 1926 for Hendrik Dijkema, my husband’s great-grandfather.  Hendrik is one in a long line of “turfschippers” or “peat boatman” but the translation doesn’t accurately explain what that is – the Dutch is just SO much more efficient here!  Basically, Hendrik ran boats up and down the canal that carried peat logs used for heating fuel.  The boat was primarily based out of Uithuizen, but likely went all over Groningen on deliveries.  The family was based out of Uithuizen and I know from paper  records that they had various homes there over time.  Before the Vertrouwen, Hendrik had another ship, the tjalkschip  Ebenhaezer.  There is a short series of photos taken around the same time, so I’m going to go ahead and post them all!


Likely taken on the same day as the photo at top, here we can see the barge’s name, “Vertrouwen,” painted on the back.  On the boat we have, left to right, Hendrik Dijkema, Elizabeth van Eerden, Hilje Dijkema, and Ellechien Dijkema.  Again, probably about mid 1930, maybe a little before 1935 – Hilje was born in 1914, so if I guess she’s in her late teens, it puts the window between 1931-1934 if we guess she’s between 17 and 20.  They’re all standing or sitting on the area of the boat that would’ve been the living quarters.  Further to the left of the photo is the cargo area where the peat logs would’ve been stored with covers to keep them out of the elements.  Based on the leaves on the trees, this looks like it was probably taken in the summer.


One last one!  again, same time period, and from left to right we have Hendrik Dijkema, Elizabeth van Eerden, Jantje Oosting, and Hilje Dijkema.  Jantje Oosting married Hilje’s brother Albert Dijkema in 1934, which further helps solidify the timeline.  Together, the three photos give us a little glimpse into their life aboard these barges.  During the winter, the canals mostly close down due to ice, so while they spent their winters in Uithuizen, the rest of the time was spent on these barges going all over the northeast of Holland.  They’re really precious photos and I’m so glad they survived and are here to tell their story.


  1. How interesting! That looked like quite a long boat, I wonder how many feet. I didn’t realize that the family lived on the barge-boat, at least some of the time…until you mentioned the living quarters. That makes sense. But they had homes ashore as well from your records. What a great collection that has educated me in an entirely new subject.

    1. Sheetar

      The Vertrouwen was 22 meters long (72 feet or about 4.5 car lengths). I suppose it might look longer in the photo from the perspective, but they’re really not all that large since they have to fit through some pretty narrow canals.

      LOL this has been an incredible learning experience for me too – my husband’s family is all from Holland and it’s been exciting to learn so much about their culture. We visited Holland last year and saw some of these old barges on the canals and they’re much smaller than their modern equivalents.

  2. La Nightingail

    A fine collection of pictures. Those ‘living quarters’ must have been rather small. I don’t wonder they were quite happy to go “home” when a trip was completed. We have friends living in Groningen so I’m always interested to see pictures of the place.

    1. Sheetar

      They were very small – we saw a replica cabin in a museum on our trip there this past fall and it was probably the size of an American bathroom! Groningen is a lovely town and we even went to Uithuizen to see what it was like and walk the same streets as my husband’s ancestors.

    1. Sheetar

      These are all inland canals and they are pretty shallow and murky. In some areas, the tannins from the leaves and rotting plant matter even turn the water a dark, over-brewed tea color. Where they likely were is blocked in by locks that keep the seawater out (most of Holland is below sea level anyway) so the water would be fresh water and not affected by the tide. Fresh water canals grow all kinds of algae and small floating plant life in the summer!

  3. Geoff Hart-Davies


    We are an Australian couple and currently own the barge in the photos! Her name is now Janine and we spend 6 months each year cruising in her in the Netherlands – indeed we are currently in Friesland. We would like to make contact so we can exchange photos of her now and also we would like to learn more of our ship’s history.

    Looking forward to hearing from you

  4. Pingback: Sepia Saturday 330 | Sheetar

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