Dutch Barge Platte Bol

  • box bow
  • real sidewalks of approx. 25 cm
  • equipped with wooden rudder and steel leeboards
  • equipped with fore and aft deck
  • rubbing strike at deck height
  • mast lowering winch between folding hatch and bow

The Platte Bol was perfect for navigating the canals of Groningen and Drenthe. The most common size was 50 to 60 tons. The ship is equipped with a complete deckhouse, albeit small, but still complete with entrance, equipped with a sliding hatch with lattice gate, on the starboard side. A cuckoo provides light on the table and there are two windows on each side of the deckhouse, usually with a slide in front. The aft gets light through a skylight on the aft deck and two portholes, one on each side of the stern. Entire families, sometimes with up to nine children, lived here.

The ship is equipped with sails and a short mast with a so-called Drenthe rig. A Drenthe rig has a short gaff. This is the most suitable rig for sailing on the canals. The Drenthe rigging is the result of local police regulations that pursued the goal of promoting safety on the water and protecting the ramparts. A ship with only a jib becomes leeward and with only a mainsail windward and in both cases not easy to sail. When sailing before the wind, both objections disappear. One solution is to shorten the mainsail. The skippers in Drenthe pulled up the jib behind the mast with a small straight gaff in the top. This was laid down in a regulation. This is how the expression 'Drentse breeding' arose, which was also generally accepted outside Drenthe.

In the Frisian internal regulations of the police I, article 22 stated: It is forbidden to sail on the canal above lock II in Drachten up to the Kolonievaart other than only with the Drenthe jib, with a maximum width of 75 cm at the top or only with the mainsail in the gey. In later years, that jib turned out to be insufficient and grew into a reduced mainsail with a straight gaff, which could be used separately from the mast, i.e. without a beak. There was a chain on that straight gaff, because it could only be lifted via one block.

The ship was not built for larger waters, partly due to the lack of any form of bulwark. Steel leeboards also indicate this. If they were used on rough water, they folded under the ship and then the situation would be dire. The steel leeboards were much more used as a brake and to secure the ship. To this end, they were simply pressed into the mud.

Sailing was only done when the wind was favorable. If the wind was more forward than cross, the skipper's wife came. Because a skipper's saying goes: 'Whoever loves a woman keeps her in front of her'. Sometimes there was also hunting with a horse, but usually this went far beyond the reach of the wallet. As a rule, people remained lying down to wait for a suitable wind. Because: 'an old sail is better than a new line'. If there was a strong headwind and the skipper sailed on time, he had to hunt.

Platte Bol were used, among other things, for transporting foam soil from sugar factories to agricultural land. Foam soil is the residue that remains after the sugar is removed from sugar beet. It was used by the clay farmers to make the heavy clay soil more pliable. This foam soil was also brought in by Zeeland clippers from Antwerp and Lille. At Winschoterzijl, De Groeve and the locks at Appingedam, it was manually transferred to flat boats and transported further to the clay lands.

The Platte Bol was excellently suited for transport of sugar beets. Thanks to the sidewalks, you did not have to walk over the cargo during booming. The Fries-Groningen sugar factory had Platte Bollen in ownership. The skippers, with their families, had to sail for the factory in the fall. In the summer, they were often allowed to sail on their own account. 

Have a look at our offer of former professional ships