Dutch Barge Skûtsje

A Skûtsje are low, sleekly built Tjalks. The construction with narrow skin passages in front and back corresponds to that of the larger Friese Tjalken. However, the bow and stern are even more swept (cut off), while the bulwarks - especially at the bow - strongly fall inward. Skûtsjes are therefore more built for speed than for loading capacity. The actual Skûtsjes, with a length of around 12 meters, measure about 10 to 20 tons.

The slightly larger Skûten, which later took over the collective name Skûtsje under the influence of skûtsjesilen, varied in size from 20 to 50 tons. Usually, the Skûtsje sailed with manure or earth; although occasionally other cargo, such as potatoes, sugar beets, turf or stones, was transported.

The sailing area was mainly limited to the Friese and Groningse inland waters. Occasionally, the larger Skûtsjes also sailed on the Zuiderzee, but they were not really suitable for this. Ships that were specifically built for sailing in the southwest of Friesland - the Zuidwesthoek - usually had a higher bow than the ships intended for the canals and smaller lakes.

Because the normal sailing area of the Skûtsjes consisted of narrow waterways with many fixed bridges, the ships have a low cabin, with the cabin entrance in the midship. Also, the mast is foldable below decks. This means that the mast runs through to the bottom of the ship, down to the mast track. A counterweight (wegerij or weights) is attached to the front of the mast foot. When the mast needs to be folded, a hatch in the foredeck is removed, after which the mast is pulled backwards by the crane line. This means that the weight of the mast foot plus the wegerij under the mast bolt is slightly heavier than the weight of the mast with fittings and rigging above this bolt.

This means that when the crane line is released, the mast will automatically come back up. Something that is easier than pulling up with a folding rope. The rigging consists of a main sail and jib. The main sail has a short curved gaff. The jib is not on the bow, but on an iron outrigger, the botteloef. This provides a good ratio between main sail and jib despite the, for the sake of a large cargo space, strongly forward placed mast. 

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