Dutch Barge Stevenaak

Stevenaken appear on our inland waterways at a time when there are hardly any photographs and few yard archives are kept. The first data date from around 1860. Stevenaken are related to the Dorstense aken; possibly a successor or a Dutch variant thereof. The German town of Dorsten grew into an important shipbuilding center in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is generally assumed that the Dorsten barge was developed from older types of Rhine barges.

Characteristic are the wide ascending surface at the front, to which the strakes connect with a coarse kink, and the sharp stern. Here the plane rises about 20 to 30 centimeters and ends in a point at the almost vertically standing stern. Over the entire length there is a kink between the surface and the edges. Towards the back, that kink gets stronger. The construction is clinker-clad, at least above the empty waterline, while mountain timbers are missing. These ships were also built in Dutch yards; terms such as Rijnaak, Zoomaak, Hollandse barge, Bovenlandse barge are encountered in the various shipyard archives and/or specifications books.

Stevenaken differ from the Dorsten barges in a number of respects. The heve has been replaced by a prow. The construction is now the same at the front as at the back; the plane is slightly lifted at both ends. Both stems are slightly slanted, while the stem is slightly curved. Furthermore, the construction is smooth and one sees a mountain wood; this may indicate a Dutch development.

Wooden stern barges are known from the yards Jonker in Kinderdijk, Duijvendijk in Lekkerland and Gypsum in Dordrecht. The archives of many well-known shipyards from this area have been lost; However, Stevenaken will have been built on more yards.

The smallest ships, from about 20 meters, had only a pavilion as a home and were equipped with a single mast rigging. From a ship length of 26 meters, an aft mast was already installed. This always stood against the aft shield of the cargo hold or - if there was a deckhouse on the back - against its aft bulkhead. Such a deckhouse was with this size of ships - one also saw them on, for example, the large pavilion tjalks - a so-called heating deckhouse of about 5 feet long; sometimes the floor was at deck level and then there was no headroom inside. In front of the deckhouse was the loading deck, an elevation of part of the cargo hold made with the help of wooden bulkheads, which was covered with hatches.

In even larger ships, a large deckhouse was usually placed further forward on the ship. Behind this deckhouse was a separate cargo hold raised by a loading deck. Sometimes the loading deck was as high as the deckhouse itself. This way of building was also seen on other river ships, such as Dorstense barges, kenen and early clippers. The aft mast always remained in the same place during this development and change. Only at the first large clippers does it move to the back of the deckhouse.

In later years, when the deckhouse moves aft, we get the well-known superstructure that also occurs with the two-masted clipper: the aft mast rests against the front bulkhead of the deckhouse. Bringing the aft mast forward had its limitations. This limitation is in the length of the main mast (= the front mast). When passing a bridge over the Rhine, the stem was lowered onto the aft mast; the aft mast itself was adapted in its length to the height of the bridges. Then the mainmast was lowered. But not quite, because that was a clumsy job, while there was a chance that the masthead would poke into the mizzen sail that was left standing. In addition, the mainsail also hung, which always made a difference in speed. The length of the mast was such that the top when half lowered came close to the top of the aft mast/mizzen lower mast.
If the aft mast was moved forward on a 26 meter long ship, the main mast would become too short for the required sail area. That is why this was only done for larger ships, for example only above 30 meters. For this reason, the boundary between one- and two-masters is at Klippers, which has a much greater length than at Stevenaken.

In the area around the Rotterdam - Dordrecht line people switched to iron construction at an early stage. The first iron Stevenaken were probably copies of the wooden ships. So by 1880, the period in which the Klipper was developed, people started to fan out the skin next to the stern. Only a little, because if you look at such a head diagonally from the front, you can see that it is already completely over in the bows. Gradually they moved on. If the hollow iron stem is replaced by a staff stem, we have a ship with a clipper head. The rigging of the iron Stevenaken is less pronounced than that of the wooden ships. The mast tops are becoming more normal in length, although often still on the long side. There have also been Stevenaken with a short mast, with which people (with lowered mast) sailed under the bridges. Residents of The Hague were also sometimes equipped with such river equipment. 

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