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Libertijn of Alphen is a Dutch barge, more specifically a Klipperaak, originally built in 1910 to haul cargo.  Her commercial cargo carrying days are now over, but she still does plenty of cruising.  She has undergone many changes, from replacing her sailing gear with her first engine in the 1920s to having several meters cut out of her riveted iron hull to shorten her overall length to 25 meters in the 1970s.  With her cargo hold converted to living space, she provides accommodation equivalent to a three-bedroom house.  Best of all, if you don’t like the neighbourhood, you can move the house!


The aft cabin was not an original feature, but was added in the 1920s when Libertijn was converted from sail to motor.  The wheelhouse was also added at this time.  The aft cabin served as the living quarters for the captain and crew when she was still in trade, and the space was subdivided into small rooms that served as beds, saloon, galley, and head.  It made for a pretty small living space, though nothing like as small as the cabins found in working English narrow boats.

Today, the aft cabin serves as the master bedroom.  The subdividing walls have been removed to make one large room with a queen bed at one end and a 2-meter marble bath at the other end.



The teak wheelhouse dates back to the 1920s, and can be folded down to pass under low bridges.  It takes fifteen minutes for two people to remove the roof (3 timber sections), remove the doors and 4 side panels, and fold the windscreen and rear screen down.  Although this is a quick and fairly painless process, it is best done when the boat is not moving – a last minute panicked disassembly is not recommended, especially if there are only two people aboard.  When the weather is good, we always cruise with the wheelhouse down, even if we know there are no low bridges to worry about.  The visibility is much better, and it is pleasant to have the breeze in your hair.

The controls are simple and straightforward.  The ships wheel uses chain-and-cable steering (no power assist) – a day’s cruise in a small canal provides plenty of shoulder exercise for the captain.  A single gear lever provides transmission control: forward, neutral, and reverse.  There is a throttle control, an engine stop, and my big modern luxury, a bow thruster control.  I have heard some purists say that this is cheating, but it has helped me to avoid crushing the small plastic cruisers that litter the waterways in the summer.  It also makes backing up much easier, as Libertijn tends to back up in circles.



Forward of the wheelhouse was once a giant cargo hold.  The bulk of it has now been converted to a large galley and saloon on two levels.  The galley was designed by Johnny Grey (see renovation section) and offers a commercial kitchen set against the softening influence of cherry and maple furniture with black and grey granite worktops.  It is a modern design you would expect to find in a sleek loft conversion rather than on a boat, and we love it.  Hidden away in the colourful furniture are all the essential modern conveniences – two refrigerators, freezer, ice machine, dish washer, warming drawer, giant stainless steel sink, commercial extractor with custom baffles to minimise noise, copious wine storage, and of course, a six burner Viking gas hob and separate gas oven.  The design is brilliant for dinner parties, as the guests can watch and participate in the cooking process.



The saloon and galley are in the same open space, but the saloon floor is sunken by a few feet.  The saloon has a wood burning stove for atmosphere (central heating and air conditioning mean that the temperature is always pleasant) and a home cinema complete with hidden projector and drop-down screen.  We have found that the screen is so large (about 10 feet across) that we often watch television from the galley rather than the saloon.  For movies, of course, a seat in the saloon provides the best experience.  Thanks to some brilliant design work by ATC, the saloon also includes an audiophile multi-channel sound system. 


Forward of the saloon is a hallway leading to a marble shower, separate W.C., laundry facilities, and two guest cabins.  One cabin provides a queen-size bed for visiting couples, and the other two single berths in the forepeak.  Because the guest accommodation is at the opposite end of the boat from the master cabin, we have found that long staying guests do not intrude on our privacy.

Photos courtesy of Alastair Miller.

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