Boat trips: Enjoy life on the water!
Once upon a time, Giethoorn had twenty boatyards – small but flourishing artisanal businesses. The traditional oak boats, called “punter” in Dutch, were the workhorses of the village. Transport by water was very common. For transporting livestock, moving house, weddings and even funerals, the wooden boat played a prominent role due to its shallow draught. Today there are only two boatyards left. The “Punterwerf Wildeboer” is one of them, a modern boatyard with the feel of yesteryear.
The workplace smells of craftsmanship. Of wet wood and tar. This is where the craftsman goes about his work. Based on intuition, feeling and experience. Clamps and jigs. A trained eye inspects the work. From among the shavings and woodchips, a wooden artwork emerges.
Around 1890, Thomas Vos laid the foundations for the current boatyard. From a shed on Appensteeg, his crafted Giethoorn boats, rafts and barges found their way to farmers and traders. Over the centuries, the boatyard passed from father to son or son in law. And not just the boatyard. The unsophisticated craftsmanship, the techniques, the feeling and love for the wooden boat were also passed down to generations. That love for the craft had to be unconditional. A passion, rooted in the genes.
Since 1933, the oak boats have been made at the current site along the Beulakerweg. Founder Vos’ great grandson Henk Wildeboer took over the business from his father in 1990. Together with his wife Yvonne, he embarked on a new course. The old workplace with its black-tarred planks which seemed to be kept in place by cobwebs, is no more. On the waterside, a modern boatyard has been built. And a shop packed with boat accessories. The wooden boat builder has set out a new course to keep the old tradition afloat. But the traditional atmosphere, craftsmanship and hospitality remain.
The old workplace with its black-tarred planks which seemed to be kept in place by cobwebs, is no more. On the waterside, a modern boatyard has been built. And a shop packed with boat accessories. The wooden boat builder has set out a new course to keep the old tradition afloat. But the traditional atmosphere, craftsmanship and hospitality remain.
You can see them spread out in the boatyard. Entire oak trees sawed into fist-thick planks. On shore as well as on the water. This is part of the century-old process. Fresh wood is not allowed. A traditional wooden boat owes its form to the combination of wet and dry, expansion and shrinkage. It all starts with the bottom. The plank in the middle is dry, the outer two have spent time in the water. When the boat is ready and is placed in the water, the dry centrepiece will expand until the hull of the wooden boat is watertight.
The curving of the sides is also the result of interaction with the elements. Above the fire, one side of the plank dries and shrinks. The wooden boat builder sprinkles water on top of the other side so that the wood expands. Silently, he watches it happen. Weights assist him in his job. Surprisingly, there are no drawings. His grandfather’s jigs and a trained eye are his only guidelines.
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