Normally this site is about sailing, the history of Charlottetown Harbour and Northumberland Strait. However I recently visited the Netherlands and although some distance from salt water and sail boats I encountered a new-to-me type of cruising vessel.
The city of Leiden is a small community of heritage buildings crisscrossed, like many Dutch towns, by a network of canals. In the last twenty or so years a new type of cruising yacht has been developed which capitalizes on the unique opportunities the canal system offers. Luxuriously appointed craft of about twenty to twenty-five feet equipped with diesel inboards cruise at low-speed through the canal networks. These day-cruisers are built to high standards but seem to share the characteristic of cushioned interiors and a central table.
The table is perhaps the most important piece of equipment for that is where the picnic is set out. As I looked down from the canal-crossing bridges the boats passing beneath seemed to be feasts in motion. On the tables, steady in the almost wake-less channels, would be displayed an array of bread and cheese, sausage, herring and a complete range of other picnic foods. and always – champagne flutes or other wine glasses with a chilled white. The passengers lounged against the cushions, chatted or gazed at the town and bridges as they passed above the yacht puttering along. Often the boats would have children or dog or both aboard and the entire enterprise was conducted with the utmost decorum. These barge-yachts were beautifully finished. Sometimes there was an awning for rainy days but they were clearly designed for the aquatic counterpart of the stroll through the neighbourhood. The difference is that this is much more restful. With a designated driver at the wheel an afternoon or evening could be spent chatting and eating and drinking.
The other type of boats spotted in the canals were the live-aboard barges which were often converted from commercial cargo carriers. These covered the gamut from sea-going slums dwellings to the rose-covered cottage afloat.