Living on a houseboat in Amsterdam – Hendrika Maria story.

I have started my day with a cup of coffee and a bite to eat for breakfast in the cafe on the nearby roundabout. On a Saturday morning at 9am Amsterdam was calm and strangely quiet. Just a few passersby, with a purposeful and quick walk,  went by my table, looking straight ahead. A friendly waitress asked if I would like another coffee, but my caffeine levels were high enough and reluctantly, as the coffee was really good, I have declined the offer. It was time for me to go and explore.

I needed about 20 minutes to get to my first destination – Houseboat Museum. I was about to visit 23 meters long Hendrika Maria – a 1914 steel hagenaar, docked in one of the many Amsterdam canals. Its story is fascinating! Commissioned by Johannes Hendrikus Kuhn, a timber merchant, the boat was used to transport timber, coming from Scandinavia to Amsterdam timber ports.

In 1923 the De Beijer family bought the ship and renamed her Hendrika Maria. They used it to transport sand and gravel until 1967, when Herman Stoel, a painter, purchased it and moored near Haarlem. He used it as his studio. In 1979 Hendrika Maria changed the owner one more time. He converted her into a houseboat and moored in Amersfoort. In 1997 HEMA has been brought to Amsterdam and converted into a museum.

HEMA is spacious and looks very comfortable. On a stern you will find two bedrooms and a small table. This is were a skipper and his family used to live. Every nook and cranny was used to its full extend – a family of four once lived here!

One of the beds on a stern

The hand pump above the sink was used to pump drinking water from the water tank. The cupboard below the sink held pots and pants and another cupboard some crockery and clothing. There was no water closet on board, for that they used bucket.

The fresh water pump

Down the two steps you will enter a former cargo area. In the past it was a large open space, however as part of the houseboat conversion partition walls were built. Any furniture could be brought using a large hatch in the ceiling. Incredibly the living room on this boat is authentically furnished. The heating comes from the wooden burner and there are radiators connected to a gas-fired central heating boiler, scattered across the boat.

Living room

I remember when I visited a small sailing boat for the first time few years back. I never thought that there will be some much space, as from the outside the boat looked small and not very spacious. Now I know that every space can be used and although some are awkward and tricky, a human being is smart enough to use it well.

Living room

A homely feeling was hard to discredit. The library on one of the walls, a comfy chair to rest and read…

Living room

A comfy corner with a desk to work on…

Sleeping nook

A sleeping nook, which could easily accommodate two people… There even is a full size bathroom, however taking a picture of it was tricky, since it is not accessible to the public.

The bow

You can watch a great slide presentation in a quiet room at the bow of the boat, showing some aspects of the live on a water – exterior, interiors, calamities, maintenance on a shipyard, summer and winter on the water.

Although this live might be very much appealing, as I found out, there is 2.256 houseboats in Amsterdam canals, and there is no empty moorings left. Of course, you can buy a houseboat that already has a mooring, if you can afford it. The houseboat prices are just slightly lower than the cost of buying a house or apartment in Amsterdam. And the maintenance is more expensive. You will have to pay a rent for a mooring (similar to the tax for the council), which depends on the value of the boat. There is electricity and gas bills to pay too, and insurance, much higher than a house insurance. But hey, why not keep dreaming?

Do visit the Houseboat Museum – it is incredibly interesting! As Amsterdam is a city of water, you really should not miss that one out 🙂

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