Eelke and his wife Carlijn have been the proud owners of the Lena Maria since 2020. Eelke himself, as the captain, steers the guests of Boat Bike Tours to the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. We talked to Eelke about his great passion for boats, traveling on the Lena Maria and his plans for the future. Eelke can’t really remember when his enthusiasm for ships, boats and life on the water started. “It’s actually always been that way. I spent every spare minute I could on the water,” he recalls of the past, when he spent countless weekends and vacation days with his parents at – or rather on – the lake Sneeker Meer in the heart of Friesland.
Discovering the big wide world – and coming home
And this love runs like a thread through his life. After completing his training at the Nautical College in Enkhuizen, Eelke set off to discover the big wide world. From tall ships to superyachts and from Antarctica to the Caribbean and back: during this time, Eelke saw a lot of the world and gained a lot of experience. “But at some point, I had enough of being away from home all the time.” And so, he returned to the Netherlands and immediately hit the jackpot with Boat Bike Tours. As skipper on the three-masted sailing ship Leafde fan Fryslân, he sailed across the Wadden Sea with Boat Bike Tours passengers during their Sail and Bike tours. “I realized: this is exactly what I’m looking for. The mix of traveling by ship and hospitality is my thing. I’ve traveled a lot, but I think the Netherlands has so many beautiful places. And I really enjoy sharing that with guests from abroad.”
Time for a new adventure
After several years as a sailing skipper, it was time for another new adventure. And so Eelke and his wife took over the boutique canal barge Lena Maria, which can carry a maximum of 24 passengers. ” The Lena Maria is big enough to offer a high-quality accommodation and small enough for a personal atmosphere”, explains Eelke. “So, people contact each other very quickly on board. Also, we have a crew of only four, which is a lot for the number of guests. This way we can best take care of everyone.”
Metamorphosis for the Lena Maria
Since Carlijn and Eelke own the Lena Maria, the barge has undergone small metamorphosis. “Inside, everything was brown and white. We have modernized that and furnished it in our own style. Everything has become brighter, there is a homely floor and we have built our own bar. This has made the restaurant and lounge area more open and much cozier,” Eelke reports. “But I’m actually constantly busy making everything even nicer. I’ve already renovated a lot of ships and that’s just way too much fun for me,” he laughs.
To the coziest places
The small size of the Lena Maria has another advantage, says Eelke. “It allows us to sail along narrow canals and dock in smaller harbors where things are really cozy. Guests are that little bit closer to the scenery and we can cruise in areas that aren’t overrun with tourists.” For example, the Lena Maria runs the Boat Bike Tours cycling cruises between Amsterdam and Bruges, the Hansa Tour and the Discover Friesland Tour, Eelke’s favorite.
Showing his guests his homeland
As a true Frisian, he is proud of his home province. He loves to show visitors the area where he grew up and where he now lives with his wife and two young daughters. “After we took over the Lena Maria, we came up with the idea of offering a tour of Friesland by boat and bike,” Eelke says. No sooner said than done – in cooperation with the Boat Bike Tours team, a wonderful tour was created: “During this tour, the guests actually discover many highlights of the green province of Friesland within one week: the historic towns and special villages, the offshore Wadden (North Sea) islands and the water-rich landscape. From the very first year, the tour was a great success. Despite the Covid-pandemic, the interest was huge. We received many enthusiastic reviews and compliments from our guests.”
Book the Lena Maria for your own group
Do you plan to travel with your own group? Then you can also book the entire ship for your party.”Especially for families and groups of friends with children, the Lena Maria is ideal,” Eelke thinks. The ship has a nice sun deck and in the large, open restaurant area, you can sit together socially after dinner. And the cabins are grouped so that only eight people at a time share a corridor. This means, for example, that one group can go to bed earlier than the others without disturbing each other.
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