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Have you ever wondered what happens to the Boat Bike Tour ships in the winter season? Are they still sailing? Or do they just sit in harbors, waiting for the spring?

We had a chat with two ship owners, Johan ten Kate and Roy van der Veen, co-owners of two Boat Bike Tour ships: the Princesse Royal (formerly called the Magnifique) and the Fluvius.

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The short answer to what they do in the winter is maintenance. During the high season, there just isn’t any time to do maintenance. After all, one tour ends on a Saturday morning and the next starts on Saturday afternoon. In those few hours, there’s just enough time to do the regular cleaning necessary for the changeover.

Every five years, the ships have to be taken out of the water to be inspected and painted, so that’s the most time-consuming and biggest job. In the remaining years, it could be any number of things that need to be done.

Roy and Johan told us that every year they replace things: beds, for example, or bikes or upholstery. They repaint and refinish furniture, or any number of other tasks. Some years they take on a bigger necessity, like replacing the heating and airco systems, which they did the summer of 2019.

Emergency repairs

Sometimes things happen during the high season, which means they have to respond really quickly. If it’s something little, such as a broken showerhead, that’s easy to fix while the guests are out cycling.

One summer, though, on one of their ships a pipe sprung a leak in one of the cabins. They could patch the leak easily enough, but then the cabin needed a new floor, a new ceiling and new paint because of the water damage. That simply can’t be done in an afternoon. They were fortunate that the ship wasn’t full that week so they could move the guests to a different room.

Sometimes it’s tricky if something breaks while they’re underway. They have to have the part, or they have to improvise a temporary solution. That’s fun and challenging, but the winter maintenance is meant primarily to prevent such emergencies from happening.

This is why, according to Johan, it’s important that the maintenance they do in the winter is high quality. They don’t just patch things; they’d rather completely replace and upgrade so that such emergencies don’t happen.

Moored in Groningen

Johan and Roy moor their boats in Groningen because that’s where they live. They can spend their days working on the boats and go home to their families every evening.

They also – in a normal year – do some events during the off-season. Noorderslag is a big music festival in Groningen every January, and lots of boats serve as extra hotels then. Businesses will hire the ships for such things as Christmas or New Year’s parties too.

Winter or summer season?

When asked which season they enjoy more, Roy answered that he enjoys both. In the summers it’s fun to be sailing again. Only, he added, in the summer he looks forward to the winter and in the winter he looks forward to the summer.

Johan commented, “In the summer you’re really busy. No day is predictable because every day is different.”

“You have to be available 24 hours a day,” added Roy. “And after working for 32 weeks straight, it’s winter, and then … well, it’s not really a burden, but a weight falls off your shoulders. Then you can take a break and have some time to recover. You can reflect on what to do next season, vacation, see your family.”

Both Roy and Johan used to live on board their ships. The problem was that then they never got a break: it’s too easy, if you’re painting something, for instance, to just decide to do a bit more to finish the job, and before you know it it’s time for bed. When a normal season is 32 weeks long and you’re on call every day all day, it’s important to get some down time during the winter season.

Looking forward to the new season

Both Roy and Johan are clearly looking forward to the new season. If you have any questions about our offerings, mail or call us at +31 (0) 2072 35 400. We’re happy to help you choose which boating and biking vacation would suit you best. No obligations!

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