Changing course


In September 2013 me and my husband were sitting on a bench along the river Eem in Amersfoort and I dreamt away. Until then, we had always lived in a stone house in our birthplace Woudenberg. One year earlier, September 2012, our two kids had spread their wings, left the house and unfortunately we had to put our sweet dog to sleep. So, our nest was pretty empty and we were in the clichéd middle of our lives. 

The thought of changing course gave us new energy and made us enthusiastic. We wanted to live by the water, in a city.


We started searching for a suitable house or apartment, but couldn’t find what we were looking for. All of a sudden I came up with a spontaneous idea: living on instead of by  the water. We looked at each other and there was no doubt in our minds: this was it! Of course, it was pretty scaring to leave our dream house and our familiar birthplace. It took us almost two years to investigate the possibilities. All this time we consciously didn’t share our plans with anyone (except our children), as we didn’t need any well-meant advices and interference from anyone.


There was no doubt in our minds; we decided to change course! When we were about to buy our berth we finally had to share our plans with family and friends, but how? I decided to start a Facebook page, so everyone would get the same information and could follow our steps and we would have our own documentation at the same time. On 19st June 2015 I posted my first message with the subject:


From freighter to houseboat

The first steps

Our first challenge was to find a permanent berth. We found it in Amersfoort, near a business park. The berth included a sailing heritage German tug from 1929, which we took over inclusive of a lot stuff. In the meantime we had put our house up for sale. We didn’t expect that we would sell it within six weeks, so we had to find a temporary home. We solved it by having site huts installed at our permanent quay (we lived here for 11 months). In the meantime Wim and our son took up the challenge to get the MAN engine running after 12 years and they succeeded. Finally, we sold the tug to two young brothers who plan to restore it to its original state. We are very pleased that this sailing heritage has not been demolished!

You can check the renovation of the tug on the Facebook page Tug Monopool. 

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From the beginning it was clear that our future home would be a sailing houseboat. We started looking for a freighter that met the desired sizes. We visited eight freighters, varying from rusty without engine to working freighters. The second freighter was love at first seight.

This freighter was still sailing, had the appropriate sizes and looked beautiful. The only disadvantage: It was 21 mtr too long for our permanent berth. We soon found out, it wouldn’t be an obstacle at all.  We closed the deal and could start refining and describing all desired details. 

Our next challenge was to find a suitable shipyard that could realize a large part of the renovation. We visited six shipyards, left our wish list  and requested for a quotation. Three things were important for us: the price/quality ratio, the possibility to carry out a lot ourselves during the construction and a “good feeling”. After a second visit to a couple of selected shipyards we made our choice.

The renovation

We took our chance with three companies that regularly cooperate:
- Shortening: Misti, scheepsreparatiebedrijf, Arnhem
- Steel and welding: Helldörfer, lasbedrijf en scheepsbouw, Arnhem
- Inside: Woodies aT BerLin, scheepstimmerbedrijf, Amsterdam

The renovation started at the beginning of December 2015. The company Den Breejen (Dordrecht) blasted and sprayed the houseboat for us. After nine months (August 2016) we sailed the Robbedoes to our permanent birth in Amersfoort and did some odd jobs (1 month)

Three years after our decision to start living on the water, we spent our first night in our houseboat (September, 2016)

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The Robbedoes - The complete story

Would you like to know and see more? That's possible, because I wrote a book which you can order here:

De Robbedoes - Van steen naar staal, van land naar water (The Robbedoes - from stone to steel, from land to water)

In this book you can read and see where we are coming from, how we lived our life as landlubbers, the renovation process from freighter to houseboat and all the things we have experienced so far. 

Although the book is in Dutch, it contains many clear pictures which tell our story as well!