Historic Harmonie

Historic Harmonie


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We had thought that Harmonie II was built in the little shipyard de Dageraad at Woubrugge in Holland in 1918 which was the the information given on the Belgian registration papers. Little did we know at the time but on our first voyage to Holland back in 2006 we cruised through Woubrugge on our way to pick up our friends at Schiphol which is just a few kilometres North of Alphen a/d Rhin on the Woud-Wetering just south of the Brassermermeer.

We have now carried out further research and discovered that Harmonie was not built at De Dageraad in 1918 but in Alphen aan den Rijn in 1925 by Theodore Kempers & Zoon. We discovered this when we found the ships number "2586 B Amst. 1951" in a surveyors report and subsequently we have to thank Marcel Kroon of the Rotterdam Maritime Museum who discovered the correct historical information in their archives.

Jane and John Griffin of the sailing Klipper 'Vrouwe Antje' whose barge was built by a shipyard of the Boot family at Alphen a/d Rhin, identified the De Dageraad yard for us but none of us were to know that the information given on the Belgian documents was incorrect.

Theodore Kemper was born on March 2, 1869 in Ter Aar. He became a Shipbuilder and moved in March 1895 to Alphen. In December 1895 he received authorization to establish a shipyard. His son Gijsbert Leonard was born in 1899 and in 1922 he is included in the company name Th. Kemper & Son. In 1994 the company was taken over by Van der Valk. This company used the site as a repair yard for the cruise boats Avifauna and the yard is now called "Falcon".

Harmonie was built for Amsterdam owner W. J. Rekelhof and named 'Antonia-Helena' and even the dimensions of Harmonie are different to the ones shown in the Belgian registration when we bought her. We have obtained further information from the regional archives and our thanks go to Dr. Arjan van t Riet who sent us photostat copies of the labour records relating to building the ship. Although these records do not show any details and costs of materials and machinery used in the ship, there is some description of the work done for the hours used so we can see, for example, that a little over 40 hours were spent on the foundation for a 20hp Rennes engine.

The record of Harmonies builders labour costs

The identification of the type and power of the engine is of interest, not in the least because the engine installed now is 10 times the power but that the engine itself might be of historical interest as a Van Rennes from Utrecht did manufacture Stirling engines?

In the early 1800's, the Reverend Robert Stirling, a Scot who had a brother who was an engineer, invented the Stirling Cycle and built with his brother the first engines. It is an external combustion engine as opposed to an internal one so the combustion takes place externally. Cooled gas is first compressed in one cylinder then heated inside another cylinder where it expands and drives the piston down. The remaining heat in the gas is then saved for re-use by a regenerative heat exchanger, which Stirling also invented, as it is returned to the cooled cylinder. If you are interested in finding out more about Stirling Engines, a good start is here at Wikipedia.

The archive tells us that the ship was started on February 28th 1925 and completed on July 4th when the total labour cost was 2,694.81 guilders (about 1,225 euro). Now that we have accurate information of where she was built and who the owners were, our investigations will continue into her trading history but enquiries to the Dutch records office known as the Kadaster requesting information have drawn a blank.

The record of Harmonies building shipyard

We had understood that the ship was based at Sneek in Friesland for many years and traded general cargo but this will need to be verified by further research. She had a deadweight of 90 tonnes which is effectively the cargo carrying capacity and traded between Friesland and Amsterdam. Up until 1932, when a dyke was completed across the Zuider Zee to create the Ijsselmeer, Harmonie would have regularly put to sea. The sea gradually became fresh water and the effect of the tides was lost but to this day it can be a treacherous stretch of water to navigate with a flat bottomed barge.

Harmonie ended up in Aalst in 1990 but we are unsure now if this was the Belgian town or the Dutch one? We now know that she was converted from a working ship into a ship for recreational use in 1980 and that a Mr J. Lamers and his wife, Dutch antique dealers from Oosterhout in Holland might then have made further modifications around 1990. The sympathetic conversion with the lines of the accomodation superstructure blending with the shear of the original hull lines was possibly done by earlier unknown owners. Another surveyors report identifies our DAF engine as having been built in 1970 so this could have been installed when it was converted either new or second hand. The Lamers sold the ship to Koh Zweedijk and his wife Rite in about 1995, Dutch people living in Belgium, from whom we purchased her in 2005.

When we were in Sneek we visited the Maritime museum and met the librarian in the hope of discovering more about Harmonies commercial life but although she was very helpful in pointing us in the right direction to obtain further information, they did not keep any such records in the museum. A visit to the Rotterdam Maritime Museum was the next step where we discovered all the records of tonnage measurement which are recorded on a certificate carried by all Dutch commercial vessels known as the meetbrief.

Antonia HelenaA11303 Gouda
1941John Tuin
Name changed to
Vrouwe Grietje
1946John Tuin
Vrouwe Grietje2586B Amst. 1951
1951John Tuin
Name changed to
1962John Tuin
Name changed to
Harmonie II
1980Not KnownHarmonie IIConverted to recreational
vessel No: 1025

The last meetbrief was cancelled in 1980 which was much earlier than we had thought so who owned her between 1980 and 1990 we do not know.

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