De Gudsekop
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History of the 'Gudsekop': From Potatoes to People

The Frysian skûtsje “de Gudsekop” is a Frisian flat-bottomed ship with a rich history. The vessel was built for Cornelis Walma & Son at the Auke Holtrop van der Zee’s shipyard in Joure in 1908. The Walmas named it “Friesland” and used the ship to transport potatoes from farms to the potato wholesale.

However, in the Thirties potato merchants started to use lorries to transport their goods, so the ship had to be sold. It was sold for a song to a group of Sea Scouts from Sneek, named “Greate Pier’. They christened the ship “de Gudsekop”, after a small pond of the same name. It means ‘horse’s head’ and it is said that a meadow near the pond has (or had) the shape of a horse’s head.

Gudsekop at the time of the scouting Sneek,
1956 The Sea Scouts converted the Gudsekop into a ship suitable for sailing with a group. WW II however, caused a standstill for Dutch scouting. After the war the more or less forgotten and abandoned vessel came into service of the Sea Scouts once more. With united forces they managed to get the ship into sailing shape. The Scouts sailed almost every weekend and a few weeks in summer. But bad luck struck again in 1959: during a week of sailing in Sneek (“Sneekweek”) the shipmaster dies of a heart attack when he is at the helm of the Gudsekop. Because of lack of experience and continuously rising maintenance costs the Sea Scouts are forced to sell the ship, with pain in their hearts. It is then bought by the Liberal Christian Youth Central (VCJC).

The VCJC organises all kind of youth activities. The purchase of the ship allows them to add sailing to their activities. The Nineties show a decrease of interest in the VCJC’s activities and only a few attract enough participants. Sailing with the Gudsekop is one of those more successful activities and a foundation is started to continue the sailing events in 1998. Ownership transfers to the foundation (also named “De Gudsekop”), which only goal is to keep the ship true to its most traditional condition ánd to sail it in a traditional fashion.

Present day: Sailing tours and Flat-bottom sailing courses

Gudsekop in Woudsenderrakken,
1989 Nowadays, being over a century old, the Gudsekop can still be called ‘traditional’. In contrast to other, similar ships, the Gudsekop for example doesn’t have an engine. Where or when sailing is impossible, the crew uses quants (punting poles) or warping. Among much more, this makes sailing the Gudsekop into a truly unique experience.

Thanks to a group of volunteers (shipmasters, mates and others), the Gudsekop is often seen sailing the Dutch waters. The ship is sailing every year from April until the end of October. Tours are made from homeport Akkrum. Everyone – from the most-experienced sea dog to the greenest landlubber – can join for a weekend or a week of active sailing, although everyone is expected to lend a hand when the ship’s sailing requires it. The foundation also organises a couple of flat-bottom sailing courses, which allows enthusiasts to learn the traditional way of flat-bottom sailing without an engine available, which asks a lot in the way of responsibility, team spirit and sailing skills. Most activities are open for everyone, so many can experience this way of sailing.

The rigging of the Gudskop is typically ‘Dutch’ and consists of a mainsail and a jib. The mainsail is hoisted with two halyards (a throat halyard and a peak halyard). It’s also possible to hoist the tack with a tack halyard. The rigging is completed with a topping lift to lift the free end of the boom. Together these halyards allow for enough different sail-plans to deal with the different circumstances the Gudsekop encounters in his home waters, including narrow canals and larger fresh water lakes. The Gudsekop can navigate them all.

Sailing with the Gudsekop

Gudsekop crew on the quarterdeck Would you like to come sailing with us? Our booking system is available only in Dutch. Our crew however speaks English and is happy to answer any questions or accept your booking through our 'contact form'.


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