Swallows and Amazons - making the boat owning dream a reality
Swallows and Amazons forever; the cry sings out from the pages of Arthur Ransome’s classic story as the Walker children prepare for another adventure aboard a little wooden boat called “Swallow.” At the age of 10, I spent many happy hours with my nose in a book wishing I could join them. Ever since reading these classic stories of a utopian childhood spent messing about in boats I have been desperate to own my own sailing craft.
As a girl I envisaged a small clinker affair with a tan sail; traditional in style and with just enough room for a passenger and provisions. I dreamed of exploring uncharted waters and camping in hidden coves on isolated islands just like the Walker children in Ransome’s books.
Then one day in 2008 I met my husband who persuaded me that owning a sailing boat could be a bigger and more adventurous reality than I ever imagined and in June of that year we bought “Twee Gebroeders,” an 1897 Dutch sailing barge which we decided to renovate and turn into luxury accommodation for Swallows and Amazons style holidays. At 60 foot she was much larger than the little clinker dinghy I had once imagined, and although made of iron instead of wood she was still a sailing boat and I was thrilled to bits, if not a little scared by the scale of the project we had decided to embark upon.
From a little yard on the River Deben in Suffolk we set about turning Twee Gebroeders (or TG as she affectionately became known) into something wonderful. Neither of us had any previous experience of renovating a sailing barge, but we did have plenty of enthusiasm and a vision for what we wanted to achieve. Over a two year period we stripped out her rather dated original interior, cut off the roof and raised the head height inside, added a new cabin to the front, over plated the hull, re wired the inside, installed new plumbing and had a completely new solid wood interior made by a very talented cabinet maker. Along the way we learnt a huge amount about barge restoration and much more about ourselves and our ability to cope in high pressure situations.
We were quite naïve in the beginning and made some silly mistakes, and like all good projects we ran over time and over budget and spent many sleepless nights wondering where we were going to get the capital from to finish the restoration. But finish we did and in August 2010 we took our first booking from a London based family who relished the idea of some time out on the water. Little did I imagine at the age of 12 when I was completely immersed in the pages of Swallows and Amazons that one day in the future I would be able to provide the very same holidays I was always dreaming about.
It would appear from our very complimentary visitors’ book that despite the appeal of computer and video games children today are just as excited about real outdoor adventure as I was 30 years ago. Our barge is full of nature activity equipment from binoculars to fishing rods, river trips are always an option and of course the whole thing wouldn’t be complete without a full set of Swallows and Amazons stories on board to inspire another generation. Twee Gebroeders has become a welcome addition to the family; our three children love spending time aboard when she is not booked out for holidays and with so much time and effort invested in her rebuild we are remarkably proud of what we have achieved.
When I look back it is amazing to think that my childhood dreams of owning a sailing boat have finally been fulfilled, all be it on a much grander scale than I’d ever imagined.
Twee Gebroeders is stunning 1897 Dutch sailing skutsje owned by Tim and Gill Moon. It was refitted in 2010 to provide luxury static accommodation at Pin Mill on the River Orwell in Suffolk. Pin Mill is great for Swallows and Amazons adventure holidays in the summer and cosy romantic breaks in the winter. It sleeps four people and costs from £125 per night. Minimum stay 3 nights.