Dutch botter: floating cottage on the Norfolk Broads

1911 Dutch Hardewijk fishing Botter ‘Johanna’

East Coast OGA member, Jayne Tracey, recounts her memories of life aboard a Dutch botter on the Norfolk Broads. Sold in the 1990s, she’s keen to hear if anyone knows of her whereabouts.

A glutton for punishment once I married our first home for five years became the narrowboat the ‘Water Kelpie’. After moving ashore we acquired the 1911 Dutch Hardewijk fishing botter ‘Johanna’ and used her as a floating cottage on Barton Broad in Norfolk from where we could race our Norfolk sailing punt and our three youngsters could safely sail their Optimist dinghies in the non-tidal waters of the Broads. The modern Norfolk sailing punts are descended from the old traditional wildfowlers’ gun punts and our family had been associated with sailing them at the Norfolk Punt Club at Barton Broad since its origins just after the First World War.

Botter ‘Johann’a had been converted at a Dutch boatyard by an English family wanting to cruise. She had acquired a mizzen and a large friendly cockpit, ten pull-out berths and a powerful diesel engine. She had a gloriously varnished wooden hull with the high prow of the Hardewijk Botters and from a distance looked like a Viking ship from another age. Cameras clicked wherever she went.

She made a great journey across the North Sea to Scandinavia and across Sweden to Stockholm via the Gotha Canal and then enjoyed life on the River Alde in Suffolk, with occasional forays to act as the ‘finishing line’ for White Group Racing at Cowes Week. I still get back to Holland each year for the Dutch Classic Wooden Boat Show at Enkhuizen with friends from the Norfolk Hunter Heritage Fleet and the Dutch Old Gaffers. We stay on the three-masted Baltic trader ‘The Vrendschap’. Last time we made the train journey to Hoorn the coastal headquarters of the Dutch East India Company and gazed in awe at the exotic architecture of that small town. Hoorn was until relatively recently an island with its own costumes and customs until the polders scheme drew it into the Dutch mainland.

Now all  winter I keep my gaff rigged  Cornish Shrimper afloat on the northernmost of the Norfolk Broads, remote and secret Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere, where in bright winter sunshine, under brilliant blue skies we scatter the overwintering wildfowl. Then we come south a little way to spend our summers in company with all the other Cornish Shrimpers on the winding River Alde on the Suffolk coast, to wend our way down to Shingle Street for a barbecue, or up to Snape Maltings via the beach at Iken. It has been a long and fascinating voyage which is not over yet.