Beet Boat Tour

Every October, the Beet Boat Tour takes place in Zeeland.  The idea behind this tour is to give people a chance to see, experience and help to preserve a little bit of history.  The traditional flat-bottoms set sail carrying a symbolic cargo of sugar beets which are delivered and loaded on board each morning in straw baskets.  From the standing rigging (the steel cables that keep the mast in place) of every beet barge hangs a wooden sugar beet --- the more beets that hang, the more often that boat has participated.  And most have a whole row of them hanging high!  Spy a flat-bottom with a golden sugar beet? It’s a past winner! 

The tour takes three days to sail the route from St. Annaland to Goes and Bruinisse.  The sugar beets used to be unloaded at Steenbergen. 

The challenge of the tour is to sail in as traditional a way as possible --- with the least possible use of the engine and without using electric winches, etc.!  When the wind is on the bow in the Goes Canal and they can’t set sail, the crew members have got to tow their boat as much as they can, pulling it forward from shore, with or without the help of horses or old tractors!  Mooring, too, is done in the old-fashioned way, though safety always comes first!  Slowing down the boats by using ‘putsen’ (buckets on ropes) and changing the positions of the boats give on-lookers quite a sight to see!  Sailing away without the help of an engine takes a lot of skill, especially in a crowded harbor with all of the other skippers watching, full of interest and with a very critical eye!  

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