Amsterdam Houseboat Trivia, page 2

Nederlandse versie
Final page
Houseboatpage #1
Numbers and history
Types of houseboats
Houseboatpage #2
Provisions on board
Typical on a houseboat
Houseboatpage #3

Provisions on board

Today the circumstances on a houseboat in Amsterdam are far from primitive, I myself have set up and maintained this homepage from a houseboat for several years. Almost all the houseboats are connected to the city's services, such as running water, electricity, telephone and cable-tv.

A lot of the ships also have a connection to the gas supply, as long as they're not moored alongside another ship. For ships that still sail the heating is mostly run on diesel fuel. For both types of fuel central heating systems are available. The part of traditional wood and cole stoves as main heating is decreasing, a development that is welcomed by the city's environmental department because the chimneys of houseboats are often very low compared to the surrounding houses.

A connection to the sewer is missing in most cases, the sewage flows directly into the canals. This is not a big problem because the canals were partially designed as a sewer system. The last house in Amsterdam was connected to the sewer in 1987.

In Amsterdam we have a number of locks an pump stations to refresh the canal water. Relatively clean water flows into the city via the river Amstel and/or is pumped in from the IJsselmeer, a big fresh water lake in the center of Holland. The dirty water streams into the North Sea during low tide at IJmuiden. This system is operated several times a week, depending on the quality of the water in the city.

The city's department for sewers and water-regulation thinks it is a waste of money to connect all houseboats to the sewer because the system works well as it is. In some areas with a concentration of houseboats and a lack of current they have been connected to avoid local pollution. The department does investigate the possibility of 'water gardens', rafts with waterplants that can have a cleaning effect on the canals. These watergardens also provide nesting space for the many waterbirds in Amsterdam.

Latest news on the 'sewer-front' is that, according to national law, all the houseboats will have to be connected to the sewer system before 2005. One will need a special permit to discharge into the open water after that date, which will only be given to those who live too far away from the nearest sewer. The discussion about who's going to pay for this, the city or the owner, is not finished yet.

Houseboat owners do pay a sewer fee to the city. In our case the funds are used to maintain the canals. For our mooring we pay a tax, depending on the size of the boat. Furthermore we are charged with other city taxes like every other household.

Typical on a houseboat

Of course living on a ship or ark varies from living in a house at some points, specially on the more traditional ships the differences are obvious.

On a ship you're always more involved with your direct surrounding, for example the noise under water from passing ships can be heard in the house. When a ship exceeds the speed limit you'll know immediately because the normal movements of your ship intensify. If you, as I do, live on a mayor traffic route, laying completely still is reserved to the night and to severe winters.

A problem in the winter is the water supply because the hose runs through mid-air between shore and ship. To make sure that you have running water during freezing temperatures thick layers of insulation around the hose are needed. Nowadays there are also low-voltage heating cords available but the best known remedy is running a tap day and night to keep it from freezing.

The interior layout of houseboats often differs from normal houses. At my place it already starts on coming in, one has to descend stairs instead of climbing them. Besides that the small width of most ships forces you to build the rooms one behind the other without a central hall. Visit the bathroom? sure, walk through the kitchen, then through the bedroom and you'll find it in the back. It's a kind of narrow shoebox with one big advantage to similar small city houses, on a boat the windows are situated on the long sides to provide enough daylight.

In a lot of ships the bathroom is somewhat odd. Because the floor of the house is often situated around or below the outside water level, the drainage is a problem in itself. In some ships the complete bathroom is situated higher than the rest of the house to make sure that the toilet and shower are above water level.

An other solution is the use of pumps, manual or electric. Also pumptoilets of the kind you can find on sailing yachts are an option. Luckily nowadays there are automatic pumps available to which you can connect a normal watercloset. These switch on automatically as soon as there is a flow of water and pump it away. An advantage of the modern pumps is that they can feed a few metres up. If there is space between the floor and the bottom you can install normal sewage on board with the pump at the lowest point. A ship fitted with this construcion is immediately prepared for a sewer connection.

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