Beware the Risen People!

The St. Nicolaas Boat Club of Amsterdam was a non-profit organization dedicated to the use and preservation of historic boats on the Amsterdam canals.

These boats were traditionally used to carry agricultural products to markets. They were also used as general barges to shuttle materials around cities.

Tuindersvletten are not glamorous boats, but they are perfect for the canals. These are the iron boats on which the city was built. They are characterized by their low sides and flat bottom. They are great for carrying vegetables, cows, bricks, and now... people.


Legal troubles

In 2014, the club became inactive. The high court ruled against us, and yet we're still not certain what we did wrong. Apparently Amsterdamers may not take boats out and let strangers ride for free. That was the ruling (applied only to us, of course.)

Yes we took donations (eagerly) but you really could ride our boats for free! So despite running a true non-profit and spreading joy and knowledge of Amsterdam (we even paid tax on our donations), we were shut down for "exploiting" the canals. It is Amsterdam's loss. It was our loss. But it was a good ride. Enjoy your ride on the for-profit companies that started the fight against us. Somehow the horrible big tour boats deemed us a threat and brought us down.

September, 2012: We're not allowed to take you on rides. we're having a bit of an existential crisis. Who are we, and what do we do, and why? In the meantime we've got an appeal in the system and may hear something in six weeks.

Somebody has been trying to shut on down for over a decade. And they may be succeeding. We're still not certain what we're doing wrong, but a court just decided that we're a tour boat, which we're not. If we were a business, we sure would be a crappy one. If we're a business, why ain't we rich? But apparently we can't run without a license. But of course the city won't give us a license. A classic Catch-22. We desperately need someone big and important in the city to take on our cause and show how much Amsterdam has to lose without our great little club.

The implications could go far beyond little ol' us. The court decision says that anybody who takes people out on a boat more than a few times a year is a tour boat. Seems like horrible decision not just for us but for all of boating in Amsterdam! Certainly it would also apply to the much loved Christiaan Brunings, who have no tour boat license and go out regularly.

What a shame it would be if all people were forbidden to take out friends and strangers on the water. And all because the Big Tour Boat companies fear our two little boats threaten their precious oligarchy (despite more than a decade of proof to the contrary)!

This is not the Amsterdam I knew and loved. Stop the vertrutting of Amsterdam!

What can we do? We honestly don't know.

But we still have boats that ain't taking care of themselves...


Membership and Volunteering

We love our tuindersvletten (we have two, the Athena and the Toine) and these old girls take a lot of work and care to maintain. The boats live in the city center, which means they need to be cleaned of sand, street litter and trash every day. They live in Holland with means they need to have rain pumped out of the bottom just about every day (and that's just in the summer). They are made of steel and wood, and every year we paint the steel inside and out to prevent rust and sand and varnish the wood to keep it pretty. Then there are the ongoing maintenance tasks of keeping the electrics in working order, keeping the mechanics lubricated and oiled and maintaining the engines.

We love our boats and we hope you do too. St. Nicolaas friends are not afraid to get a bit dirty and help keep the boats clean and well maintained.

The St. Nicolaas is [at one time was] looking for volunteers to help us with some specific maintenance tasks.

We need an electrician who can help with the electrics on both boats. We need a mechanic who can help us re-install the engine. We need volunteers who can help with the painting that needs to happen for the Toine, a 3-step process to cover the steel inside and out. Now it may not be most people's idea of fun, but it sure is off the beaten tourist track. Plus, there is almost always beer involved. Volunteering on the boats makes you an friend and honorary member of the St. Nicolaas club for life.

Does this sound like you? And are you in Amsterdam? If you are interested in joining us, contact us at [actually, don't]


We love our boats. But
boats need more than love.
Donations are our only
of income.
St. Nicolaas is the patron
saint of sailors and, not
coincidentally, Amsterdam.
The Guardian lists  
Read and say nice things about us on Trip Adviser.
  Australia's Getaway loves us!
Lonely Planet
loves us!
(March 2007)
  A nice write up by James Wallman in New York magazine.
(October 11, 2006)
  Newsweek loves us!
(March 2008)
The Guardian lists us as one of the 10 best free things to do in Amsterdam: "Sadly the donation-run St Nicholaas Boat Club that used to chug guests around on a traditional diesel fuelled Tuindersvletten has recently been shut down because of a licencing dispute." (May 2014)


The St. Nicolaas Boat Club is an tax-paying independent non-profit organization (stichting).

© 1997 to today -- Sint Nicolaas Boot Stichting / St Nicolaas Boat Club