No matter the question,
the answer is give money!
Donations are our only
source of income.


  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • When are you taking boats out? Will you be running on the day me and my sweetie will be in Amsterdam?
  • Can I contact you?
  • How come it's so hard to track you guys down? Can't you have a normal schedule? Or a phone number? What about an address?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it true we can eat, drink, and smoke on your boats?
  • Taking boats out looks like fun! How do I do what you do?
  • Is the boat suitable for my children and grandparents?
  • Hey, I've heard that you guys are barely legal? What gives?
  • What do you think of the Binnenwaterbeheer?
  • I've heard you hate the big tour boat companies. Is that so?
  • Is that the only reason you hate them?
  • Wow, they do sound bad! So why doesn't the city do anything about them?
  • You sure sound smart! How could things be better?
  • You have a facebook page?


When are you taking boats out? Will you be running on the day me and my sweetie will be in Amsterdam?

Probably not. As of 2014 we're done. The law has spoken at the behalf of the Big Tour Boat Companies. Apparenlty it's not OK to take people out on free rides if you do so with any regularity. The end.

Everything below is left for historical reasons, and on the small hope that we will once again be spreading our love on the canals.

We're not going out right now (now being 2012 till now). Check out our rides page for details, but it won't answer your actually questions.

If we are running, and we usually are, the odds are that there will be a boat the day you're here. But for specific days and times, you have to check out our sign-up sheet. That's the only source of information we have. And it's not computerized or online. Sorry.

If this website says we're not running--for reasons seasonal, mechanical, or legal--we're not running. And if we're not running, we don't know when we'll be running again (as we've learned the hard way: only fools predict when the weather will warm up or a boat will be fixed). As soon as we know more, we'll post it here on our website.

Worst comes to worst, you've wasted a trip to a nice part of Amsterdam. There are far worse places to have a beer!


Can I contact you?

It sounds funny to say this, but no. Well you can, but only face to face. Captains can be found at Mike's Bikes before and after rides. How do you know when rides are going out? Well, you have to go to Mike's Bikes. Please do NOT call Mike's Bikes with any boat question. They cannot answer boat questions. They do not know the answers. And we really don't want to piss them off because they let us use their space for free. We really do not want to be getting in the way of their business.

How come it's so hard to track you guys down? Can't you have a normal schedule? Or a phone
number? What about an address? Why can't you be more professional?!

Sorry. That's not who we are. The Saint Nicolaas Boat Club is a group of volunteers keeping up a couple of boats. We have no money. We're not professionals and this isn't a tour-boat business. We have no office. We have no phone. We certainly have nobody to answer the phone (please... whatever you do, do NOT call Mike's Bikes with any boat-related questions). But you can come out on our boats and I suspect you'll be very happy you did.

How much does it cost?

Nothing. We ask for a donation from each person. We can't legally charge for our rides. Nor do we want to. But we do want your money. We suggest 10 euros per person. But it's up to you to give. Some give more. Some give less. Some don't give at all. That's why we call it a donation.

But please keep in mind that we receive no subsidies from the government or anybody else.

And then keep in mind that boat rides cost money and keeping up old boats is even more expensive. The only reason we're still here is because we give our time and people give their money.

You won't be pressured into giving and we don't want people to stay away because they're poor. We don't even ask for a donation until the end of the ride. And even then it's a no-pressure pass-the-hat system. Actually, our “hat” is a can, but it’s the same idea. We don't want anybody to feel like they're getting ripped off.

We are non-profit and nobody is getting rich off this.
All the donations go to keeping the boats afloat (OK, sometimes we buy beer).

You can also donate money through the paypal "make a donation" link on every page of this website. A few people actually have! Thanks to you all, especially M.L.!

Is it true we can eat, drink, and smoke on your boats?

Yes! But keep in mind, you can't go to the bathroom because we don't have one. And please take out any trash you bring in and dispose of/recycle everything properly.

Taking boats out looks like fun! How do I do what you do?

We're volunteers and this is a labor of love (well, at least on good days). Some of us are more slack than others, but all of us have what could very loosely be defined as a day job. Nicole is an actor, Magnus is a sculptor, Mike is a union pilot (boat, of course), and Peter is a professor in New York City.

And taking out boats isn't all fun and games. Sure we love it. But it's skilled work and we're proud of our piloting skill and safety record. If you do come on our boat, remember to keep your hands inside and tip your captain. We deserve it!

There's a lot of shit-work and awkward heavy lifting you don't see (see picture on right).

Keeping boats in running condition isn't easy. Boats always need to be painted. Every third year they come out of the water to scrape and re-tar the underside. Electrics are always corroding. Oil has to be changed. The grease cap needs to be filled. Water needs bailing. And everything breaks. We've even lost our propeller more than once. As we say, "if it's not one thing, it's another."

There's a cliché that boats are a hole in the water you pour money into. It's true: fuel, oil, paint, lights, engines, transmissions, repairs, drydock, advertising, and yes, even legal fees (sigh). Most years, we break even.

We're always looking for people with a love of boats, diesel-engines, and carpentry skills. Seriously! Just go to the boat and talk to the captain. And of course the job of pumping out the boats in the winter is always available. But we usually don't need more captains. Well, that's a polite way of saying we won't train anybody to be captain unless we already know you, like you, and trust you.

Is the boat suitable for my children and grandparents?

The short answer is yes. But that really depends on you. Everybody is welcome, but we tend to attract, shall we say, a hipper crowd than the big tour boats. Drinking and smoking are allowed. And getting in the boat requires climbing a few feet down a canal wall. Nobody has failed yet. But some minimal agility is required.
Kids, of course, have no problem scampering onto the boat and tend to be well behaved. But parents have to make sure that their kids (literally) stay in the boat. The boats do not have life preservers. We have no plans on sinking, but we're just saying. We can all swim.

The boats are open to the elements and we do not make a bathroom stop.

Hey, I've heard that you guys are barely legal? What gives?

Don't believe everything you hear. Actually, we're entirely legal. We've been a non-profit boat club (stichting) since 1997. True, we don't have permit to take people out on the canals. But they don't have permits for groups like us. And you only need permit if you're professional, charging money, or have a boat longer than 8 meters or carrying more than 12 persons. There's nothing wrong with taking your friends on the water. And that's what we do.

We could also probably get a permit if our boats were electric and not diesel. Great... except we don't have anywhere to plug in. Only the rich get docks. And the diesel, though it does pollute, is more historic.

We are a group of friends who spend a lot of time on the water. And you're welcome to join us.

In July 2006, after years of mild harassment by the authorities, we were finally able to argue our position in court. Guess what? We won!

Update (June 2008): We're still getting hassled and have just found out that our latest application is going to be rejected by the binnenwaterbeheer. Among other things, they claim 1) we're part of Boom Chicago, and 2) we charge money or make our guests feel like they have to pay. Both statements are false. But how can we convince them? We don't know what this means. But if nothin else lots of legal fees with money we don't have.

Update (December 2008): We didn't get a permit. Why did we think this year would be any different than the last 12? But that's OK, because we're not actually doing anything that requires a permit. It's just that having a permit would be nice because then we'd stop getting harassed by the binnenwaterbeheer and wasting time and money in court. In the meantime, you'll still find us on the canals!

Update (Sept 2009): Same shit. New year. We received a letter telling us we're not allowed. We're trying to figure out what to do.

Update (November 2010): We're still here! Just closed up shop for the winter. See you in 2011. Let's hope for the best!

Update (December 2011): We just received a decision (does this go back to Sep 2009?). It is not in our favor. Somehow we've been declared a business, which is ironic since we don't charge money and don't make money. If we were a business, we sure would be a pretty crappy one.

Update (September 2012): We filed an appeal and might hear something in six weeks

Update (December 2012): Merry Christmas. The appeal was not successful. It is also legally strange. We have one last legal chance to win. It's not a good one.

So what are your thoughts on the Waternet?

The men and women of the waternet are dedicated and professional public servants during their best to keep the inner waters safe and enjoyable for everybody. We wish them the best and are very happy our tax dollars go to supporting such hard working individuals (plus, we've happy we outlasted the binnenwaterbeheer).

But we do wish they would get to know us better so they could understand that we're not doing anything wrong. You see, various people have been telling us to stop for 15 friggin' years but can't actually give us a legitmate reason why.

I've heard you hate the big tour boat companies. That really isn't true, is it?

Oh yes it is! We hate them. Really. They're just bad boats. They give bad tours. They're too big for the canals. There is nothing historic or Dutch about them. They're very aggressive drivers. And the companies make obscene amounts of money because there is no real competition. And they try to prevent other boats (like ours) from running by claiming there are too many boats on the canals. The bastards. So yes, we hate the big boats and everything they represent.

Are those the only reasons you hate them?

God no! We also hate them because they're jerks. The tour boats drive aggressively, have right-of-way, constantly speed (the speed limit is 7.5km/hour), set a bad tone for the canals (by always going too fast, for example), create pollution, and are simply too big for the canals. But as captains, we do have sympathy for some of their captains. The poor guys have to drive the same route and listen to the same recorded tour in four languages day after day after day after day.

Canals were designed for boats about 2-3 meters wide. The tour boats are twice as wide. So when they're going through a bridge or around a corner, no other boat can fit. They're like a doublewide trailer barreling down a scenic narrow mountain road. Combine that with their aggressiveness, and they become a dangerous menace. There's no reason their boats couldn't be half the size they currently are. Then at least they would be the correct size for a canal boat and not create havoc going under bridges and through sluices. And it would provide more captains' jobs as well. But they don't want anything to break into their massive profits.

There are basically three big companies that control the tour business and the canals. They all have the same boats and give the same crappy tour. Here's a quote taken straight from one of their web sites:

An on-board video system provides you with information in various languages and shows you details normally not visible from the boat. We supply information in: Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Thech [sic], Swedish, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Japanese. Our luxurious glass top launches seat from 40 to 100 persons and some have an open rear balcony for the best fotographic results. Toilet facilities are standard, as is a heating system that allows us to operate all year round.

If that's what you want, enjoy. But it's not for us.

Most of the people we take out have no desire to ever be on one of their boats. But the big boys see any boat that gives access to the canals as a threat to their oligarchy. We try not to be paranoid, but just because we are doesn't mean they're not out to get us. They've reported us as an illegal tour boat to the authorities, who were only too happy to investigate. As a result, we've spent thousands on legal fees to fight City Hall. And we've had many sleepless nights because we know damn how little money we have and what they say about fighting City Hall.

Since 1997, we've been maintaining our beautiful boats and letting people enjoy the canals from something other than glassed-in boats. Is there something so wrong with that? Regardless, we're nothing if not stubborn, and we're here to stay!

Wow, they do sound bad! So why doesn't the city do anything about them?

As the largest users of the canals, the boat companies help determine canal policy. Such is the Dutch way. Since policy makers don't know the water, they take the tour-boat companies' word for it as they're wined and dined on tour-boat junkets. The official city policy is that there are too many boats on the canals. Hogwash, we say. Except for Koninginnendag and weekend summer days when the weather is good, the canals are empty.

And the big boys pay a shit-load of taxes.

You sure sound smart! How could things be better?

If we're so smart, why ain't we rich? But since you're listening, here are some of our ideas:

Let Amsterdammers enjoy the canals. Contrary to the tour boat companies’ position, the canals are vastly underutilized. It’s amazing how rarely most Amsterdammers go on the canals. The main obstacles to more people being out and enjoying the water are aggressive and speeding (wake causing) tour boats and lack of short-term docking space.

For the tour boats, the city should allow competition. Different visitors have different needs. There are plenty of niche markets for boats. Currently, the city only allows licenses for boats that cater to rich people (the salon boats) and tour groups (the big boats).

A significant problem preventing “real” use of the canals is docking space. The walls are a first-come squatters rights system, which actually works pretty well. But every block needs short-term temporary docking space. The city could help by installing line-friendly objects (such as low metal barriers for parked cars rather than concrete slabs). Ironically, the few docks that are out there are specifically designated as no docking (except, of course, for the big tour boats).

Pumping bilge water is another problem, especially in the winter. Too many boats sink from rain water. While it’s easy to criticize people who can’t keep up their boats, often the “problem” boats belong to people without a lot of money. These boats are a work in progress. Not everybody can or wants to buy a “nice” boat. We certainly started from the bottom up. It takes time and constant attention to get a boat fixed up. If the entry costs are too high, then the canals become an exclusive playground for the rich and spoiled.

The city should allow somebody to run a simple boat pumping business. But they won't license such a thing because bilge water is considered hazardous waste. Leaving aside the fact that everybody
does pump bilge water into the canal, it’s far better to keep pumping rainwater out of boats than to have a sunken boat leak all its nasty oil and fuel into the water.

Amsterdam is one of the few places in the world where everybody can enjoy boating. Let's keep Amsterdam's canals open for everybody. Long live the St. Nicolaas Boat Club!
Lang zal je leven!

You have a facebook page?

Of course we do. But it may not be up. But if it is, won't you be our friend? If not, pretend I never mentioned the subject. We love to get your pictures and comments and love. You can always read or say nice things about us on Trip Adviser.


I still have a question...

If you've read all the way through this, you've earned the right to e-mail one of us at E-mail about anything... except when we'll be running or if you can reserve a seat for your upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Sorry about that.

As of September, 2012, we're still not going out.

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