More information emerges about Jantje’s sails – but what about Nordhorn’s anchor?

Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland

Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland

A little more information has emerged about the source of Jantje’s sails. Hans-Christian Rieck has written to say that the sister of the previous owner, the late Mr Struik, has volunteered the information that they were purchased second-hand from a Frisian sailmaker. Now the Graf Ship Association’s volunteers are trying to find out which sailmaker was involved in supplying the steilsteven or sailing tjalk’s sails.

They’re also close to overcoming the last bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining a certificate to allow Jantje to work as passenger ship on her home waters.

However, it seems the good folks of Nordhorn have another question. It seems a local businessman gave an old anchor to the City as a display item for its now historic quay. The anchor was found in mudbanks of the mouth of the River Schelde near the port of Rotterdam during dredging works.

It’s clearly of British origin, as on one fluke it is possible to read the name of Byers and the place name Sunderland, and a serial number that is now impossible to decipher. The other fluke bears the code ‘VV’.

It seems clear that it was cast by a foundry named Byers, but is there a way of discovering which ship lost it in the mouth of the Schelde? Can any reader help? My guess is that it’s likely to be listed as an insurance loss somewhere, or on the foundry ledgers, if they still exist.

From its shape local experts think the anchor dates from the late 19th or early 20th century, and that it must be from either of a British or at least a British-built ship because at that time of overheated nationalism there is every reason to doubt that a Dutch, French or German shipyard would buy foreign parts for the ships built on their own yards.

There’s an interesting listing of Sunderland-built ships here.

PS – I’m grateful to Ian Wedderburn for writing this weekend to point out this link at the England’s Past for Everyone website, which is about a very similar looking anchor that’s now outside the maritime museum at Palermo, Sicily. Thanks Ian!

Jantje’s sails: the mystery deepens

Sailing tjalk Jantje at Nordhorn, winter 2010

Sailing tjalk Jantje at Nordhorn, winter 2010 Sailing tjalk Jantje at Nordhorn, winter 2010

Hans-Christian Rieck of the Graf Ship Association based at Nordhorn in Germany has written to explain a bit more of the mystery of sailing tjalk Jantje’s sails. Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin,

‘I’d like to give you the update on the history of Jantje’s sails. It is amazing how such a little stamp on an old sail comes out to be a real mystery. We followed your suggestion about Mount Vernon Mills and even contacted them, but got no answer with the exception of a note that our photo was forwarded to some senior official.

‘So I phoned Hermann Ostermann and asked for help. He told me that this sail is something rare in Europe, as to his knowledge there was hardly any American sailcloth imported to Europe. But he used his lifelong connections to other European specialists and sent word around that this special foresail was found in Nordhorn.

Kees Hos from The Netherlands replied that this sail and the stamp on it are very extraordinary, both from the quality of the work and the sailcloth. He said that the amazing thing is that a roll of No. 1 sailcloth 84 yds. long must be very heavy – he estimates its weight at about 55 kg.

‘Then we received a very warm letter from Mrs Struik, the sister of the former owner of Jantje, and asked her about Jantje. Mrs Struik was very pleased to see that Jantje is in good condition again. She told us that the late Mr Struik used to sail Jantje with his kids until the early 80s, but then he fell ill and abandoned most of his activities on the ship.

‘Anyway we’ll keep informed.

‘So long


Thanks Hans-Christian! Now can anyone in the UK shed any light on this please? Was Mount Vernon duck used in the UK? And if so, might that have been the source please? Or did someone set up a short-lived business importing the material to Holland? Is there a historian of the cotton duck trade out there?

Dutch barge Jantje’s sails throw up a question

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Jantje Foresail with Mount Vernon cotton duck stamp

Jantje Jakob Miller preparing the foresail to be hoisted to the loft

Regular correspondent Hans-Christian Rieck of the Graf Ship Association based at Nordhorn in Germany has been in touch to ask about a stamp on one of sailing tjalk Jantje’s sails. For more on Jantje, click here.

‘Dear Gavin,

‘Now as the winter is approaching there is time to do bits and pieces of work which had bee put aside during summer. Just recently we unfolded Jantje’s sails, looking for places where they may be ripped, airing them and so on. On the photo you can see our mate Jakob preparing the foresail to be lifted to the sail loft.

‘What we have are two mainsails, a big one that is obviously relatively newer, and an older one that is smaller and made of linen.

‘Also there are two foresails, a light brown one and a real heavy white one, both from cotton. Maybe the reders of intheboatshednet can help us, because on the white one is a stamp which reads: Mt. Vernon Extra Cotton Duck 84 Yds No 1. Obviously that is a hint to the source of the sailcloth and obviously it came from an English speaking country.

‘The sails are now stored on the loft and will be hoisted in spring. We had a report on Jantje in the Dutch magazine Schuttevaer where we asked for help in finding out about the origins of Jantje. That was a real success we came in contact with lots of Dutch chaps who knew bit and pieces of Jantjes life.

‘So we know now that she was built at the shipyard of the Niestern Brothers in Delftzijl in 1923, and was their number 156. Later she worked in the potato trade.

‘Also we came in contact with the sister of the late Mr Struik, the previous owner. She wrote that she was pleased with the way the ship looks now and she is willing to give us every help we need to bring light into the parts of Jantjes life which still lay hidden.



Thanks Hans-Christian! Googling using the English-language version of the site reveals a Wikipedia page revealing that Mount Vernon Mill in Maryland, USA was once a leading manufacturer of cotton duck.