The first Dutch oceangoing tug

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Almost two centuries passed since the first Dutch oceangoing tug - a steam-driven, wooden paddled vessel called the "Noord-Holland" - was put into service by Provincial Tugboat Services of Den Helder. That was in 1826. Fifteen years later the company became the first privately-owned towage and salvage concern in the Netherlands.


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The wooden paddle-tug Noord-Holland
in the harbour of Den Helder

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The wooden paddle tug 'Stad Amsterdam' 140 h.p. was the second, built in 1841, sold in 1876

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The paddle tug "Simson"(I) built 1877, 218 gross tons, 110 hp
The tug is demolished in  1911

Since the earliest records of history, men have ventured upon the waters... and for a special kind of man, the true seafarer, the sea holds a special attraction. That attraction is difficuld, if not impossible, to define; it could spring from the vastness of the seas, the mistery and romance of the oceans, or their unpredicttability. Or perhaps it is simply aquestion of man versus the elements. Certainly we know that for centuries the Dutch have fought the sea and the formidable forces which control it, and from among all the seafaring nations they can perhaps claim the greatest successes in the eternal struggle. One particular Dutchman who dedicated his life to the sea was Johannes Franciscus Wijsmuller, born in Amsterdam on september 22, 1876, the son of middle-class parents. This is where our story begins.

johnfwijsmuller.jpg (27887 bytes)FROM DECK BOY TO CAPTAIN
After completing elementary school, in 1887 Jan Wijsmuller ran away to sea, like so many young lads before him, to become a deckboy on the Enkhuizen-Stavoren ferry. We do not know if there was salt water in his blood, as we say, but certainly he had a great love of the sea.
Soon Jan Wijsmuller became an ablebodied seaman and even served on board sailing ships, which were just on their way out at the turn of the century. The young seafarer, however, saw for himself a future other than that of an ablebodied seaman.  He wanted to be on the bridge of a ship but had no idea how to reach his goal since money and much studying were necessary. But in 1900 he had the good fortune to inherit a small amount of money, which, together with his savings, made him decide to go to school.
Backed by his hard-earned experience, and boundless energy and enthusiasm, he duly obtained his diploma as a deck officer. Jan Wijsmuller became an officer in the service of the Royal Packet Navigation Company and showed from the outset that he was made off the right stuff. Altough young, he soon longed for his indepedence. This was to result in an appointment as a pilot in Surabaia at the age of 23, and later he was stationed in Tandjong Priok, at Java, Indonesia. An almost fatal attack of malaria, however, forced him to return to Holland. 

Photo on the right: Captain J. F. Wijsmuller 

He was now unemployed and it was during those first days after returning to his native land that he met the daughter of an Amsterdam banker. But her parents were far from happy at the prospect of their daughter marrying an unemployed merchant navy officer. Then Jan Wijsmuller had an idea that was to have far-reaching cosequenses for the rest of his life. At that time, Dutch shipyards were building dredgers and ships for other countries, and these vessels had to be delivered under their own power. It was the kind of operation that needed to be organized and led by a man with exeptional seamanship abilities, and so Jan Wijsmuller, who was licensed master, offered his services to deliver the vessels; and since he guaranteed a very reliable crew, the 'ship delivery' service was born.

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His first order was the delivery of a steam tugboat from Holland to Argentina. Due to the smal bunker capacity, the "MOP 222 B" of just 87 grt, had to be transformed into a sailing ship. two masts and a bowsprit were fitted. Five crewmembers were signed on and on october 8, 1906. Captain Wijsmuller left the harbour of Rotterdam for his first job. Despite a delay of eight days at Plymouth, in England, and the primitive conditions on board, Wijsmuller and his stout crew arrived safely at Puerto Militar, near Bahia Blanca, on january 14, 1907.

Left the journal of Captain Wijsmuller's first voyage with the "MOP 222 B"


The successful accomplishment of this pioneering trip led to more contracts. One of these involved the delivery of a small vessel, the "Hoofd Inspecteur Zeeman", measuring 164 by 28 feet, from Holland to Tandjung Priok. Before setting course for Java, however, Wijsmuller got himself married - to the banker's daughter - and then made the voyage a honeymoon. The successful complation of this job brought overwhelming acclaim. More clients displayed trust in him.


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The newly-weds, accompanied by the crew of the"Hoofdinspecteur Zeeman"


Among the contracts was delivery of a new lightship, the "Suriname Rivier" to Paramaribo. The vessel had no engines, so Captain Wijsmuller had sails fitted, signed on a reliable crew of eight, and sailed from IJmuiden on february 27, 1911, to arrive safely in Surinam on april 6. 1911.

 

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The "Suriname Rivier" when leaving Ymuiden

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The crew of the sailing lightvessel. Fifth person from the right
is Captain Johs. F. Wijsmuller

By this time Jan Wijsmuller had become well known in the international shipping world. About a year before the outbreak of World War I he decided he would like to do something els besides delivering ships. Ocean towage had caught his eye, but more for adventurous than commercialreasons. He had enough funds by this time and in 1913 the first Wijsmuller tug was built. The 500-hp "Holland", with a bunker capacity of 120 tons, was specially designed for deepsea towage and could hanle sailing ships, lighters and floating drydocks. So succesful was the "Holland" that it was not long before a second tug, the "Friesland", was ordered. Jan Wijsmuller proved himself a dynamic businessman. Originally his intention was to deal in tugs; the "Holland" and the "Friesland", for example, were both sold to Russia within a year of entering service. If there was a shipping slump, as during the war, Wijsmuller sold his vessels; if there was work, he employed them profitably. For him he transition from sailor to shipowner and merchant was natural.


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The "Holland"towing a dry dock from Schellingwoude to Den Helder in 1913

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The "Friesland"(I) built 1914, 269 gross tons, 500 hp

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