Libra is a tjalk, built at Foxhol near Groningen in Holland in around 1910.  Originally, she was a sailing barge, built to navigate the Dutch canals and rivers: the unpitted nature of her riveted iron and steel hull inside the hold suggests a dry cargo such as grain was carried.  A typical tjalk is pictured below.


                                                                     tjalk tuigage


Pronounced challuk, this clog-shaped boat was a very common Dutch design.  They were flat bottomed, enabling them to navigate shallow waters and to take the ground to load and unload in tidal areas.  Instead of a keel, sailing barges have 2 leeboards, one on either side of the boat, to stop them drifting sideways. The leeboard is lowered into the  water on the lee side, i.e. on the opposite side to where the wind is coming from.

Libra still has her original leeboards and mast tabernacle, which indicates a much larger mast was carried than the current one.  A slot in the steel on the bows shows she once carried a bowsprit – a boom sticking out forward to carry a sail. The original crew’s cabin at the stern still has the old sliding steel shutters. Forward of this cabin was the hold: covered when working by wooden hatch covers, it now has a steel roof over a large saloon and 2 sleeping cabins.   The barge was first converted to residential use in 1950 when her current engine, a Gardner 6LW 6 cylinder 112hp diesel, was fitted. Further work was done in 1990. She came over from Holland to the Thames in 1994.