For several hundred years, “Tjalks” have been built as flat bottom cargo ships of shallow draft in the Netherlands. They sailed De Zuiderzee and all lakes, canals and rivers in Holland and bigger sea tjalks sailed to the Baltic, Russia, and England.
In 1954, it happened that a Professor Crawford Farley of Miami, Florida met a Mr. Charles. M. Donnelly of Greenwich, CT. The agent of Feadship, Inc. in the United States, Donnelly at the time owned a typical Dutch fisher “botter” called De Groote Beer.
According to the story by Donnelly and many others, De Groote Beer was built as a yacht for Nazi General Hermann Goering during 1940 to 1945, at the De Kok shipyard in Huizen, Holland, but never delivered to him.
When Professor Farley saw this boat, loaded with art works from the famous Dutch wood carver Anton Fortuin of Laren NL., he fell in love with her. He wanted a similar vessel, but not in wood, a lot bigger for family entertainment, and to use sailing the intercoastal waterways of America and the Caribbean.
Feadship came up with the idea of creating a traditional Dutch “Paviljoen ZeeTjalk,” (pavilion sea tjalk) but constructed as a real sailing yacht and not as a normal freighter model with a flat bottom. Drawings go back from late 1954 till November of 1957 when she was launched in Aalsmeer N.L.
De Vrouwe Christina was built by the De Vries Shipyards of Aalsmeer, Holland and partner of the Feadship group. Farley named the boat after his wife, Christina. The inside of de Vrouwe Christina had the same design as the described Nazi botter De Groote Beer, and all art works on the outside as well as at the inside were created by Anton Fortuin.
The vessel sailed the intercoastal waterways many times with her owner until the 1980s when she was sold to other owners through the years, reportedly Jules Nelson of Philadelphia and Bucks County, PA, and James Ryder of Ryder Trucking. One owner took her six times across the Atlantic, skippered by an English captain, and she spent one summer in the Balearics and one summer in the UK.
Eventually, she was sold to John Miller, who lived on her with his family for 14 years on the island of Sint Maarten. Miller sold her in March 2002 to her present owners, Henri and Hanneke Krijnen.
When the present Dutch owner heard that De Vrouwe Christina was up for sale, he did everything in his power to obtain this remarkable vessel because he knew its history. He knew also that in 1957, De Vrouwe Christina and Highlander owned by publisher Malcolm Forbes, arranged to keep Feadship in business.
Restoration of the vessel began in May 2002. But when the boat was hauled out, it was discovered that she needed a complete new under water hull. A complete package comprising of all parts was shipped from Holland to Sint Maarten N.A. as a jig saw puzzle. In Sint Maarten, welders were busy for 10 months to position the new 8 mm steel plates.
During the job, the whole inside of the boat had to be removed, including the works of art!
Work was done in Sint Maarten N.A., St. Martin, and Antigua, under direct supervision of nautical architect Jaron Ginton of Haarlem, located in the Feadship building. This job of three years had many ups and downs. Finding the most suitable and qualified contractors for the highly specific work was a massive challenge. The completion date was June 28, 2005, when she left Sint Maarten.
At 80’ overall and 95 tons, on the outside, she is completely restored and more beautiful than when she was launched by Feadship Holland in 1957. The interior design of the boat has been changed completely and is now ultra modern, achieved by using light colored and bird’s-eye maple, stainless steel, and marble throughout. The works of art are fully re-incorporated.
De Vrouwe Christina is now a brand new Feadship and the Dutch owners say that buying her new would have been much cheaper than doing a refit job. However, they had great cooperation from Feadship and De Vries shipyard during the renewal of her, and the yard would nowdays not have built a second “Paviljoen Tjalk” like De Vrouwe Christina.