FAREWELL TO A MUCH-LOVED SAILING BOAT: THE EBENHAËZER
In 2019, the Drienerlose Sailing Association Euros waved goodbye to their beloved Ebenhaëzer, a day that many (former) members still remember as if it were yesterday. The boat, which had been in the hands of the association for more than 50 years, is so much more than just a boat: she was also a wonderful way of bringing together members of the university – from students to professors. They all sailed on board, and many generations have countless treasured memories of those times.
The clipper barge is over 25 metres in length and weighs almost 50 tons – and she has had an eventful history. Built in 1914, she served as a cargo vessel in the waters of the northern Netherlands. During the Second World War, the Ebenhaëzer was sunk by the Germans in the Apeldoorn canal, but was repaired after the war. A few years later, a group of enthusiasts from Twente fell in love with this beautiful boat, which was in pretty bad shape at the time, and she ended up in the hands of the sailing club in 1967. The barge was refurbished and even fitted with a motor in 1970. When enough money was raised a few years later, the Ebenhaëzer was converted into a sailing boat. In 1974, her proud owner – the Drienerlose Sailing Association Euros – was able to make a sailing trip on the Ebenhaëzer for the first time.
In the 50 years that she was in the ownership of Euros, she was used extensively – for club weekends, student outings and as a training vessel. And perhaps most importantly, for the members of the Euros Sailing Association, based in Enschede, the Ebenhaëzer was used to ferry members to and from areas where water is in more plentiful supply. The Ebenhaëzer won the hearts of the club’s members. Even though during the day everyone would go off on their own excursions in various boats, everyone would be back on board the Ebenhaëzer in the evening. Although the boat was based in Workum, she would spend the winter months at the ‘Skippers College’ to be serviced by its 25 members, and she could also be found in the Twente Canal near the Euros water sports complex. There, she would be spruced up ready to be taken back north in April.
In August 1998, the Ebenhaëzer was involved in a major stunt: she was temporarily moved onto the university campus. The project was described as a ‘technical practice exercise’ – transporting a fifty-ton sailing boat safely and efficiently right onto the campus. The exercise was carried out by fifty students as part of Freshers’ week. Students of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics worked on the technical details, while students of Applied Communication took care of communications, marketing and sponsorship. It was quite a challenge, involving cranes, a police escort, and a route that took the Ebenhaëzer along the wrong side of the road on one stretch. But the boat was safely installed on the grass on-campus, where she stayed five days to be admired. You could have breakfast or hold a party on board, and she even provided a place to sleep for first-year students who had not yet found accommodation. The driver of the low-loader admitted that he had never seen such a crowd: half of Twente turned out to watch. The first-years seemed less impressed though, assuming that this was something that happened every year.
In May 2019, Euros concluded with regret that keeping the Ebenhaëzer was no longer financially viable. The vessel failed its inspection in 2017 and would have required expensive and time-consuming restoration work. Despite a donation from the Twente University Fund, which had raised €5000, the Ebenhaëzer’s exploits would come to an end. The boat would need to be sold. In June 2019, Euros organised the ‘Funeral of the Ebenhaëzer’. Over 80 members, old and new, came to say goodbye. ‘It was an emotional day. Several former members brought along their children, so that they too would have the chance to walk on the deck where they had spent so many years. At one point there were five generations of skippers on the aft deck,’ Euros president Jurre van Geel told U-Today afterwards.
But there is also hope on the horizon. Former student and member of Euros, IJsbrand Visser, has expressed an interest in acquiring the Ebenhaëzer and has plans to revive her. The boat is currently undergoing thorough restoration work in Den Bosch. In September 2019, former members took her on a three-day farewell voyage from Enschede to Den Bosch. For many, that was the last chance they had to sail on this much-loved boat. The plan is now to rent the boat out for corporate events and tours after she has been restored, so who knows, maybe the members of Euros might one day have the chance to set foot on ‘their’ barge once again.