Regulations and guidelines in ordinances
Biking in the province of Groningen was regulated by the government, by means of so-called ordinances. These were full of provisions, do's and don'ts about barge, skipper, towing boat and towpath, but also things like departure times and rates. Dishonesty such as excessive prices was thus avoided as much as possible. Never before had it come to such a tightly organized transport company,
Everything was also asked of the ship itself. It had to be in good condition and made of good materials. Because of the clothing of the passengers, the barge was not allowed to be tarred as usual for the woodwork, but only painted. Candles had to burn in the dark.
In connection with an oncoming ship as an “oncoming vehicle” there was a kind of priority regulation. The towpath was usually only present on one bank
Skipper and passengers
The skipper had to be skilled and helpful, not drunk. He was also not allowed to attack the passengers, nor to give offense by word or action. Asking or accepting tips was strictly prohibited. To be able to sail as a skipper one had to be of good and honest behavior, pious. Because of the required administration he should be able to read and write properly. Was he ill? Then he had to report that to the commissioner on time.
In the case of drunkenness, verbal abuse and arguments by passengers, the troublesome person was thrown out of the boat by the skipper and reported. Smoking and prunes in the cabin were fined.
The tow barge was only intended for passenger transport, but if it did not cause too much trouble, small parcels and luggage were also allowed, just like beggars without money. Pigs, chickens and baskets with eggs were not allowed.
The village skippers, in turn, ships, on the other hand, were allowed to transport goods but not people. Despite the ban, they did not care much about that. It remained a problem. Much fierce fighting has taken place in these centuries around barge traffic, especially where competition for trade was concerned.
Servant and little boy
On board and ashore, ferryboat crews worked on various tasks. A ship hunter, snikjong, snikvent or hunter in Groningen, pulled the ship with the help of a horse: called hunting (hunting, in Gronings). Usually this was a boy of at least eight years old, but the elderly also worked as ship hunters. Most tension spring skippers had their own horses and their own, permanent, long boy, because of the strict timetable.
A professional ship hunter had a hard life. He often slept in the hay with the horses and was not always treated gently by the skipper. Before the barge left, the little boy blew his tin horn. With stiff, cold lips, this may not have always sounded great. And not every guy will have been able to play the instrument well. But undoubtedly some had such a virtuoso technique that they could play several tones. Anyway, one has to imagine that it was so intensely quiet in the countryside in North Groningen that the horn sound of the snikjong was a very striking sound, music was rarely heard (except for a church organ). Each ship had its own chanting verse with accompanying melody. As soon as the tune was played, the gangway was hauled in for the descent of the sob. There are several sniklaidjes preserved from the long period between c. 1660 - 1900. Many songs ask whether coffee has been brewed.
"Experience the towing history in North Groningen from the water, by bike or on foot!"