The company’s two tour boats (see image above) were once used to ferry refugees across much more dangerous waters. Today they are manned by asylum seekers who sail you around the city, presenting an alternative history. ‘Each part of the tour is related to the story of a refugee who was excluded and excommunicated and later became valuable, such as Spinoza and Anne Frank,’ says Moe Al Masri, whose journey from Syria to Amsterdam included one such rickety vessel. 78 newcomers were crammed into the small boat Al Masri now captains; today, that number is a lawful 12.
Open Boat Tours
Sustainability enthusiasts should head for Stromma Netherlands’ open-boat tours, given on cosy open-air electric boats with passionate captains-guides. Similarly, Small Boat Cruise is partly powered by solar panels and is small enough to navigate the nooks and crannies of Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Those Damn Boat Guys
The self-described ‘giggling man-babies’ running the show have been likened to knowledgeable stand-up comedians by their fans. On cold days their small wooden boats serve up mulled wine and blankets, and feature a stern where we’ve heard you can pretty much smoke anything.
Nowadays there are canal tours to satisfy every conceivable gastronomic hankering: pizza, hamburgers, cocktails and even the pancake boat for kids. The Jordaan Food & Canals Tour
stops at Nine Streets culinary favourites, while the pre-WWI wooden vessel Salonboot Avanti
is available for BBQs. On the weekends, G’s Brunch Boat
is famous for its selection of Bloody Marys.
Rent a pedal boat
and ‘cycle’ around the canals at your leisure. Or seek out Captain Ron Visser, who will teach you how to navigate the waterways, earning you a ‘Captain of the Amsterdam Canals’ distinction. Even if just for a day.
This article was originally published in A-Mag Amsterdam Magazine (Mar & April 2017)