In May 2024, a 126-year-old traditional Dutch barge will undertake an epic adventure, sailing from the gentle waters of Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, to the breezy eastern Scottish coast – and back again.

This Barge for Wellbeing will attend not one but two maritime festivals during its voyage, raising funds for mental health charity Inspire along the way.

Drie Gebroeders (Three Brothers) began her working life on Holland’s waterways in 1898, carrying cargoes of farm produce, manure and bricks. A family of six slept in the small area that is now the engine room. When World War II broke out, the vessel became the property of the invading German army. She survived to continue her work after the war before being transformed into a houseboat around 20 years ago. The current custodian, Hilary Hunter, bought Drie Gebroeders in the Netherlands and it has been home for the last decade. Later, an adventurous crew steered the barge from Kent, around the south of England and up the Irish coast, where she was moored in several locations. A move inland, to Lough Erne, took place in December 2022.

The ship’s Motley Crew – so named because of its diversity and spontaneity – is drawn from all age groups and sections of the community. Some members join as often as jobs and family allow, others less often. Everyone enjoys the tranquillity of being out on the water and their sense of wellbeing grows as they slow down and enjoy the craic on board this solid old craft.

Crew member Becky Thomas explains:

When Drie Gebroeders first hoved into my sights, I was so impressed. I love helping to crew her, giving people a chance to be a part of a new chapter of her story, whilst finding a new focus in their own lives.”

While the core team for May’s big adventure is settled, people can still join in for a few days – or a few weeks – of the excursion! The itinerary includes the Antrim coastlines (including the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival), some of the Western Isles, the Caledonian Canal, the Scottish Traditional Boats Festival in Portsoy. The return passage will navigate the Crinan Canal and conclude in Carrickfergus by the latter half of July. 

Local businesses AGR Engineering and Fermanagh Lodges have already joined as sponsors but Hilary is hoping that others will help her fundraising mission by supplying goods, services, discounts or donations in return for considerable promotion over the course of the journey, at events and on traditional and social media.

Click here to make a donation. 

Inspire’s Fundraising Manager, Danielle Sheridan, said:

We are delighted to be the chosen charity partner for Barge for Wellbeing. Hilary and the team may have an exceptional challenge ahead of them but we will be cheering them on every step of the way.

Inspire conducted polling in December 2023, which showed 60% of people won’t open up about their mental health because they don’t want to worry others. Barge for Wellbeing is more than a fundraiser, its helping to raise awareness that your mental health matters.

Hearing the stories behind the Drie Gebroeders is so inspiring. The sense of community, the people they meet along the way and the personal journeys are all embedded in its history. We are proud to be part of its next chapter.”

For more details on the project, please feel free to contact The story will unfold on the barge’s website ( and on social media (@the_old_dutch_barge on Instagram and DutchSailingBargeDG on Facebook).