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All-season ship

Hansen's barge entertains all year

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 09/02) - Probably the most familiar vessel at the Inuvik dock is the Hansen's houseboat known only as "The Barge."

Owner/operator Frank Hansen said they tried other names for the houseboat, but none seemed to fit.

"The first couple of years we had it, we had everybody thinking about a good name for this thing, but everyone just kept calling it The Barge, so the name stuck," Hansen said.

He bought The Barge from the Northern Transportation Company Ltd. in 1995 and had her floated down north from Hay River that summer.

"They are willing to sell them to anybody, as long as you're not going into competition with them," Hansen said.

He took a stripped-down 5-12 he'd bought in 1970 and hoisted it onto the barge.

Hansen and friends worked on it over the next year and put a woodstove in and began to use The Barge as a winter cabin.

"I'd bring it back to town in the spring and work on it some more. I never seemed to quit working on it," he said.

Much of The Barge's design came out of talks at a local watering hole with Hansen's friend, carpenter Dave Langford.

"We always used to joke that the blueprints were drawn on coasters," Hansen laughs. "It was basically four or five little projects, just one right after the other."

The only work left is a canopy he'd like to put over the controls on the top deck.

Pleasure boat

Built strictly for pleasure, they make good use of their retreat in summer and winter.

"We take our friends out to take dinner cruises and that sort of thing and in the winter time, we use it as a cabin," he said. "The beauty of that is, in the winter, I can put it anywhere I want -- I don't have to go back to the same spot all the time."

When selecting a winter harbour, he tries to find a spot where there isn't too much current, so the ice won't jam up on deck.

They also take The Barge about 60 kilometres down north for a fall moose hunt every year.

It can sleep up to 10 people, but they also set up tents on the shore.

The Barge was originally just pushed by his fishing boat and a 135-horsepower Mercury outboard, while someone directed from the top deck.

Now, she has her own power, with two 50-horsepower outboards that are controlled from the bridge. He says she handles very well, except in high winds.

"It's like a big sail and you really have to watch the wind," he said. "You have to pay 100 per cent attention to it all the time."

Hansen navigates with a radar, a compass and a handheld GPS unit, but plans to get a dash-mounted GPS that ties in with the radar.

The ship draws electric from a small generator with inverter that also stores to Cat batteries, a 14 X 10 solar panel and also from the outboard engines.

"While I'm travelling, I can use both 110 volt lights and music systems or whatnot," he said.

There is a stereo system that pipes music to all parts of the vessel. There are propane lights, fridge and stove aboard and also a wood stove that keeps the place cosy in the winter.

In any season, he said, they get a great deal of use out of The Barge, be it for hunting, parties or just a family cruise.

"It's just fun to be up and out on it," Hansen said.