Stormvogel returned its home to Bonaire on March 25, 2015. Since then, the old cargo ship has been at the Navegante Boatyard in Hato. Thanks to owner Lele Davidsson who gave the foundation permission to store the boat during restoration for free.
A number of activities followed. A thorough assessment of the boat’s condition was done. It was concluded that 80% of the original structure would have to be replaced. The foundation’s Board of Directors unanimously decided that it was worth the effort and cost to save this last vestige of the grand days of sail from the ABC Islands.
Head of restoration Johnny Craane and volunteers began replacing the frame-knees and ribs of the boat from inside in order to maintain the boat’s original shape during construction. Consultant Bruce Halibisky offered advice and encouragement as well as a set of detailed line drawings, the first ever for Stormvogel. Most island shipwrights from the last century relied on experience, intuition and perhaps a half-model in building a boat.
The restoration crew began harvesting mesquite (kui in Papiamentu) the frame wood of choice in the original Stormvogel. Jigs and mills were developed to handle cutting the massive logs into precisely formed ribs. Bronze rods were purchased and bolts were fabricated to bond the pieces of ribs together. Old ribs were refurbished and rotted ones removed.
There are 38 ribs on each side of the boat. Once the frame is complete planking, beam installation and decking will follow. Mast and sprits will be placed followed by the rigging. The interior of Stormvogel will be transformed into an interactive museum area and retain ask much of its original character as possible.
Upon completion of the restoration, Stormvogel will become the Bonaire Maritime Museum The boat will be moved to a highly visible, land-based, seaside location where everyone—students, senior citizens, other residents and tourists—will witness Bonaire’s rich nautical past. Volunteers will offer on-deck tours of the boat and explain what life was like for the island’s seamen. Below deck, visitors will view historic photographs, maritime artifacts and short films about the ABC Islands’ age of sail.
Eventually Stormvogel will be returned to the sea and become a floating museum. The boat will also become a training ship for youth where volunteer adult sailors will teach seamanship skills, navigation, marine safety and boat maintenance. Occasional historic sunset cruises will give residents and tourists an on-deck experience of what it was like to sail aboard these grand cargo ships of the past. Students who have completed the Stormvogel Seamanship Program will help crew the boat. There are also plans to sail Stormvogel on two-week goodwill voyages to Curaçao and Aruba where local residents there will be invited aboard for on-deck tours and below deck to view historic artifacts and media displays.