10 November 2014 - From: The Bonaire Reporter
Stormvogel (Storm Bird), a stout, 45-foot wooden sailboat, was launched from the shores of the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire in the early 1950s. She joined an unofficial fleet of local cargo ships that served as the lifeline between the ABC Islands. These boats, called balandras, were essential for export. They hauled loads of salt, goatskins, aloe vera, and charcoal. They also delivered scarce goods to Bonaire like clothing, fuel and canned food. But perhaps most importantly, these reliable vessels united families and friends by transporting people, packages and post between the islands.
Stormvogel and her sister ships were essential to Bonaire’s well-being, economy, and culture. Today, Stormvogel is the only remaining cargo ship left from those grand days of sail. She was the last of the sailing cargo boats built and, through the years, survived storms and hurricanes. Now the old cutter is facing her greatest challenge yet—decay.
Project Stormvogel is an effort to save the last vestige of this historic era. Presently, the boat has been rescued from the water and is on dry dock in Curaçao. François van der Hoeven from the Curaçao Maritime Archeological Foundation is preparing the boat for transfer to Bonaire. Upon arrival, the old ship will be restored with historic accuracy to its former sailing glory at the Navegante Boatyard in Hato. Owner Lele Davidsson has generously offered a spot rent-free for the first year of the restoration. A group of experienced Bonairean shipwrights, led by boat man Johnny Craane, will volunteer their time and spearhead the effort. Plans are to involve youth from public schools and groups like Jong Bonaire and Junior Rangers so that they can learn boatbuilding skills, teamwork and maritime history.
Once complete, Stormvogel will become a maritime heritage center, eventually a floating one, where school kids, residents and tourists will learn about the nautical past of the ABC Islands. Volunteer guides will give on-deck tours. Maritime artifacts and multimedia displays will offer glimpses into the past below deck. But most importantly, the boat will serve as a cultural touchstone, a chance for the community to reconnect with this colorful era of its history. Stormvogel is the last chance to tell this important story. Other than a handful of historic photographs and a few aging sailors, this old boat is all that remains. We urge you to generously support this worthwhile project.