The Beginning

It all started with an idea twenty years ago. Bonaire boat builder and seaman Johnny Craane was approached by local historian Boi Antoin about a boat called Stormvogel (Storm Bird). The old cargo ship was slowly deteriorating in a Curacao backwater. Craane and Antoin believed that this boat needed to be saved for cultural and historical reasons and contacted the family who owned it. Family members were divided about what to do with the Bonaire-built boat. The stalemate led to indecision and further deterioration of the vessel.

Stormvogel at Baai MacolaYears later François van der Hoeven, a resident of Curaçao, noticed the Stormvogel in a place called Macola Bay. He realized that this boat was the last of its kind built in the ABC Islands and set out to save her. Van der Hoeven contacted Craane and Antoin and learned that the Felida family was still divided on Stormvogel’s future.

In the meantime, Van der Hoeven and friends pumped water out of the boat to keep her afloat. This weekly event continued for years while the old cargo boat slowly rotted away. Then one day he read an article in WoodenBoat Magazine written by Patrick Holian, a Bonaire resident. He called Holian the next day.

“There is a wooden boat here called Stormvogel and it is about to sink. I’m trying to contact the Bonaire family who owns her and get permission to haul her out. I wondered if you could help me?”

“Why is it important to save the boat?” inquired Holian.

“Well, she is the last of the sailing cargo ships in the ABC Islands and she was made on Bonaire.”

That was all Holian needed to hear. He was told to contact Bois Thomas, a son of Martin Felida, the ship's original owner and captain. Serendipitously, Holian had just met Thomas for the first time two weeks before the call. In five days, Bois and his sister Shirley, the other family member responsible for Stormvogel, signed a paper giving a non-profit organisation permission to haul the sinking boat to land.

Within weeks, Holian raised the $650 needed to register a non-profit foundation. A board of directors was formed with Boi Antoin (president), Johnny Craane (head of restoration), Eric van de Keuken (secretary), and Holian (secretary). François van der Hoeven accepted a position as member-at-large. On November 13, 2014, Fundashon Patrimonio Marítimo Boneiru, the Bonaire Maritime Heritage Foundation was established.

One month later, the Felida family sold Stormvogel to the foundation for a symbolic one dollar. Then the preparation to transfer the historic ship back to Bonaire began. Stormvogel reached home port on March 25, 2015 where an extensive restoration of the old boat commenced.