“Storm Bird” is a stout, 45-foot wooden sailboat that 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.
Once restoration is complete, Stormvogel will become a maritime heritage centre, 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. Youth will be trained in seamanship, boat maintenance and navigation. But most importantly, the boat will serve as a cultural touchstone, a chance for the community to reconnect with this colourful era of its history. Stormvogel is the last chance to tell this important story. Other than a handful of historic photographs and a few ageing sailors, this old boat is all that remains.