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Sailors of the Past

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Sailors of the Past: Ellis ‘Etche’ Craane proudly holding his document of Knighthood
Ellis ‘Etche’ Craane proudly holding his document of Knighthood

Enter the elegant foyer of the new seaside Terramar Museum in downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire and you will be greeted by stunning images from the maritime past—young Bonairean deckhands daringly diving from mast tops, burly dock workers moving heavy cargo at the Handelskade in Curaçao, and majestic three-masted clipper ships at anchor in Oranjestad, Aruba.

Fifteen of these historic photos will make up Salute to the Sailors, the first temporary exhibition when the museum opens in mid-April.

“The Terramar Museum focuses on the historical connections between Caribbean islands,” explains Ruud Stelten, director of the new facility. “This exhibition of maritime photos from the ABC Islands fits exceptionally well within this theme. It’s our goal to show different facets of Bonaire through these temporary exhibits. We are glad to have these amazing photos as we open our doors to the public for the first time.”

Sailors of the Past: The year is 1917 and Hollandia is launched in Anna Bay, Curaçao
The year is 1917 and Hollandia is launched in Anna Bay, Curaçao
Sailors of the Past: Kralendijk, Bonaire: Endeavor and Mayflower with airborne crew
Kralendijk, Bonaire: Endeavor and Mayflower with airborne crew

The exhibition was organized by Fundashon Patrimonio Marítimo Boneiru (the Bonaire Maritime Heritage Foundation) as a tribute to the sailors of the ABC Islands and their wooden sailing vessels. Nearly all the photos are from the 20th century. The oldest is from 1917, and captures a launching in Curaçao of the massive Hollandia, named in honor of the 18th century 32-gun, 700-ton ship of the Dutch East India Company. Two other photos are of men who were directly involved with Stormvogel, the last remaining sailing cargo ship from this region, a cutter which the foundation is currently restoring. The tough-looking seaman with a scowl on his face is Martin Felida, captain and owner of the cargo boat. Legend has it that Felida painted Stormvogel black in order to aid him in midnight rendezvous while smuggling alcohol and cigarettes from Curaçao to Venezuela at night. The other portrait shows Stormvogel’s shipwright Ellis ‘Etche’ Craane in his later years proudly holding a document of knighthood from the Queen of the Netherlands. The prestigious award was given to the aging boat builder for his many years of service in the island’s maritime industry.

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Sailors of the Past: Captain Martin Felida of Stormvogel
Captain Martin Felida of Stormvogel

For those on Bonaire during April 29th, Etche Craane’s second cousin, Johnny, will be hosting An Evening With Johnny Craane at the Terramar. Craane will tell stories and tales of trade and trickery, sailing and smuggling from the grand age of sail. There will be three one-hour tours, with background information for each photo. The first at 6:30pm will be in English, 7:30pm in the local language of Papiamentu, and the final presentation at 8:30pm will be in Dutch. Entrance to the event is $10/person with all proceeds going to the historic restoration of Stormvogel. There will be a cash bar in the museum’s lovely outdoor courtyard where a short film about Bonaire’s maritime history and Stormvogel will be presented.

Sailors of the Past: Johnny Craane
Johnny Craane

Photos from Salute To The Sailors will be on display at the Terramar Museum through June. The original images for this event came from Archive Bonaire, a project of the local historical foundation, FUHIKUBO. Additionally, this exhibition is made possible with the financial support of the Prins Bernhard Cultural Funds of the Caribbean Region as part of the Project Stormvogel’s Junior Shipwright program. This youth outreach effort involves young people in the hands-on process of boat building and restoration under the guidance of seasoned Bonaire shipwrights.

For more information on the exhibition or Stormvogel contact: projectstormvogel@gmail.com


When not writing for All At Sea, Wooden Boat and sailing magazines, Patrick Holian can be found at the helm of his 14-foot catboat, Kontentu, cruising the shores of Bonaire.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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