Last Chance for Storm Bird

Only 3 days left to buy the very cool “Bring Back the Storm Bird!” T-shirts.  Special thanks to the regular Worldkid readers Shirley, Dave, Rick, Mark, Marlene, Shawn, Jonni, Joe, Tom, Sally, Pat, Patrick, Dale, Karen, Tom and Kashyap. They helped raise $670 to date.

For the rest of you, this is your last chance to help save this historic boat.  All profits go directly to bringing Stormvogel (Storm Bird) back to Bonaire for restoration.  The campaign ends Tuesday, January 13, 2015 and we hope to reach $1000.  Buy a cool T-shirt today at:

https://www.booster.com/storm-bird

 

Changing Times Down Island

Another Island NoteChikituWorldkid has been posting for nearly 7 years since he move down island.  This site has had over 32,ooo hits during that period. Much has been written about the wonderful life here on the Caribbean island of Bonaire.

For example, look at the photo above.  I stand between two young men, Nat and Paul, both in the prime of their lives.  The three of us (they were so accommodating to include an old guy like me) dived Playa Chikitu (Little Beach) 2 weeks ago, a dangerous place as the signs attest.  But when we arrived, the waves were smaller than the usual 5-6+ feet.  But it is the rip tide here that is the other impending danger.  We decided to press on and test the waters so to speak.  After slowly going out we chose to take the plunge.

Balistes vetula, Queen triggerfish (Balistidae), Glover's Reef, Belize, Belize-3155That was a good decision.  We were rewarded with a rare site on Bonaire, a 6-foot reef shark as we dropped down to 80 feet.  Then we encountered my favorite beauty fish of all, the multi-colored queen triggerfish.  I have only seen them on the Wild Side of the island, the east coast where Playa Chikitu is located, and only one or two at a time.  But on this fine day under water, I counted a dozen.  And they were in our masked faces, curious to see divers perhaps for the first time since few scuba here.  Plus, there were countless Black Durgeon propelling themselves at obscure angles, oblivious to gravity and flashing their dark forms outlined by vivid neon blue stripes.  It was simply awesome.  Plus, the young hunters killed 15 lionfish–an invasive species that devours local reef fish. Well done.COD05 Stormvogel Sept. 2013But I digress.  This post is about the future, not the past.  Well, sort of.  Through a series of events that have re-aligned with the planets, at least down island, I find myself involved with a temptress of the sea.  Her name is Stormvogel (Storm Bird), the last of the wooden sailing cargo boats that used to ply the southern Caribbean.  This 45-foot Bonaire-built vessel was one of a hodgepodge of boats that were essential for export, hauling loads of salt, goatskins, aloe vera and charcoal. The vessels also delivered scarce goods to Bonaire like clothing, food and rum. But perhaps more importantly, these reliable craft united families and friends by transporting people, packages and post (mail) to the islands in the southern Caribbean. Stormvogel and other sailing boats like her were essential to Bonaire’s culture, economy and well-being.

Now the press is on  to save the last vestige of this historic era. And that is my new calling.  My efforts and time writing will be used to save Stormvogel rather than create new Island Notes.  The plan is to transform the storied cutter into a historical maritime center, perhaps a floating one, where school kids, residents and visitors will learn about the rich nautical heritage of ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao).  Most importantly, the boat will serve as a cultural touchstone for the community, a platform to learn about this colorful era of island history.  Stormvogel is the last chance to tell this important story. Other than a handful of old photographs, this old boat is all that remains.

DSC_2259But don’t worry.  Worldkid will still post adventures from abroad on this blog.  A trans Atlantic voyage aboard Coral, a wooden schooner built in 1903 is slated for April next year.  It will be my first across ‘the pond’.  I will continue to write for magazines and those updates will be posted in the “New from Patrick Holian Media” tab as will the occasional “pic of the month”.  But Island Notes, the backbone of this island rant and revelry will be, for now, discontinued.  Even with the heavenly luxury of time, I only have so many waking hours to make Stormvogel a reality for future generations.  Those activities will be posted on Project Stormvogel, a new web site currently under development. The link will be posted here soon if you are eager to follow.

Coral carving up the sea at the 2014 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

Coral carving up the sea at the 2014 Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

So in closing,  don’t worry, be happy.  I still plan to hug a palm tree, kiss a chameleon and caress a frosty glass of freshly poured rum now and then.  But life is a jambalaya.  What we make out of the gumbo is what really matters.  I say no regrets. Game on.DSC_1101

The Grand Journey. The Final Part–In Amsterdam, No Apostrophes Are Needed

DSCN1866The Grand Journey is coming to an end. And what a better place to do it than in my adopted hometown of Amsterdam. My first time here was in 1980. Worldkid was on a vagabond wandering of a lifetime that lasted over a year. But these days, coming to Amsterdam is my time to see family and friends. And that’s precisely what I did.DSCN1765

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My brother-in-law, Jan, has the same disease that I do. He has a boat. So on most visits, I get to see this old Dutch port as many mariners from the past saw Amsterdam—from the water. Jan just bought a 1970s-style America powerboat called an Invader. And that is exactly what we do. We penetrate the back canals of the red light district, steam through the Amstel River and eventually enter Oud Zuid (Old South) known for its art deco Amsterdam School of architecture from the 1930s.

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But during much of the visit we hang out at my other brother-in-law’s house near the Amstel. Otto has a lovely garden behind that is often frequented by wild parakeets. We barbeque one night on the terrace, eat salmon another night, and dine on Hettie’s Dutch dish of endive and potatoes.DSC02174 DSC02170 DSC02179

raamsteeg-leftWe also get to see our “adopted” Dutch daughter, Lisette. She spent time on Bonaire doing marine biology a few years back and became a good friend as well as an eager deckhand aboard my sailboat, Kontentu. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in oceanography and has a nice biologist boyfriend named Bram. We invited them for drinks at our old pub, the Gollum. We have been going there for over thirty years. But that is not very long. The Gollum’s building dates back to the 1600s.DSCN1792

We also visit the Rijksmuseum. This is the fine art jewel of the Netherlands holding treasures from all the Dutch Masters including Rembrandt’s famous 1642 painting, The Nightwatch.   The museum just completed a ten-year restoration last year. This was our first chance to see the transformation.DSC02201 DSC02206 DSC02226

Zatte_detail-389x260On the last day here, we join Jan’s wife, Paula, for a parting drink. We gather outside a small café for a late afternoon beer. Actually, we are having a Zatte from the tap, a full-bodied, blond beer made in the Belgium style by the local brewery, ‘t IJ. As we review our African adventures with Paula, I watch an artist across the way paint a wall sign for a jazz club. He crafts the message, Please Dont Tell as part of the art. The young man stands back to view what he has just painted and proceeds to work on other parts of the mural. Hmmm. Does DSCN1872he not know that Dont needs an apostrophe? Perhaps his grammatical English is not that polished. This is a commissioned piece. The guy makes his living doing this. By the time I’m drinking my second Zatte, Dont has not been changed. I walk across the alley to the artist. “Excuse me, I’ve been watching you paint for the past half hour and I noticed that Dont doesn’t have an apostrophe.” “Yeah, that’s right,” responds the young man. “I just thought that the ruined the flow of the piece.” “So you do know that grammatically that it is incorrect.” Oh, yeah.” “I just wanted to make sure before your boss saw it,” I say with true concern. “No problem,” says the artist. “Is there anything else you see that might not be right?” I laugh at his openness to criticism. “No. You are doing just fine.”DSCN1871

I retreat back to my half finished Zatte. I have traveled over two continents to find one of the universal truths of life. In Amsterdam, no apostrophes are needed. With that in mind, I decide that The Grand Journey is complete. It is time to fly home to the island.

 

The Grand Journey. Part 10-A Quirky English Town Stuck in Time

DSC02135This was my first visit to Brighton, a seaside town along the English Channel. I had heard quite a lot about it before arriving. During the 19th century, it was a get-away playground for the rich and famous. Dukes, princes and wealthy industrialist caroused here. The Grand Hotel and stately mansions still flank the Victorian seafront.DSC02123 DSC02124

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Most notable is the Royal Pavilion, a retreat for the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. The prince hired designer Henry Holland and later  John Nash to build the outlandish Hindu-Gothic monument. While George frolicked here as a young man, the city of Brighton eventually bought the pavilion in the 1850s. During WWI it served as a hospital for Indian and British soldiers coming back from the front. Later it became a tourist attraction. It was also the site for the first legal gay marriage in the UK in 2014.DSC02130

Then there is the landmark, Brighton Palace Pier. This amusement park of a dock stretches over 1700 feet out into the Channel. It houses game arcades, fast food stands and fairground attractions. It is a fine place to see the English attempt to enjoy a stony beach with frigid water or watch the world’s most aggressive seagulls eat tourist scraps.DSC02125 DSC02126 DSC02136 DSC02143 DSC02137 DSC02142

DSCN1750I also wandered The Lanes, twisting alleyways from 18th century Brighton. I could not help but think I was back in the 1960s. Incense and pot smoke wafted through the warm afternoon air. Music stores sold only LPs, many 30-40 years old and had walls covered with posters promoting past concerts of The Who, Jimmy Hendrix and the Kinks among others. Even the street wall murals reminded me of Pearl Alley in 1960s Columbus rather than a British seaside town.DSC02147 DSC02148 DSC02149

After Africa, Brighton was striking. I was back in the modern western world but decidedly one stuck in another era. It was slightly disconcerting. Had I flicked the wrong switch in the time/travel machine? DSC02120I lodged at an apartment at the new Brighton Marina, but then would spend the day walking through memory lanes. One evening as a waitress approached our table of eight, she greeted me as if I was one of her regular customers. I politely mentioned that I never had been there before. She was more than slightly embarrassed. I should have just said hello and, “Give me the usual.”  Brighton was a bizarre mix of space and time, ice cream and ale, fish and chips. Plus Italian food from the waitress who thought she knew me. It was time to head back to London.DSC02139