Category Archives: Headlines

Goed onderwijs begint in de klas

Sinds oktober 2010 is Nederland verantwoordelijk voor het onderwijs op Bonaire, St. Eustatius en Saba. Het onderwijs op de middelbare school van St. Eustatius is verslechterd sinds die tijd. Een makkelijk te nemen maatregel die de basis legt voor goed onderwijs is het aanbieden van vaste contracten aan leraren.

De kinderen die op de middelbare school komen op St. Eustatius zijn bij begrijpend lezen gemiddeld op het niveau van groep 4/5. Dat zijn in Nederland kinderen van 7 en 8. Er is een rapport verschenen van de onderwijsinspectie. Dat kunt u hier lezen: http://www.scribd.com/doc/190930130/Rapport-Van-Bevindingen-Kwaliteitsonderzoek-Translation-Ch-2-3-Appendix

Goed onderwijs begint in de klas. Uit het McKinsey rapport “How to improve education, hier te lezen: http://www.scribd.com/doc/78625564/McKinsey-Report-2010-How-to-Improve-Education , blijkt dat goed onderwijs erop neerkomt dat de leraar in de klas op zo’n manier instrueert, dat de leerlingen er echt iets van leren. Dat klinkt simpel, maar in de praktijk is dat heel moeilijk. Je moet om een betere leraar te worden, steeds testen of de leerlingen goed hebben begrepen wat je hebt bedoeld. Dan begrijp je wel, dat de betere leerlingen vaak op de zwakkere leerlingen moeten wachten. De leraar moet namelijk zorgen dat ALLE kinderen het begrepen hebben. Als bijna alle kinderen ergens zwak in zijn, zoals de kinderen op Statia in het Nederlands en zelfs in het Engels (“proper English”), dan schiet dat maar heel langzaam op voor een leraar. Hij moet erg goed zijn om ze op niveau te krijgen.

Om goed te kunnen lesgeven, moet de leraar een fijne werksfeer om zich heen hebben. Hij moet zich zeker voelen dat de directie een steun in de rug is, die hem dekt wanneer er problemen zijn. Een directeur moet leiding geven en in staat zijn het team van leraren die fijne werksfeer te bieden.

Leraren kunnen leren van elkaar als ze open zijn en als ze weten waar ze aan toe zijn in een school. Leraren geven beter les als ze precies weten wat ze de kinderen moeten leren. Het onderwijs schiet overal ernstig tekort op Statia. Dat begint op de peuterschool, wordt niet echt veel beter op de basisschool en is rampzalig op de Gwendoline van Puttenschool.

Het is erg moeilijk om les te geven op St. Eustatius. We hebben heel goede toegewijde leraren nodig voor alle niveau’s, van peuterschool tot en met middelbare school. Als nieuwe leraren een drie jarig contract krijgen aangeboden, geef je ze de volgende boodschap: “Wil je eens wat anders in je onderwijscarriere, kom dan 3 jaartjes bij ons lesgeven.”

Dat is niet handig. Je wil goede mensen trekken die zich betrokken en verbonden voelen. Dan moet je vaste contracten aanbieden. Een jaar op proef en daarna stilzwijgend ieder jaar het contract verlengen.

Een lichtpunt is de MBO. De MBO heeft een goed team van jonge hoog opgeleide leraren. Wat zou het jammer zijn als die over drie jaar allemaal weer weg waren.

Annemieke Jansen,

Drs. Pedagogische wetenschappen.

 

Column: Schoonmakers behalen erkend vakdiploma

Ik kreeg een foto toegestuurd met een groepje lokale Bonaireanen erop die met hun best wel grote erkende vakdiploma’s stonden te zwaaien. Het was al donker, het was waarschijnlijk op een feestje uitgereikt. Super. Waarschijnlijk gedaan met geld van SZW.

Bij ons op St. Eustatius was er de lokale beslissing genomen om mensen die voor de overheid werken in een soort “verborgen werkloosheid banen”, op te leiden of om te scholen. Ik weet niet of dat met geld van SZW gedaan zou worden en ik weet niet of er een “Stichting” tussen zit. Meestal als er tussen geld van Nederland en lokale beslissingen een “Stichting” zit, gaat het mis. Dan worden beloofde stappen niet genomen, dat zijn er bepaalde vrienden van politici die erin zitten en een clan achter zich hebben die ze moeten bedienen.

Op Statia probeert Mevrille Hazel “tweedekansers” te interesseren om in de landbouw te werken. Toen Willem en Maxima er waren, kwam er een leerling opdagen: een vrouw, met haar dochtertje. Misschien waren het twee dochtertjes. Zoals ze zat te wachten tot ze aan kwamen, met haar kind of haar kindertjes om zich heen, was een romantisch plaatje. Deze vrouw moet gekoesterd worden, ze verdient het om goed te worden in een vak. Veel mensen zijn ongemotiveerd omdat hun arbeidsomgeving niet stimulerend is. Als er techniek aan te pas zou komen en wat moeilijkere dingen, wat innovaties, wat energie, wat creativiteit, dan zou het werken op Statia als laaggeschoolde veel interessanter worden.

“De mensen op Statia hebben potentie,” zeggen ze dan. Maar niemand probeert die potentie eruit te halen en niemand weet eigenlijk te zeggen trouwens, wat die potentie dan is.  Ik weet het wel: de potentie is dat de mensen creatief zijn. Ze kunnen met weinig slimme oplossingen bedenken voor ingewikkelde problemen.

Ik weet zeker dat als op Statia de landbouw gaat innoveren, vertical agriculture, bakken met tilapia en dan groentes erboven op verbouwen, er vooruitgang komt.

Je kunt groente en fruit exporteren naar de tophotels op St. Maarten en St. Barths en St. Kitts/Nevis en Saba.

Weet je wat de Sabanen deden toen Statia “The Golden Rock” was? Ze deden de landbouw voor ze. Ze voeren hun groente en fruit uit naar Statia. Vandaar dat er nog zoveel gebied is op Saba dat een plantage is geweest. Ik denk dat het nu voor Statia de beurt is om het “groente en fruit eiland” van de regio te worden.

Ik zei creativiteit en ik had het over landbouw en landbouw innovatie. Ik geloof dat als de Statianen gaan innoveren, er ook gekeken moet worden naar de creatieve oplossingen uit het verleden. De putten die er waren, de oplossingen voor erosie werkten. Innovatie bevordert  creativiteit als mensen erin betrokken worden, weten waarmee ze bezig zijn, mee nadenken.

Verder zijn er heel veel mensen die ander creatief talent kunnen ontwikkelen.  Veel meer mensen zouden kunnen schilderen. Niet alleen kleuren verzinnen voor je huis, maar ook kunstzinnig schilderen. Er zijn ook veel mensen op te leiden als timmerman, daar zijn ook in het verleden creatieve ideeen bedacht, zoals die van een Duitse meneer die een soort voorloper van “Zagen en Schaven” had opgezet bij Rosemary Lane ergens.

Schilderen en hout bewerken, ook daar kunnen vrouwen goed in worden. Er kunnen goede opleidingen begonnen worden, die niet alleen voor de regio, maar ook voor in Holland uniek zijn.

Landbouw, (kunst) schilderen en houtbewerken. Ander creatief talent zit in de muziek, daar staat Statia om bekend, een echte muziekopleiding op het eiland zou wonderen kunnen verrichten.

Annemiek

 

 

 

 

 

SUBSISTENCE AGRICULTURE FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN SMALL ISLAND ECONOMIES

(from the Daily Herald Nov 22)

SUBSISTENCE AGRICULTURE FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN SMALL ISLAND ECONOMIES

 

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).  The IYFF aims to raise the profile of family and smallholder (subsistence) farming by focusing world attention on its significant role in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development.

No one will disagree that the price of food in the Caribbean is expensive.   Sometimes the expense causes us to make unhealthy choices.  Poor food choices are directly linked to many public health problems today (hypertension, diabetes, cancer etc).  It is indeed time to celebrate the IYFF as it can potentially lead to increased food security and a general improvement in public health.

 

While the IYFF is important, there are some challenges. I myself am currently living in Sint Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands.  Much of my discussion surrounds my reaction to comments heard or actions observed while residing on this island.   I do not assume that my personal experience and observation permeates throughout the rest of the Caribbean. However, knowing some of the dilemmas facing a small island may assist others.

 

On Statia there are a few local farmers, a wide variety of free ranging livestock (cows, goats, sheep chickens, pigs etc), and of course seafood.  It is my opinion that Statia, as small as the island is, has the necessary resources to be semi self sufficient in terms of producing the food that people need and consume.

 

Interestingly, every other week there is a sale of local meat and fish.  Every week there is a market for local produce.  Interestingly, a great percentage of the people supporting these events are not local (migrated for work on the island).  This is not to say that no Statian ever visits the markets.  They do.  But the proportion is very low.

 

What this means is that the local population is potentially inhibiting economic sustainability by not supporting the local farmer and ultimately increasing the risk of food insecurity.  This also means that they may be working in opposition to their best interest by endangering their own health in the long run by making a choice to choose foods that have less nutritional value.

 

It is not my intent to blame people outright because there is usually a history behind why people think the way they do.  So lets explore this history.  Many scholars agree that the belief that better food comes from the outside and the action of not supporting the local farmer derives from the colonial period when food was not grown for consumption because this detracted from the utility of the land and the production of exported foodstuff (for profit).  Subsistence needs were met through importation of products.  This colonial ideology must simply be discarded.  Local foods are healthier (field to table equates to less transition time), taste better, and their purchase assists in developing sustainable economies.

 

 

I have also heard that the food produced on the island is not safe.  However, most food born illness result from handling, preparation, or storage. Food born illness not resulting from these factors can generally be attributed to not knowing where your food originates.  For example, mad cow disease is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by a prion. There is strong evidence that the outbreak in the UK was caused by feeding prion-infected meat-and-bone meal to young calves.  Therefore, the outbreak resulted from feeding cows meat and bone- something that cows are not supposed to eat.  Therefore, local meat is likely much safer because cattle are generally free ranging and eat what cows are supposed to eat…GRASS.  Furthermore, when buying food locally you can always ask the owner of the animal what the animal eats.

 

 

There is another historical explanation but this one regards the reason why people do not plant anymore.  Historically, upon the eve of the industrial era, there was a shift and people left the agricultural field to find employment in industrial settings.  Corresponding with this shift was also a change in the mentality where people began to feel that farming was not a reputable occupation.  It is at this time that there was a shift from subsistence (family) farming to commercial farming (for profit).  What we know now is that the system of agriculture is not working (resulting in the high price of foodstuff and malnutrition).  Consequently, there is more emphasis on local production and community distribution of food. Generally food production must be removed from its current anonymity and once again acquire a face and identity.  This would result in the re-establishment of some form of communication with one another and a feeling of responsibility for one another.

 

So here are my suggestions.  We need to remove the social stigma attached to farming and train a new generation of small scale framers.  They need to be developed and nurtured locally and nationally so family farming can become a developing economic agent.  They will come to play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of food insecurity for households, communities and nations and will also help mitigate high food price inflation.  Second, people must realize the importance and safety of buying local.  Purchasing locally produced food is beneficial to the local economy and the public’s health.  2014 is the International Year of Family Farmers.  Let’s work to make it successful!

 

 

 

Dr. Teresa E. Leslie is the president and founder of the Eastern Caribbean Public Health Foundation which is based in Sint Eustatius.  Dr. Leslie can be reached at tleslie612@gmail.com

Appointment procedure for “Rijksvertegenwoordiger” has to change according to D’66

(picture NRC) In this article the D’66 opinion about the appointment procedure of the “Rijksvertegenwoordiger” and that that has to change.

http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2013/11/27/benoemingsprocedure-rijksvertegenwoordiger-antillen-nu-te-schimmig/?fb_action_ids=10200213360297152&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B414840835310241%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.recommends%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

28 nov written answer from Plasterk:

Kamerlid: Hachchi (D66)

Vraag:

Kunt u de benoeming van de Rijksvertegenwoordiger stroomlijnen met die van een commissaris van de Koning?

Antwoord:

Er bestaan grote verschillen in de rol en positie van de commissaris van de Koning en de Rijksvertegenwoordiger, welke mede tot uitdrukking komen in de benoemingsprocedure.

De benoeming van de Rijksvertegenwoordiger is vastgelegd in art 188 Wolbes. De minister van BZK stelt een profielschets vast, waarna de vacature wordt geplaatst in de Staatscourant. Voordat de minister de voordracht tot benoeming doet, wint hij over de voor te dragen persoon het gevoelen in van de bestuurscolleges van de openbare lichamen, dit om het draagvlak voor het functioneren van betrokkene in de praktijk te toetsen. Aangezien de Rijksvertegenwoordiger geen deel uitmaakt van het eilandsbestuur en daar dus ook geen verantwoordingsrelatie mee heeft is er geen sprake van een vertrouwenscommissie, uit respectievelijk aanbeveling van de eilandsraad.

Zoals bekend legt de huidige Rijksvertegenwoordiger per 1 mei 2014 zijn functie neer. Ik zal derhalve voor zijn opvolging een profielschets vaststellen. Dit past in de huidige acties voor de verbeteren van de Rijkscoördinatie.

Mailinglist

Statianews was started in 2008 as a local newsletter that was send around per email. In 2010 when the Nustar expansion discussion started, it was important to make the information available via email, also available for all to see; on the world wide web.

Statianews continues to send out news, opinions, announcements and other messages via email. If you want to recieve the statianews emails, please send an email to info@statianews.com, or send a message on this website.

If you want to send out a mass email via Statianews, you can also contact me via that email address.

Note that not everything that is sent out via the mailinglist is on the website and vice versa. So if you really want to know everything there is to know about Statia, check this website regularly and subscribe to the mailinglist.

 

 

A non issue

Why would anyone want to be considered a local? What is so important? Why is it an issue? I would love that question answered. I have been coming to Statia every other year since I was 2 and I live here now permanently for 17 years. My entire family is from here yet I am not a local, don’t want to be considered one becuz I am not. I was born on Curacao, raised on St. Maarten and consider myself a St. Maartener because that’s where I was raised. And whatever I consider myself to be still isn’t putting food on my table or paying my taxes. If someone has to ask and wonder then they are not a local…. move on, there’s nothing to see here. Be proud of who you are and where you come from. And just be happy to be living on Statia. Until we regress to separate water coolers for locals and non-locals (if you get my drift) let’s stop giving weight to the debate. Its a non-issue.

By Jessica Berkel (quoted from facebook with permission)

How Fragile We Are

Nowadays, we hear so much negative things about St. Eustatius. I want to be positive. So here I will write down, what I think is positive about the island.

In school, everyday, the children sing. In church, everybody sings. Rare talents were raised on Statia, music and dance are in the genes of all families.

On St. Eustatius, all year long, the sun shines. At night, it becomes dark, all year long, around 6.45 to in summertime maybe 7.15, 7.30. That means, that when you have a family, with children, it is easy to get them to go to bed. After having dinner, it’s dark. Not dark, but pitch-dark. When you move from house to house, you do that in the dark. Children are tired, they sleep easily. Nowadays, sports are being played at night.

The Hurricane season is exciting. The people know the signs. The animals do too. After a storm, cleaning up the island is a joint effort and people help each other.

Around Christmas time, it is cooler and that is the time people fix up their houses. Christmas is Caribbean, but it is English-American aswell, everybody makes their homes friendly and with loads of colorfull lights and Christmas decorations.

In this climate, people get up early. For festivities, like Statia Day, Emancipation Day and the Queens’ Brithday, there is ceremony at Fort Oranje, there are drums throughout town, waking up the people, this happens at 4 in the morning.

There used to be a cactus called the prickley pear. This fruit was used by Ms. Blyden, to make her favorite drink. Drinks are made of some kind of cherries and tamarind, sour sop, papaya, mango, sugar apple, and much and much more.

On Statia, there are many, many small areas where you can be alone, where you can enjoy the view and dream.

People are fragile, children are fragile. If we would care for each other, listen to each other and give each other some space, slowly but surely, Statia will rise.

This is the link to the letter Koos Sneek wrote: http://www.scribd.com/doc/151849014/I-Have-Made-a-Number-of-Mistakes-in-My-Life

He resigned as commissioner, as before him did Glenn Schmidt and before him did Koert Kerkhoff and before him did Clyde van Putten…

At this moment, it is very difficult to be part of the executive council of St. Eustatius. St. Eustatius has to change and wants to change, but it is difficult to change. I think St. Eustatius first has to figure out where its’ strenght lies.

Statia has many heroes and many stories but above all Statia is a family island. Everybody is family, also the police officer and also the island secretary. You might agree to disagree, but the next day, you meet again. Of course, you can hide and live a private live. But you do meet everybody all the time.

Mr. Gerald Berkel, the Lt. Governor, will now work with Mr. Carlyle Tearr and Mr. Reginald Zaandam in the executive council. Berkel and Tearr are businessmen, Zaandam is an educator. Maybe something good will come out of it.

I want to share this song with you; Sting and Stevie Wonder, a white man and a black man. I think the musical people of St. Eustatius will appreciate it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28DfvvfZLi0

 

 

 

Dive Glide: A must see video

Glenn Faires is dive instructor on St. Eustatius. He invented a fantastic device that allows you to glide easily through the underwater world.

DiveGlide is a new water sport similar to sailing or surfing only done below the surface where you harness natural forces to create motion.

Unlike other devices that tow divers through the water, DiveGlide has no batteries or electric motor. Positive and negative buoyancy acting against a wing are what make it go. Buoyancy is actually one of the most powerful forces controlled by man moving the largest creations on earth… ships.

The key to DiveGlide is its ability to control these forces under water with ease. DiveGlide gets the power from scuba tanks and weights mounted inside the hull of the glide; the benefits of this are quick recharge, no maintenance, and silent running. The present model reaches speeds of 10 to 12 mph, which converts, to a feeling of over 100mph if you were in air. This allows the diver to travel at speeds of most marine life while making very little sound. It has also been identified as a very stable platform for mounting video equipment or for under water filming.

DiveGlide is suitable for every level of diver from a casual snorkeler to the most advanced diver depending on where and how it is being used. Inventor Glenn Faires owner of Golden Rock Dive Center on Statia said, “I came up with the idea while watching fish on my daily dives”. He has spent the last 8 years figuring out how they use buoyancy to move and how divers could also use this power source. He went on to say; “I have done every under water sport there is and this one has it all, there is a learning curve, its challenging, powerful, and most importantly fun and fast!

(source Amigoe)

http://www.scubascoutteam.com/coverage/249943-DEMA-2012-Vegas/video/662542-Dive-Glide-Glenn-Faires

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=OM1akTqfS4s&NR=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

picture taken from youtube

 

 

Hurricane season starts

Because the hurricane season starts today, here the story about the 1772 hurricane. Written by Will Johnson, taken from his weblog the Saba islander.

The Great Hurricane of 1772

By: Will Johnson

As a boy I used to hear the old timers saying that in the great hurricane of 1772 the doors of the Dutch Reformed Church on Statia had been found in The Level where I now live. Before writing this article I checked with my brother Guy and my cousin Bernard as to what they knew about it. Bernard said right away;”Yes my father told me that story several times.” And my brother Guy confirmed that he had heard the old folks back then often talking about it.

The Level, Saba after hurricane George in 1998. Here is where the church doors of the Dutch Reformed Church of St. Eustatius reportedly landed in the Great Hurricane of 1772.

The Level, Saba after hurricane George in 1998. Here is where the church doors of the Dutch Reformed Church of St. Eustatius reportedly landed in the Great Hurricane of 1772.

From all accounts it must have been a category five hurricane. Besides the damage done on Statia and Saba there are numerous reports of damage done on all the islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Hurricanes are a constant concern to our people on these islands, and in recent years they seem to be an ever present threat to those of us living here. I will share some newspaper articles from England after the great hurricane of 1772. Also, a story written by Richard Austin Johnson, about how his grandfather Cohone had to deal with a hurricane some one hundred years after the Great Hurricane of 1772. There was also another very strong hurricane in 1780 which also did a lot of damage to these islands, but it may have been of lesser intensity. In the eighteen nineties in one year three hurricanes struck Saba. Claudia Whitfield (80) used to tell me that her grandmother had told her so, and later on in the Journal of the Lt. Governor I was able to confirm that it was indeed so. The newspapers in England at the time also carried articles of other natural disasters, slave uprisings and so on. One such report is from the Oxford Journal of 11 August 1770. “By letters from Amsterdam, there are accounts of an Earthquake having lately been felt at the island of St. Eustatia, in the West Indies, which considerably damaged the Dutch plantations.”

As for the hurricane we would like to share several articles from newspapers in England at the time:

Derby Mercury 13 November 1772:

Extract of a letter from Dominica, September 19th.The ruins of the Dutch Reformed Church on St Eustatius

“We have the most melancholy accounts from our sister islands, Barbados only excepted. At Antigua, by the Hurricane, their towns and plantations are almost destroyed, and not more than two schooners escaped undamaged of the great number of ships in their harbor; at St. Christopher’s the damage was rather greater; and at St. Eustatia still more melancholy. Not the least detriment was done to this island.”

Leeds Intelligencer 17 November 1772

Sept. 5th. “The horrible picture of this islands general distress, represented in our last day’s print, is greatly inferior to the original, the general loss sustained cannot possibly be computed at less than 500,000 [pounds sterling]. A subscription is set on foot by the Gentlemen of this town and neighborhood, for the immediate relief of the poor. Nothing crowds in upon us from this perilous day, but the same tragic scene from our sister island, St. Eustatia; many houses and families have been taken from the summit, and have not been heard of, and what has not been effected by the violence above, was completely so by the other below, by a cruel violence of the waves, which particulars we have not learned.

Caledonian Mercury 18 November 1772

New York, September 28th. “Saturday last arrived here from St. Martin’s, Capt. Harris, who informs us, that on the 29th of August last, a most violent hurricane happened there, which drove several vessels from their anchors, three of whom were lost. While Capt. Harris lay at St. Martin’s, advice was received there from St. Eustatia, that they had the most violent hurricane ever remembered there; that the greatest part of the houses on a place called Statia-Hill, were blown down, whereby a great number of lives were lost; that four large Dutch ships in the harbor foundered as they lay at anchor, and all the people on board drowned; that a number of other vessels were driven on shore, and some put out to sea.”

Caledonian Mercury 18 November 1782

A letter from Eustatia, dated September 3rd, giving an account of the destruction of a great part of that island by a hurricane and whirlwind, says “What adds to our distress is, that there is not a barrel of flour on the island for sale; the country provisions are all out, as yams &c. and expected till Christmas; no vessels to fetch foreign provisions; five Joes are asked for a barrel of flour by a person who has a few for his own use. Rice sells at seven pieces of eight per hundred. Unless the hand of Providence interposes, a famine must ensue. At present it is terrible to hear the cries and lamentations of those who think themselves the objects of Almighty vengeance.”

Oxford Journal 28 November 1772

“From the advices just come to hand from America, is selected the following melancholy account of the effects of the Great Storm on August 31st, at the Caribbean islands.—St. Eustatia, 400 houses on the higher grounds destroyed, or rendered untenantable ; many houses carried ten or twelve yards, and others quite into the sea. Plantation-houses all down, except two, and the canes on the ground all twisted up. The Dutch church blown into the sea.—At Saba, 180 houses blown down, and the cattle carried away from their stakes.- At. St.Martin’s scarce a house standing, all their plantations destroyed. —St. Croix a every house almost at Christianstad, and all the plantations and negro houses leveled. Only three houses left standing at Frederickstadt, and numbers of people killed. At St. Kitts’s, almost all the estates are destroyed, there being scarce a mill or boiling house left standing.”

As you can read this hurricane was indeed a great one. With a relatively small population in the islands as compared to now there were more than twenty thousand (20.000) deaths of people reported and much loss of livestock and ruined plantations all over.

Here on Saba when a hurricane was coming, our forefathers had to go by signs of animals and how they behaved. Also, frequent small showers coming in, the sea getting rougher, and the skies darker. At the time Saba was very much dependent on its schooners owned by local people. I was fortunate to come across a story written by Richard Austin Johnson about a hurricane of 1871 and his grandfather Cohone having to leave his family behind to go and take a schooner anchored at the Fort Bay out to sea to weather the storm.

A schooner at sea

A schooner at sea similar to the one in this story.

“The last day of September 1871, a day long to be remembered by the inhabitants of Saba, broke with an overcast sky and a light drizzle. Mountainous easterly ground swells pounded the coast line, throwing spume in the air to be blown away by the increasing Northeast winds.

My grandfather, Cohone Johnson, was awake at daybreak and for a while listened to the roar of the waves 15 hundred feet below, then hastily dressing himself, he went outside and noted with a seaman’s eye, the signs which clearly heralded an approaching Hurricane.

Going back inside the house he wakened his wife Betsy and said, “I don’t want to alarm you, Betsy, but I believe a hurricane is coming, see to it that the children are dressed and fed, while I secure the loose things and batten down some of the windows.

At the time, Cohone was sailing on a two master 90 foot vessel, which was at anchor in the Ladder Bay.

Her owner and captain was at home, recuperating from a severe grippe and in no fit condition to take the vessel to sea. Cohone’s mind turned to the vessel as he worked and wondered what old Captain Richard Simmons would decide to do. At that moment my grandfather had no premonition, that before the day ended, he would be fighting for his life, on a sea gone mad with hurricane force winds.

As the morning wore on, Cohone’s neighbors, came to him for advice about the weather. To one and all he said “Prepare for a hurricane, which I expect to reach us before nightfall”.

About 10 o’clock, a boy, breathless from running, came to Cohone with a message from Capt. Simmons, saying “There is a hurricane approaching and I need you to help take the vessel to sea. Come at once.” After instructing his wife to have one of her cousins stay with her during the hurricane, Cohone took leave of his family and hastened to the Ladder Bay, where a boat was waiting to take him to the ship. After being nearly swamped because of the increasing wind and sea, Cohone managed to board the vessel, where he found to his dismay that only the captain, the mate, the cabin boy and himself were aboard.

Going to the cabin, Cohone confronted the captain, who sat at the cabin table, reading the Bible and demanded to know why he had been sent for and none of the other sailors.

With tears in his eyes, Captain Simmons said “The cowards refused to leave home. Just plain scared to risk their lives in a hurricane at sea. Pointing to the mate, who lay snoring in his bunk, with a half empty bottle of rum at his side”, he said. “Just look at that drunken slob there.  Don’t expect any help from him. If I come out of this alive it will be my pleasure to kick him off my vessel. Now I just don’t know what to do.”

Dorothy Palmer

The schooner “Dorothy Palmer” in rough seas. Our Saban ancestors who survived these storms had many tales to pass on to their descendants.

Cohone thought for a minute and said “Captain, we cannot abandon the ship, even if we wanted to because we cannot get back to the shore. If we stay here any longer and the wind moves farther north, this will be open harbor and then nothing can save us. I suggest that we slip the anchor hoist the staysail and run south.” Then he added as an afterthought;” but we need your help at the wheel, until we can get the vessel underway.” To this plan the Captain agreed. Going on deck he said to the cabin boy, a sturdy youth of sixteen years, “Boy, you and I are the only ones to get this vessel under way. I want you to begin hoisting the staysail when I give you the word. Can I depend on you?” The boy nodded wordlessly. Cohone went forward, unshackled the chain and said to the cabin boy, “Now stand to hoist away.” Looking aft he saw that the Captain was at the wheel. Waiting until the vessels bow swung to port, he yelled “Now” and released the anchor chain, which went out of the hosepipe with a roar and was gone. Leaping to the assistance of the cabin boy he hoisted the staysail. The vessel released from her anchor surged forward, driven by a wind that had increased to gale force.

The Captain was glad to have Cohone relieve him at the wheel because he was a sick man and had the chills, brought on by the wind driven rain.

All afternoon and far into the night, the vessel fled Southward, driven by the wind which had increased to hurricane force, while Cohone fought the wheel to keep her on course. Shortly before midnight the cabin boy, who acted as lookout, yelled” Breakers on the port bow.” Cohone  immediately, heaved on the wheel swinging the vessel’s bow away and to starboard. Shortly afterward, during a lightning flash, Cohone saw that they had narrowly missed piling up on Aves island also known as Bird Island, which is situated about 110 miles South and West of Montserrat.

About one hour later, the wind veered to the South. Cohone again changed course and fled before the wind. It was shortly after this that a mountainous wave loomed up amidships on the vessels starboard side. Yelling to the Cabin boy to jump for the riggings, Cohone let go of the wheel and did the same. With a thunderous roar the wave crashed down on the vessel, smothering her under tons of water and heaving her over on her beam ends. There she stayed until Cohone jumped to the deck in knee-deep water and seizing an axe, chopped away part of the bulwark, allowing the water to pour off. Slowly the vessel came back to even keel. Both the galley and the ships boat had vanished in the darkness.

During the early morning hours, the wind, which was now blowing from the South-Southwest, lessened and the sky began clearing. The island of Santa Cruz could now be seen ahead. Cohone again changed course, this time to Eastward. On the day after the hurricane, which was afterwards known as the Great Storm, Cohone dropped anchor at the Ladder Bay. The island that Cohone had left the day before was devastated, but luckily for my Grandfather, both he and his family were very much alive.”

And so you can read from a firsthand account what our people went through during a hurricane, and only then the worries as to how you would be able to feed yourself had only begun as all the crops on the island had been destroyed by the hurricane. We hope that our merchants will stock up on supplies when the hurricane season starts up as it can take weeks before a new shipment of foodstuff can come in from the United States and elsewhere.