Travel Indonesia

A popular tourist destination for years, Indonesia is about to become more accessible.

In August, Thai Ministry of Transport & Communication confirmed that foreign-flagged superyachts can undertake charter operations in Thailand, which will make the area inviting for more charter yachts, said Diana Brody, a charter broker with Camper & Nicholsons, Palm Beach.

The Indonesian archipelago, with 17,508 islands, offers a mix of exotic cultures and experiences, and what better way to cover all that ground, so to speak, then aboard the 213-foot wooden sailing ketch, Lamima?

An Indonesian two-masted phinisi, designed by Barcelona naval architect Marcelo Penna and constructed by traditional boat builders of the Ara village on Sulawesi island, Lamima is a dream-come-true for co-owner Dominique Gerardin.

Gerardin’s wife, Naomi, tracked the course of Lamima’s construction in her blog:

“Originally such prahus (a type of Indonesian sailing boat) were employed as cargo ships, carriers of sandalwood, spices and ceremonial textiles along the spice routes to the ancient kingdoms of China and India,” she wrote in March 2012. “Over the centuries, their rig evolved from rectangular to gaff sails, the Bugis people (Indonesian 16th-century sea traders and warriors) skillfully adapting what they saw on foreign vessels to what worked best for their local winds and waters. The result was the magnificent sailing phinisis unique to Indonesia.

“And now they’re building such a vessel for us.”

Two years later, the Konjo people of Ara conducted the launching ritual, “bersanji,” for Lamima’s strength and safety at sea, which was followed by the “panossi” (chiseling the navel) ritual, when master builder, Haji Saka, made a small hole in the keel and inserted a golden ring, an omen of good luck. Later that evening, using pulleys and sandbags, a crew of 50 began to drag Lamima into deep water, a process that took 45 days. Then, Lamima was towed to Italthai Marine in Samut Prakan, Bangkok for her final fit-out. On New Years 2015, Lamima completed its first sojourn, a 10-day cruise around Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.

Lamima can accommodate 14 guests in seven large ensuite staterooms; the master stateroom is aft on the main deck and six guest staterooms are below. Midship on the main deck is the salon with a bar, lounge and dining alcove. Forward of the salon is a large open deck for alfresco dining and lounging, and forward of the pilothouse, the deck is furnished with Indonesian sun mattresses. Cruising speed is 10 knots.

“It’s the largest wooden sailboat and hand built. It’s amazing,” Brody said. “The Lamima will give guests the feeling of being immersed in the Indonesian lifestyle and the water is pristine, like the water in the Caribbean 75 years ago. You’ll have beaches and rain forests to yourself. It’s quite unexplored and the people are open and gracious.”

On the beautiful and elegant sailing yacht, a naturalist will be on hand as well as Indonesian chefs, who will prepare a fusion of Asian and European cuisine. A yoga instructor and two Balinese masseuses also are on board.

When guests are tired of being pampered by the crew of 20, Lamima is equipped with adult toys that include Yamaha Jet Skis, diving and snorkeling gear, wakeboard, jet-propelled tender, water skis, paddleboards, sea kayaks and Jukungs (Indonesian canoes). Lamima also is certified as a PADI dive center with two dive instructors.

A suggested itinerary from November through March: a few days in Phuket, Thailand, and then moving toward Mergui Archipelago to Myanmar. Mergui, with crystal-clear water, white-sand beaches, and blanketed with untouched rainforests, is a top destination for viewing wildlife with barking deer, macaque monkeys, wild boar, hornbills and elephants. Visitors will see Moken Sea Gypsies living in their small floating communities on the Andaman Sea. They’ll also see stilted fishing villages, glimpse whale sharks and manta rays, and visit a pearl farm known for its golden pearls.

For charters from April to September, tourists will sail to Indonesia’s eastern islands, Nusa Tenggara, to visit Alor, Flores, Sumba and Komodo. In the seas between Komodo and Flores, dolphins are a common sight and the area is also on a whale migration route. The reefs offer good snorkeling and some of the best diving in Indonesia, especially for guests who want to swim with manta rays. On land are buffalo, deer, wild pigs, birdlife and endangered monitor lizards. The Komodo Island monitors, known also as Komodo dragons or “ora” are the largest living lizards on earth and found only on Komodo, Rinca and Western Flores islands.

This culturally rich eastern area of Indonesia offers many possibilities for exploration. The water around Alor has a sperm whale migration route and the local people on this island are known for their ikat-dyed woven textiles. Between Alor and Flores, charterers can visit traditional whaling villages and they’ll see lovely lakes set in mountains that are home to the Lio tribe in the north and Ngada in the south.

For September and October, charterers can explore the wild Asmat region in Flamingo Bay and cruise up the Atjs River. With year-round warm temperatures and pristine waters, the Raja Ampat archipelago is known for its marine biodiversity, with almost 550 species of coral and more than 1,300 species of fish. In Asmat, snorkeling and diving is great, as well as bird watching, and visits to the villages of Warsi and Numbrep will give charterers the opportunity to experience the culture of the region and ride in long boats. After an overnight crossover to the area of Triton Bay, visitors will enjoy the most secluded white-sand beaches of West Papua. The area, known for whale sharks, is fantastic for diving, as well as taking in the scenery with its distinctive cliff paintings.

People who charter in this area often make a cruise a portion of their vacation because it’s halfway around the world, and there’s so much to see, Brody said. “Some people wish to explore other cultures and visit areas such as Shanghai, Hong Kong or Macau, and we can make suggestions.”

Most charters aboard Lamima are a week long, and the price is $140,000. For information, call Brody at 655-2121.

1 lamima 11
1 lamima fore deck
1 lamima dining
1 lamima salon
1 lamima with toys
1 lamima stateroom
lamima 11
lamima salon
lamima dining
lamima fore deck dining 2lamima fore deck
lamima stateroom
lamima under sail
lamima with toys

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

Aurora Colony Oregon

In 1855, when Dr. William Keil, leader of a German Christian communal society, headed west from Missouri to find his Eden, his wagon train of 35 wagons and 150 followers had a hearse in the lead. Keil’s oldest son, Willie, died of malaria just as the group was setting out, and keeping his promise not to leave his son behind, Keil placed Willie in a lead-lined casket filled with high-quality whiskey.

Within the year, Keil found a new site for his colony in the Willamette Valley near Portland, Oregon. He named it, Aurora, after his youngest daughter. Aurora was the first utopian community to be established on the West Coast, and it’s Oregon’s first designated historic district.

What’s left of the Aurora Colony, which continued through 1883 and numbered around 600 members at its apex, is a small cluster of buildings in the Old Aurora Museum complex, encircled by four blocks of structures built by the colonists and their descendents.

“Keil felt that all Christians should share labor and property as did the first Christians, according to the Book of Acts,” said Patrick Harris, curator of the Old Aurora Colony Museum. “His followers generally put their earnings into the common treasury, which they drew upon as they needed, and they sold their excess goods at their store to people who came through.”

The Aurora Colony Historical Society offers a map of the historic neighborhood with 20 buildings, the “Walk With Emma” self-guided tour, and the museum complex also can be viewed.

Visitors come from everywhere, many drawn by author Jane Kirkpatrick’s “Change and Cherish” trilogy, an historical-fiction about Emma Wagner Giesy, a member of Keil’s Bethel Missouri colony. She was 20 years old and pregnant when she accompanied her husband, Christian, and eight other scouts, who, in 1853, preceded Keil’s group over the Oregon Trail.

Next to the museum complex’s exhibition building is the home where Emma and her children lived for a time.

“A couple from New Zealand made a special trip here just to see Emma’s house,” recounted tour guide Janus Childs. “I took them over, unlocked the door, and started talking about it. I was halfway across the kitchen when I turned around and noticed that the wife was still standing at the threshold. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I am about to walk on the same floor as Emma!’”

The majority of Aurora’s colonists traveled in four migrations from their community in Bethel, Missouri via wagon trains, a five-month, 2,000-plus-mile journey over the Oregon Trail. A small group came by steamship through the Isthmus of Panama and still another group travelled by ship around Cape Horn.

At Aurora, the number of structures the colonists built, as well as their productivity, amazes. They sold goods from their orchards, granary and saw mill; created handsome textiles, baskets and furniture; grew crops including hops; and were renowned for their cuisine and music venues. By the time the community disbanded, they had accumulated nearly 20,000 acres of land scattered over three counties.

It begins to make sense when one understands a little about Keil, a visionary autocrat, and his two factions of followers: some evangelists plus a group of skilled Utopians.

Keil, who was born in 1812 in central Germany, immigrated to New York City in 1837. “He joined the Methodist Church in Pittsburgh and was on his way to becoming a minister, but decided not to continue with that particular group,” Harris said. “However, he was persuasive and a number of church members liked him.

“Keil’s belief that ministers should not be paid lead to discussions on how to do that, and the communal-living model was brought up,” he explained.

Among these church members was the Giesy family, and here, Keil found his evangelists. Andrew and Barbara Giesy had 15 children and their four oldest sons became Keil’s itinerant preachers.

And it was only a matter of time before Keil encountered members of a splinter group of experienced and pragmatic Harmonists.

The Harmonist Society, founded in 1785 by George Rapp, was a religious communal society whose members were waiting for the Second Coming, and by the late 1930s, a number of other utopian communities had cropped up. “Because of the panic of 1837 with countrywide bank failures, a group of preachers and communal advocates said this was signalizing the Apocalypse and communal living was one of the solutions on how to handle society’s problems,” Harris said.

The Harmonists experienced a major schism in 1832 when about 250 broke away with Bernard Muller. They were living outside of Pittsburgh when Keil ran across them.

These former members of the Harmony Society were interested in communal living but didn’t go along with Rapp’s teachings on celibacy. They did, however, know what it took to be part of a communal group, and had already built four communities — three for Rapp, and another for Muller, Harris said.

“They were thrifty and industrious people, skilled, experienced carpenters and mechanics. They liked communal living and thought Keil wouldn’t be too difficult to deal with — Keil never was a prophetic character.

“Keil sent scouts from the Harmonists to look for a site, and they picked the Bethel, Missouri site because it had a mill and stream. They converted the mill to steam power and supplied the area. Keil was very innovative.”

Encouraged by Bethel’s success, Keil decided to go west. “He was a restless character; Missouri was a slave state and that was anathema to their Christian belief, and people were going through Bethel on their way west,” Harris said. “Maybe Keil visualized that he could really develop an Eden in all that open land.”

In 1850, the Donation Land Act passed, promising 643 acres in Oregon County to married couples and 320 to single people. Free land got Keil’s attention, and he sent out scouts again. This is the group that included Emma and Christian Giesy.

The scouts settled down in Wallapa Valley, but that didn’t suit Keil; he felt the area was too wet and heavily forested.

While searching for a site more to his liking, Keil went to Portland and ran across John Walker Grim at the Portland Harbor, who was getting ready to ship a load of apples to San Francisco. Keil asked, “Where did you get those apples?” Grim answered, “Down in the valley.”

“Keil was interested because Grim and other Willamette Valley settlers were part of the 1847 wagon trains and had brought fruits starts with them over the Oregon Trail, and their orchards were blooming by the mid 1850s,” Harris said.

“The Gold Rush was in 1849 and these farmers were selling apples to the California market, making fistfuls of money.”

Also, some of these early settlers had beat the 49ers to the gold fields and had already found gold, Harris said. “They didn’t want to work all their land, and sold some to Keil, who chose parcels that included orchards, a saw mill and grist mill. Keil ended up supplying the area with those goods.”

Over time, younger colonists grew restless, and Keil had not groomed a successor. A few years after his death in 1877, the colonists amicably divided up the assets through the Federal Courts and the community disbanded. Now Aurora is a typical town with a population of about 1,000, including a handful of descendants.

Charles Snyder House1

The Charles Synder House: Charles Snyder was ten years old, when he came with his family to Aurora in Keil’s wagon train. In 1867, eighteen-year-old Christina Schuele drove a mule team from Bethel to Aurora, marrying Charles two years later. They had five children.

emma house1

The George Kraus house: Built about 1864, members of the Kraus family lived in it from 1879 to the mid 1960s. Prior to that, members of the Giesy family lived in this house during the 1860s and 1870s. George Kraus’ wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of John Giesy, an administrator of colony business relationships with non-members.  Emma Wagner Giesy also lived in the house for some time.

Wm Keil store

Above: Wm. Keil and Company Store was the business name of Aurora’s general country store that catered to neighboring pioneers. Across the street is the site of the Aurora Colony Store where colony members came to receive their goods. It was torn down in 1931.

Walter Fry house

The Walter Fry House: Walter Fry, son of William and Annie, married Aurora schoolteacher, Lottie Foster in 1922. The couple lived in this house with Lottie’s two children.

Leonard and Triphena Will house

The Leonard Will House: Leonard was the colony’s butcher. His wife, Triphena, made some of the colony’s finest quilts. Their original house was converted to he offices of the Aurora Observer newspaper in 1908, and this more modern house was then built for them.

architectural salvage

Ziegler’s Warehouse: George Ziegler came to Aurora in 1867. The warehouse was originally constructed in 1890 by Ziegler and was built on the original site of the Colony’s horse stables, the Blue Barn. This building currently houses the Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage business.

Emmas living room

The George Kraus House is furnished entirely with artifacts from the Aurora Colony, the vast majority having been donated by the Kraus family.

Aurora town view 1875

An overview of Aurora in 1875: Original pre-1883 buildings still standing include the general store, the ox barn, the George and Elizabeth Kraus house, railroad depot, the Miley log house, the William Fry house and the Octagon building. The communal home, the Unter; Keil’s house, “Das Grosse Haus;” the mills; hotel; pharmacy; and church are gone. Credit for this one photo:  Aurora Colony Historical Society

Old Colony Museum Ox Barn

The Aurora Colony ox barn was constructed about 1860 to provide an enclosed space for the colony’s oxen that had pulled the wagons across the Oregon Trail. Once in Aurora, the oxen hauled logs as the land was cleared for the village, and helped plow acres of land for the colonists’ crops.

Octagon building

Above: The Octagon Building is all that’s left of the original Pioneer Hotel complex.

william fry house

The William Fry House: William Fry was the colonist’s blacksmith. He built this house in 1874 when he married Annie Miller.

museum complex steinbach house

Above: Steinbach Cabin: George and his wife Catherine Miley Steinbach lived in this cabin with their five young children from 1876 to 1883 when, after the colony disbanded, they built a new frame home that also still stands.

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller’s house was built in 1890. Jacob served as the colony’s leader in Bethel and helped settle the community’s business before returning to Aurora in 1882.

museum complex

Above: In the yard and garden on the museum complex, directly facing is the washhouse. The back of Emma’s house is to the left.

Aurora depot

Southern Pacific Depot: Keil was a friend of Ben Holladay, the financier of the Oregon and California Railroad. The depot was moved in 1990 from its original location near the old mill.






Found: giant squid and other deep-sea critters

Deep (limited only by the depth of your pocket). Dark (where sunlight fears to go). Cold (but air-conditioned and temperature-controlled).

Inhabited by creatures that few have ever seen, the ocean’s depths hold vast unknowns. Fortunately, a Vero Beach company, Triton Submarines, builds submersibles that make that world accessible to private owners.

A Triton’s sub — it looks like a big bubble on floaters — is small enough to be towed behind a yacht. But its main advantage is its 360 degrees of view, said Troy Engen, Triton’s pilot, head of operations and mechanical-systems specialist. “I used to drive subs with little tiny windows, and what you wanted to see seemed to be just around the corner.”

triton sub
In Antartica

When you scuba dive, it’s not about what you see directly in front of you; it’s about the surroundings, Engen said. “The Triton’s transparent hull has the same refraction as water. People put their hand out to where the water looks to be, because it’s like a window that just goes away. You feel kind of like a fish.”

You can go where no one has gone before, and you’ll see things no one has ever seen, he said. “We are diving to depths that scuba divers haven’t gone. Sport divers can go 130 feet, and we go far beyond that. A lot of creatures that we see at those depths, we’ll take photos and try to document them, show them to scientists.

“Corals, sponges, fish, jellyfish, things like that. I don’t know what they are, but neither do the scientists.”

In 2008, the company’s owners, Bruce Jones and Patrick Lahey, put together a team with a submarine background. They hired Engen four years ago, and they’ve built two 1000/2 models — that can transport two people to depths of 1,000 feet — and one 3300/3, which is capable of transporting three people to depths of 3,300 feet.

“We have three more 3300/3 models under construction and are currently negotiating another three orders,” Jones said.

There are 10 models, priced from $2.275 million, and Triton is looking for its first customer for the 36000/3, its deepest-diving multi-passenger submersible (price tag: $25 million).

The pioneers

Here’s a little background about those who’ve gone before, and about the Triton’s 36000/3. In 1960, Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh dove 36,000 feet — to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

A couple of years ago, James Cameron, the director of Titanic and The Abyss, and billionaire Richard Branson set out, separately, to be next to reach the bottom of the trench. (Cameron got there first, in March 2012.)

But while members of the Triton team would like to build a submersible to go to those depths, they are not racing to do it. “Our submarines have great visibility. The main difference between us and the others’ efforts is that what they are doing is a sort of publicity stunt,” Jones said.

“Ours is designed to be a commercial sub that can go down to the bottom of the ocean every day of the year. Ours is designed to do useful work on the bottom of the ocean. Each one we build will make thousands of dives in its lifetime.”

Already, Triton has undertaken some interesting dives.

Unusual dive mates

In June 2011, a Triton team went to Japan for its first charter with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, in search of giant deepwater sharks. And, yes, they found them, thanks to the craft’s bubble design.

“When we were in Sagami Bay, a 25-foot shark was lying on top of the sub. If we didn’t have all that acrylic visibility, we wouldn’t have known,” Engen said. “And when we were looking for the giant squid, it was a real advantage to be in a transparent vehicle, because we didn’t know where it was going to show up: in front of us, on the side, on top.”

Following that expedition, Triton went to the Ogasawara Islands with Discovery USA in search of the giant squid (they found it).

Triton has recently finished an Antarctica and a South Pacific trip.

But scientific organizations aren’t alone in chartering Triton subs. Adventurous long-range-cruising yacht owners and charterers like them, too.

Owner Jones said, “There are companies that we work with (EYOS and Henry Cookson Adventures) that utilize our subs for specialty charters to go to parts of the world where their clients are interested in seeing.”

Tritons, classed as “+A1 Manned Submersibles” by the American Bureau of Shipping, also are certified by the Cayman Island Shipping Registry. Licenses to operate are not necessary, and an existing yacht crew member can be trained to pilot as well as to maintain the sub, or the owner can be trained.

The subs have relatively small deck footprints — ranging in length from 10.5 feet to 13.5 feet — but they are heavy, for they need to weigh as much as the water they displace.

The sub can be towed out to a dive spot by a yacht. But the company also has designed a number of yachts with special launch-and-recovery systems for the subs.

And although one can’t say “the sky’s the limit” for Triton, the company’s executives are taking their concept as deep as they can. Jones wants to develop a multimedia company that would produce documentaries on how subs are built and where they go.

Jones also envisions building a seafloor resort, with a hotel and underwater residences. The cost of an ocean-bottom home? He estimates $12 million. “We can build it for you. It will have 2,600 square feet. I’d love to live in one, but I don’t know if I could afford it.”

Written for Palm Beach Daily News

on the water

I wrote this feb 2014 for the coastal star. would like to do an update…

Yes, it is possible to buy a home on the water and near the beach for around $40,000. If…

…If are over 55 years old, don’t have a pet, can get through the screening, have cash, don’t mind small spaces and don’t need to rent.

For those who can and do, they reap the rewards. They end up sitting poolside watching boats go by on the Intracoastal. Or they are at the beach taking a breather, because, well, the beach is just there.

Tropicana Gardens, at 4001 S. Ocean Blvd., a co-op with 65 units ranging in size from 350 to 700 square feet does have a few units for sale. Studio #106 is priced at $34,000 through Diane Duffy of Illustrated Properties. Studio #209 and a one-bedroom unit #210 are offered for sale together for $80,000 through Victoria Corsel, a realtor with Lenson Realty, Inc. And there are others.

“We do have a lot of restrictions, which won’t meet people’s needs,” said Peggy Beutel, president of the Tropicana Gardens Homeowners Association. “But having restrictions makes living here so nice. Because we don’t allow renting, for example, we know everyone.

“On the positive side, we have no assessments and aren’t planning any, our maintenance is caught up, and they just gave us a $22,000 reduction on our insurance because our building is so sound.”

This really is home sweet home, not an investment, she added. “My husband Al and I bought our unit ten years ago.

“We have a one bedroom, about 550 square feet, but that’s big enough for us. We paid $40,000 back then and it’s probably worth around that much today.”

To clarify, there are difference between condos and co-ops. Often co-ops are land leases and things might change when the lease comes up. So, ask about that.

Maintenance fees vary, and also, do ask about past, present and future assessments.

For example, unit #109 at the Dune Deck, 3610 S. Ocean, is a short sale, with an asking price of $99,000. There are issues, says listing agent Roger Basso with Jeffrey Ray & Associates. A $1.5 million loan to make repairs – some of them structural – is in the process of being paid off, costing each unit’s owner around $18,000 to $25,000 depending on square footage. Another $1.6 million assessment needed for more structural repairs is, as of this writing, under discussion.

“Some owners are walking away and there are foreclosures in that building,” he said.

On the other hand, “the majority has made repairs since the hurricanes, so they are in better shape than they were before and that’s making them more desirable,” said Courtney Fallon of Scott Gordon Realty Associates, Inc.

Now, here’s information for those with a pet, younger than 55, or want the option of renting: On the strip from The Ritz Carlton north to Sloan’s Curve, 235 units sold in the past year and 46 percent of them were less $200,000 according to the Regional MLS, Fallon reported.

“There are some nice deals out there,” noted Jennifer Spitznagel, broker of Manatee Cove Realty Inc. “We are at historic lows for this area. Prices have rolled back to 2001-2002 prices.”

And another thing, distressed properties are hard to find on the strip, she added, noting a short sale at Southgate, 3605 S. Ocean Blvd, #439, which is listed for $89,900 by Anthony Petrollia, Jr., a realtor with Re/Max Services. Another Southgate property, bank-owned unit #139, where mold remediation work has just been completed, is listed for sale for $79,100 by Barbara Lilley, a realtor with True Blue Realty Inc.

Satu Barish, a realtor with Coastline Realty agrees. “Foreclosures and short sales? I’ve been looking. You can’t buy them.

“Foreclosures get multiple offers and one of my clients offered $10,000 more than the asking price and didn’t get it.”

To compare with other coastal areas, there’s nothing for sale under $100,000 on the ocean in Highland Beach, and there’s only one unit for sale in Briny Breezes under $100,000 — K-27 Juniper, for $64,900.

Curacao: Rebuild it and the tourists will come

( … and i did try raw salmon and iguana stew…)

Think about a street in Amsterdam with narrow three-and-four-story buildings topped with gabled roofs and baroque sculpted curlicues. Now paint them in a rainbow of luscious tropical colors, add galleries with shuttered arches, and transplant the whole strip into the Caribbean. What you have is picturesque Punda, the oldest district in historic Willemstad, the capital of Curacao.

Facades in terracotta, turquoise, lime green, grapefruit, mellow yellow and flamingo pink, trimmed out like gingerbread and crowned with red-tile roofs, all reflected in the sparkling waters of Santa Anna Bay, there’s nothing like this visual treat anywhere.

Punda 1
In Punda, the yellow and white building to the far right is Penha.

But legend has it that the buildings were not always colorful, says tour guide Maja Atalita. “They used to be white, but an early governor told everyone to paint the facades in different colors because the sun reflecting off the white gave him headaches.

“Guess what?” she says. “It turned out he owned stock in a paint factory.”

The beauty of the architecture, coupled with Curacao’s commitment to keep it that way, is why Willemstad was designated a World Heritage City by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997, sharing that distinction with the likes of the Taj Mahal, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Grand Canyon.

Here’s a little bit of background information: The largest of the ABC Islands (“A” is for Aruba and “B” is for Bonaire), Curacao is 38 miles long and no more than seven-and-a-half miles wide. Located 40 miles north of Venezuela, it is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands and home to 150,000 people from 50 nations.

Swinging lady
The Old Swinging Lady pontoon bridge

Curacao was discovered by Alonso de Ojeda (a lieutenant of Columbus) in 1499. The first Spanish settlers arrived in 1527 – it was they who shipped off the native Arawak Indians to other islands – and when they didn’t find gold, they dubbed Curacao one of the “useless islands.” The Dutch took it over in 1634, via the Dutch West Indies Company. Curacao was to be used as an agricultural colony, but it lacked enough fresh water. However, it did have deep water and natural barriers surrounding its ports, so instead, Curacao became a major slave depot, with Willemstad hosting merchant ships under every flag imaginable.

Within 70 years, Willemstad’s busy trading center, Punda (point), was full to overflowing, so building expanded across the Saint Anna Bay to Otrobanda (the other side) in the 18th century, followed by the development of Pietermaai and Scharloo in the 19th century. Together the districts create a unique collection of European colonial structures that depict 300 years of multi-cultural evolution.


It took half that time for Curacao’s early Dutch architecture to adapt to the climate, says Willemstad architect Anko van der Woude.

Punda straight on 1

The waterfront in Punda.

In Punda, look at the Penha building. Built in 1708, it was one of the last to be constructed in that district, he says. “On the top of it, you have those European baroque curls. If you go to Amsterdam, you’ll see those curls, which were made by stone carvers. In Willemstad, local builders copied them and made them from lime plaster.”

In Holland, clay is plentiful, so bricks were used as a building material. “But coral stone is Curacao’s natural stone, so, that’s what we used, and since it’s porous, we plastered over it.”

While sash windows worked fine in Holland, they were impractical in Curacao. Over time, to keep the sun out and let breezes in, galleries with archways were added on the front and back facades. Then, to block out the rain, which blew horizontally because of the trade winds, louvered shutters were added within the arches. By 1720, arches gave way to wooden lintels, which were easier to build.

“The plaster, galleries and shuttered windows made our architecture completely different from Holland’s,” van der Woude says. Also, Punda’s streets became alleyways, thanks to those seven-foot gallery extensions on the front and the back of the buildings, he adds.

Referring back to Penha, notice that the decorated top gable was possible because of the saddle roof, he points out. “The Dutch were not used to living in the tropics and they made mistakes. In Holland, saddle roofs, which are pitched for snow, made room for attics with dormer windows.

“But that type of roof is too hot for here. People saw that they couldn’t live in the attics, and after 1865, they built hip roofs instead. The hip roof has less of a pitch, and heat was collected within the space between the roof and the ceiling of the room below. Small windows in the eaves allowed for heat ventilation, and that made the rooms beneath cooler.”

While Punda was densely built within city walls, the newer developments were not walled in, and people made use of the room by building larger homes where hip roofs and front and back galleries became the norm. In the countryside, galleries were built on all sides of the plantation homes (landhuizen).

sklaroo archives Curacao
National Archives

Structures of note within Willemstad include forts and bridges. In Punda, Fort Amsterdam (dating from 1635) houses the Governor’s palace, the Fort Church and government offices.

Opposite each other at the mouth of the bay are Rif Fort in Otrobanda (constructed between 1826 and 1828) and Waterford in Punda  (constructed between 1826 and 1827). At one time, a heavy chain stretched across the channel (between the fronts of Fort Amsterdam and Rif Fort) and prevented invaders from entering the bay, Atalita says, “and the Plaza Hotel Curacao (situated within Waterford) is the only hotel in the world that carries marine collision insurance.”

There’s an old story about the picturesque 551-foot pontoon bridge, Queen Emma Bridge, better known as the Old Swinging Lady, Atalita adds. “A foot bridge designed in 1888 by an American, Leonard Burlington Smith, originally a toll was charged to those who could afford shoes. Poor people borrowed shoes so as not to be embarrassed, and the rich crossed barefoot. That’s how it became free for everyone.”

The majority of Curacao’s population is Afro-Carribean, with sizable minorities of Dutch, Latin Americans, Asians, French and Portuguese, as well as a small Jewish community. As such, there are two museums that tell the story of slavery, Kura Hulanda Museum in town, and Landhuis Kenepa near Knip. While the Jewish population is small, it’s significant. Leaving Portugal and Spain for Holland during the Spanish Inquisition, they came to Curacao to conduct business because they could speak Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. Completed in 1732 and on the site of a previous synagogue, their place of worship, Mikve Israel-Emanuel, is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. In addition, the Scharloo neighborhood consists of delightful houses built by early Jewish merchants and shop owners. Other museums housed in historic buildings include the Maritime Museum and the Curacao Museum.

But don’t worry about trying to see every historic monument in town, since there are more than 700 protected buildings. It’s the entirety of the place that makes the impression, anyway.  And with many restaurants, hotels and museums housed within those architectural delights, visitors are afforded the opportunity to come inside and take a look.

While enjoying the atmosphere, grab a bite to eat at the old market, or snap photos of the floating market, a colorful flotilla of boats laden with fruits and vegetables that come every morning from Venezuela. Take a break for a variety of activities, as well. For sports, there’s golf, tennis, scuba and snorkeling. Sunbathe at one of Curacao’s 40 pristine beaches. Visit the ostrich farm, Senior Curacao Liqueur Distillery and Den Paradera, an organic herb garden. At the Curacao Sea Aquarium, get in the water and feed sharks or swim with dolphins.

Where to stay? Curacao’s boutique resort with 15 accommodations, the luxurious Baoase with its own lagoon, beach and mini island, offers guests dining pavilions for two and villas with private pools.

Baoase 3
Baoase resort

For other upscale dining, Bistro Le Clochard juts out from Rif Fort and offers an outstanding view of Punda; Restaurant & Café Gouverneur de Rouville overlooks the bay and is next door to the beautifully restored Kura Hulanda, and St. Tropez on the ocean in Peitermaii is alive with music. And then, drive out to visit the landhuizen and see the countryside. Hike in Christoffel National Park, and walk out to view the dramatic seascapes at the National Park Shete Boka.

Curacao: World Heritage site

UNESCO’ World Heritage program, adopted in 1972, catalogues, names and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or national importance to humanity’s common heritage. There are almost 1,000 sites included on the World Heritage List. UNESCO calls the architecture of Willemstad a “European colonial ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity.

“The city’s historical architecture is of a strikingly genuine and colorful European origin set in a tropical environment. Nothing like it can be found elsewhere in the Dutch West or East Indies.”

Getting listed by UNESCO was a joint process, says Anko van der Woude.  “When we started working toward the designation in 1985, we calculated that we needed $250 million to restore the buildings. At this point, maybe 60 percent are restored and we are still $100 million short.”

The funds for redevelopment and preservation are provided by the Island Government of Curaçao, the Government of The Netherlands and the private sector. The Curaçao Monuments Foundation, the Willemstad Urban Rehabilitation Corporation and the Curaçao Housing Foundation also have budgets and funds for financing their restoration and building projects.

“In the early 1960s, buildings began to deteriorate fast,” Van der Woulde says. Prosperous families, escaping the heat, had already moved to outlaying suburbs and the old family homes in the city had been rented out. They were costly to maintain because of termites, the fact that coral stone attracts salt, and leaky gutters encourage rot, he explains. “Incoming rents did not cover the cost of upkeep and within 25 years, the buildings were completely dilapidated.” Which is around the time when he became involved with Curacao’s conservation movement. Born and raised in Curacao, van der Woude studied architecture at Delft University Netherlands. When he returned to the island in 1984, he began conducting tours as a hobby, which he continues to do. As a restoration architect – his firm is IMD Design – he and his associates have restored a number of historic buildings on the island.

Phone numbers for van der Woulde tours:

Phone contact is for his tour on Thursday + 59994613554.
Michael Newton’s  tour on Wednesday +59995106978
Gerda  Gehlen Punda Tour +59996688579

Looking for the Slave Ship Peter Mowell

In silent gullies and on craggy rocks at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos lay fragments of an American-owned slave ship, the 129-ton, 88-foot schooner, the Peter Mowell, which ran ashore and ripped apart on July 25, 1860.

Luckily, 387 of the 400 of its human cargo were able to clamber safely ashore – many were quite young: 96 men, 37 women, and 256 children. And thanks to the ever-changing winds of fate, they were not to be sold as slaves. Rather, saved by early salvager Ridley Pinder and other wreckers from Cherokee Sound, they were some of the last of the 37,000 African-born immigrants rescued in The Bahamas, whose descendants most likely make their homes there today.

But what was left of the ship intrigued archaeologist Michael Pateman from the Nassau-based Antiquities, Monuments & Museum Corporation of The Bahamas, and archaeologist Corey Malcom from the Key West, Fl.-based Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society. And, even more importantly, what happened to its human cargo, crew and wreckers? Where are their descendants now and what stories do they have to tell?

On the 152nd anniversary of its wreck, partnering with William Mathers, of Lake Worth-based Atlantic Sea Resources, they set out to see for themselves. Using coordinates recorded in a letter from the Bahamian governor of the time, Charles Bayley, they returned to the site and were able to spot piles of ballast stones that were scattered along the shoreline, as well as encrusted copper nails and spikes that over a century-and-a-half had become concretized together.

The rest of the Peter Mowell was gone. While reusable objects and materials had been salvaged by Pinder and the other wreckers, the slave ship itself had broken apart and washed away.


The Peter Mowell was built in 1857 in Dorchester, Maryland, and delivered various cargo along the U.S. eastern seaboard before Salvador Prats, a New Orleans businessman with connections in Cuba, purchased it in February 1860.

On the 36th day out of Africa, bound for Cuba, the Peter Mowell’s crew caught sight of the mail steamer Karnak. Mistaking the steamer for a British Navy man-of-war and trying to dodge it, the slave ship maneuvered too close to the coral rocks of Lynyard Cay and ran ashore.

The slave trade had been outlawed by England in 1807. According to New York Herald accounts of the day, “endeavoring to avoid Scylla (Peter Mowell) fell into Charybdis.”

The wreckage sat on the shoreline with the main boom extending onto the rocks, and the Africans and crew slid across the boom to the beach. Soon after, the salvagers brought them to Nassau. The crew was jailed, although they were never prosecuted, and the Africans were distributed as indentured servants.


Mathers, captaining his 62-foot motor Catamaran, Suhaili, sailed to Nassau where the American team was joined by the Bahamian team. They headed for the Abacos, anchoring on the protected (leeward) side of Lynyard Cay. First morning out, Malcom and Pateman, with Bahamian archaeologists Kelly Delancy and Maria Lee, Atlantic Sea Resources diver Bill Spurlock and I snorkeled to the location established by the coordinates and did indeed spot piles of ballast stones.

Meanwhile marine photographer Don Kincaid swam off in the other direction, locating bricks from Peter Mowell’s ovens. Mathers and diver Mika Brewer set off on foot for a beach near the coordinates.

“It’s interesting that the location of this wreck was so easy to find,” Mathers said. “Looking at the reef as a mariner, I could see that there was only one place where it could be. It’s a rugged reef, and there’s only one short stretch of sandy beach about 80 meters where the slaves and crew could get off the ship safely.

“At the end of the beach, we saw bronze spikes and sheathing encrusted in coral, as well as corroded iron, which might be what’s left of the shackles.”

The next day, Mathers brought the Suhaili to the ocean-side of the Cay to gather the artifacts already identified and to search further.

Brewer and Malcom went ahead in the tender to mark a course through elk coral outcroppings in the shallow water.

Back to that New York Herald report: “This is one of the most dangerous places in the Bahamas, and inevitable destruction threatens all who are dashed against the high and sharp coral rocks.”

“This should be interesting,” Mathers said at the helm, while those of us less experienced exchanged glances. After all, this is a dangerous reef….

Nevertheless, following the path marked by Spurlock and Malcom, he brought the boat in, anchoring it close to the shore. The teams dove again, bringing aboard ballast stones, bricks, nails and spikes located the previous day, with some of the material right in line with the coordinates and more ballast found in the adjacent area that Mathers pinpointed.

After finishing work in this area, a team went ashore at Cherokee Sound to inquire after the salvagers and found some of Pinder’s descendants.

The successful locating of the wreck of the slaver promises to open a new chapter in the archaeology and history of The Bahamas and the transatlantic slave trade; it could allow modern Bahamians to trace their roots to the site and remains of a particular slave ship.

Previously, Malcom had located descendants of a crew member, Henry Felner, in Tampa Bay, and upon his return, he unearthed more information. “It looks like these people formed a community known as Congo Town, in an area outside of Nassau proper called Fox Hill. I learned that St. Paul’s Baptist Church was formed in 1870 by the last group of Africans to arrive on a slave ship in July 1860. If that’s true, St. Paul’s may well be the place where descendents of the Peter Mowell can be found.”

Delancy has already interviewed the pastor, who gave her some names of families who have been with the church since its inception: Ramming, Roca and Ferguson. “We plan also to interview a Foxhill historian as well as a member of Parliament who knows the community well and may be able to direct us to others,” Pateman said.

The Bahamian museum is planning an exhibit, which is of special interest to Mathers, who was instrumental in the public display of treasure he found from the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, a Spanish galleon that sunk in 1638 off the coast of Saipan.

“I look forward to how the Bahamians will illustrate the Peter Mowell story and make it understandable to the general public,” he said.

“They might do a cutaway of the hull, to show layers of Africans, stacked on shelves and chained at the ankles.

“The crew would have wanted to keep them alive and in good shape, so the children would have been allowed to play on the deck with the women watching them.”


I was excited about the prospect of going along on this expedition and diving with the archaeologists, and then the reality set in. As cook, I’d have to prepare three meals a day for up to nine people for two-and-a-half weeks. The food would have to fit in one refrigerator box, two freezer boxes and a space under one of the seats in the salon. I also had to keep in mind that garbage would have to be stored on board until we returned to port, which meant I couldn’t overbuy canned goods, either. Also, I’d make only one major grocery run (on a boat, they call that provisioning).

So, I tracked down a friend who used to charter her sailboat. “Piece of cake,” she said, handing me three of her favorite cookbooks. “You have far more refrigeration than I did.”

But cake needs eggs, and in addition to dessert, I was asked to provide a variety of simple meals as well as a hearty breakfast for this crew, who would be hungry after swimming, snorkeling and diving all day.

I planned out menus, collected recipes and created a spreadsheet to add up all those cups of flour, tablespoons of sugar, pounds of butter, and, yes, eggs. (Count came to 224, which would take up more than the allotted space.)

I went back with that dilemma to my friend. Simple, she said. Rub them with Vaseline and hang them in a hammock.

Then I told the captain about the 224 eggs.

“Holy mackerel,” he said (I’m not kidding). We are not buying 224 eggs. Serve pancakes more often.”

Final count was 143 eggs (pancakes half the time, alternating with French toast), along with 10 pounds of bacon, 43 cups of flour (ten pounds), 29.25 cups of butter and 10 cups of syrup (for the pancakes).

also, published in the Palm Beach Daily News