HNLMS Bonaire

 In 1877 the ship was put into service with the Royal Netherlands Navy as a screw steamer of the fourth class.
Construction of the Bonaire started in 1876 at the shipyard Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij on Feijenoord in Rotterdam.

The term screw steamship refers to the fact that the three-masted sailing ship Bonaire was also equipped with a steam-driven propulsion installation, consisting of two Scottish boilers and a two-cylinder recumbent steam piston engine.

The propellant was a Mangin-Woodcroft propeller. This propeller was named after Mangin for his invention of lining up the two blades in tandem and after Woodcroft because the pitch is increasing in length and decreasing in circumference. The propeller was connected to the propeller shaft with a claw coupling.

With this type of sailing steamer, the chimney could often be lowered telescopically while sailing and the propeller could be stored by means of a lifting device in a niche in the stern. This was done to prevent the propeller from acting too much as a brake during sailing, adversely affecting the speed of the ship. This lifting device is especially common on warships because it was an expensive construction that private individuals could not or did not want to afford.

However, an examination of the stern of the Bonaire shows that the propeller COULD not be lifted out of the water. The reason is that the recess (screw pit) already ends slightly below the main deck and is closed with a plate there. The space between this plate and the main deck had to remain free for the release of the 2.60 meter long iron tiller. The propeller light installation of the Bonaire therefore only served to enable research or repair of the propeller while the ship was in the water. Younger screw steamers were no longer equipped with a screw light installation.

There are only seven screw steamers left in the world. Four big ones: the SS Great Britain in Bristol, HMS Warrior in Portsmouth, the Fram in Oslo and the Jylland in Ebeltoft (Denmark). And three smaller ones: the Uruguay in Buenos Aires, HMS Gannet in Chatham and thus the Bonaire in Den Helder.

But the Bonaire is the only ship in that row that has an iron skin, which is covered with up to seven centimeters thick teak beams, making it seem as if the Bonaire is also made entirely of wood. That wood is screwed against the iron skin from keel to the top of the bulwark.

The purpose of the wood is to attach zinc plates to the ship until just above the waterline. The plates were necessary to prevent the growth of algae and seaweed as much as possible. Long strings of aquatic plants, but also barnacles and other shellfish give great resistance when sailing, causing the ship's speed to decrease.

Copper plates have long been used for this purpose, but the Navy wanted to see if zinc also helped. Hardly, as evidenced by writings from the time.
An enormous advantage of the zinc was that the iron skin and the fastening bolts of the wooden doubling to the skin were protected by the zinc against the galvanic attack of iron in seawater. That was the reason for the Navy to replace the copper plates on a number of other ships with these zinc plates.

This construction of the skin makes Bonaire unique in the world.

The Bonaire served as a warship for the Royal Netherlands Navy from 1877 to 1902. And while the schooner looked fairly harmless, she was anything but. The ship had a formidable armament on board. A 15 cm rear loading gun, three 12 cm rear loading guns, two 3.7 cm turret guns, a 12 cm mortar and a number of sloop guns.

During her military service, the Bonaire crossed the Atlantic Ocean a number of times to guard the Antilles in the Caribbean against raids by hijackers and robbers from Venezuela and Columbia. The ship never took part in naval battles.
In 1902 the Bonaire was definitively taken out of service as a sailing warship. It was converted into a lodging ship and functioned as such in Hellevoetsluis and Dordrecht until 1923.

After that, the ship was sold to the municipality of Delfzijl, where it served until 1988 as a lodging ship for the Nautical School Abel Tasman. She was then even renamed Abel Tasman. Many generations of helmsmen have had their training there and keep their memories of it.

From the end of 1996, the Bonaire has been in Den Helder, waiting for restoration and rehabilitation.
The current berth of the Bonaire has a direct connection with the history of the ship. Therefore a short description of this location.

The ship is located in dock 1 of the Oude Rijkswerf Willemsoord, once the Maritime Etablissement Willemsoord. During the reign of Napoleon over the Netherlands, the plans for the construction of this establishment were already made. King William the First, the first king after the French era, took over the plans and in 1822 the establishment was put into use as the recovery place for the country's fleet.
At that time Willemsoord was one of the five Rijkswerfen in our country. Some of them were discontinued in quick succession. After the closure of the Rijkswerf in Hellevoetsluis in 1933, only Willemsoord remained.

In 1986 the privatization process also started at this Rijkswerf. But research showed that privatization was not necessary. However, the number of jobs had to be reduced from 2000 to 1000 and the company had to move to a new location that still had to be developed and built on the Nieuwe Haventerrein.

In 1993, the Willemsoord yard was abandoned by the Royal Netherlands Navy. In 1995, the municipality of Den Helder took over half of the 40 ha complex. In 2000 the Municipality became the owner of this part. The remaining 20 ha are still owned by the Royal Netherlands Navy. Rijkswerf Willemsoord has since been known as Oude Rijkswerf Willemsoord.

The historic buildings and docks on the site have been restored with much support from Europe, the national government, the province and the municipality of Den Helder. In 1997 they were classified as 'national monument'. 


Museum info:
Address: Willemsoord, 1781 AS Den Helder, Netherlands
Phone: +31-223-642547

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