At Fort Orange’s anchorage, the vessels were embossed with an anchor lying on the sand at 60 brasses (100m) and a cable of a minimum of 90m of length tied to the shore. The ships were parked between 15 brasses (30m) and 30 brasses (60m) of depth, almost like the Cruise Ships today but the pier was built in 1967.
There is no tree on shore around Fort Orange, not even a bollard. In 1857, ships were tied to Cannons or Anchors salvaged all around the island of Bonaire. In Kralendijk, one “erected” cannon is still there. It marks the anchorage of Playa in Kralendijk and the last improvised bollard of this time.
One big anchor, probably used before on the shore of Playa, can be seen in the center of the town in company of the third cannon from the Fort.
The four cannons of Fort Orange were taken out from Fort Zoutman (Curaçao) in 1786 but were only installed in 1797. The six men in garrison in Bonaire used to call them “Carrons” and have never been able to use them. The cannons have a short range of fire. They share roughly the same caliber and are a mix of different time periods and provenance.
Following the Cannon’s track.
The HMS Barham, 50 guns in 1829, could have carried two dozen of twelve pounders aboard, with several other cannons on each of her sides, disposed on two decks. Twelve pounders are heavy and very common in ship’s armament. Made of bronze or cast iron, their weight is around 650 kilos. The 24 pounder is heavier and carried by a Ship-of-War as well.
The Privateers and the West Indies Company were also keen on fitting a sloop or a brigantine with four to six guns on one deck with a six pounder at the bow. Old and outmoded cannons were sometimes used as ballast on ships and occasionally jettisoned when not needed. Cannons and ammunitions were also traded and sold on Bonaire.
“He went at once in search of the supplies and cannon and after retrieving them in the harbour of a near-by dutch island Bonaire, set sail for la Guira” (Bolivar the liberator, Lauran Paine, 1971)
Robert F. Marx says he has found in Bonaire 200 cannons of various sort circa 1987. In 2012, anyone can notice all around the island the presence of the old cannons.
Two cannons are underwater in the south end of Boca Slaagbai but there are also six replicas (four now) from the movie “Treasure Hunter” (1974) further out.
After Kralendijk, on the road to the Salt Pans, two well-preserved cannons are on the dry shore of Bachelor’s beach car-park. They are 24 pounders. The other cannons, for the bigger number, are lying in the waters of Black Rock and Baby Beach encrusted in the coral bed.
©2012 Olivier Douvry/GlobeDivers