With a small delay and in the pouring rain, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands landed on Saba on Thursday morning, December 12. Clad in a grey rain poncho, she emerged from Winair’s Twin Otter and was greeted by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Island Secretary Tim Muller who both held an umbrella to shield her from the showers.
The start of the visit might have been rainy, but the rest of the day the weather was perfect and the Princess was obviously happy to be back on Saba. Smiling, she took the bouquet of local flowers from the young Kendra Gomez. She then walked over to a row of pupils of the Sacred Heart School who stood in the lounge area and started reciting a poem made by teacher Camille Blackman. The Princess complimented the children and said that they must have been studying hard because their performance was flawless.
The first stop after her arrival, was Well’s Bay, where she did a short hike. With Nordic walking sticks and still dressed in the rain poncho, she walked the first part of the Mary’s Point trail. Upon her return from the short hike, she took off the poncho and then revealed the sign of the new Mary’s Point trail. The trail leads up to Mary’s Point, formerly Palmetto’s Point, an early settlement on Saba which was vacated in the 80’ies.
Archeologist Jay Haviser told the Princess some details of the hardship of the people living at Palmetto’s Point/Mary’s Point, and how the erosion is affecting the now abandoned area. Isolation, tradition and survival, since the time of the Archaic Age and the Amerindians that came to Saba, said Haviser were the key principles.
Haviser explained that due to water shortages and heavy erosion in 1934, by government decision, residents of Mary’s Point were relocated to the Promised Land and Hell’s Gate. The Princess listened closely and asked questions. She said it was a most interesting story. She mentioned that the erosion in the area was very visible. She said that the walk on the trail had been very special. She mentioned that many years ago she had also walked up the Mount Scenery with her husband Prince Claus.
Sun is shining
By the time, the Princess and her delegation left for the Fort Bay Harbor, the sun was shining. At the harbor where the Princess received information about the Saba Marine Park, the Saba Bank, marine life conservation and sustainable fisheries by Ayumi Kuramae of the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF). Fishermen Nicholas Johnson, Ivan Hassell and Augustino Hassell told the Princess about their work, the importance of keeping a healthy fish stock. The fishermen showed some of their catch, large lobsters. “She is very special for us. It was good to see her again,” said Ivan Hassell afterwards. “It was a big honor to have the chance to meet her. She asked questions about sustainable fisheries and we were able to tell her that it is very important to include us, as stakeholders in this process,” said Nicholas Johnson.
Harbor master Travis Johnson and assistant harbor manager Leayle Hassell showed the Princess the plan for the new harbor, and explained to her why the new harbor will be built in the Black Rocks/Giles Quarter area, which mostly has to do with better wind directions, more space and easier access to build a future-proof harbor. The Princess was eager to hear about the harbor developments, and here too, she asked a number of questions.
After lunch, Princess Beatrix went to the Windwardside where she met the Lace Ladies. Joyce Mc Coy and Angela Johnson gave an explanation about this traditional Saba craft. The Princess admired their work and said it looked beautiful, but difficult to do. She said the ladies did fantastic work and encouraged them to keep it up, also in their endeavors to pass this tradition on to the younger people.
Policy advisor of the Public Entity Saba Nicole Johnson, who is also a board member of the SCF, and Director of the Saba Tourist Office Glenn Holm welcomed the Princess at the grounds of the Harry L. Johnson Museum for the unveiling of the sign for the Botanical Garden project, the trail that will connect the Trail Shop to the museum grounds.
“The creation of a Botanical Garden is very special for us,” said Johnson, who explained that there will be many kinds of local fruit trees and medicinal plants at the Botanical Garden. “By incorporating these local plants into the Botanical Garden, we ensure that they are there for generations to come, and that our children and their children will know the importance of these plants and trees, why they played such a large role in the daily lives of Sabans in the past and why they are still utilized today,” said Johnson.
“This garden will provide many benefits, from the fruits it will produce to the preservation of a piece of our culture, to a place where people can experience the tranquility and beauty of our nature,” said Johnson, who remarked that this project will contribute to promoting Saba as a green and sustainable tourism destination.
In our hearts
At the museum grounds, she was greeted by many people, some of whom came to her, like Diana Madeira and Claire Johnson. “You are like a mother to us. You will always be in our hearts. We love you,” said Johnson. Madeira gave the Princess a hug, telling her how grateful she was for the Princess’ visit and how much she meant to the people.
In the gazebo, the Princess spoke with representatives of the SCF, Tadzio Bervoets and Binkie van Es of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), biologist Tom van ‘t Hof and artist Heleen Cornet about the importance of nature conservation. She was provided with background information about the Botanical Garden and they talked about the use of natural medical products derived from herbs and plants, which played a big role in the past days.
The Princess visited the museum for a few minutes where she received a tour from Marjorie Hassell, before going to the airport. But she was not quite yet ready to leave Saba, because she decided to walk up from Cove Bay to the airport. Which she did, with her Nordic walking sticks. The last handshakes, waves, and friendly words, and then she went into the aircraft, turning one last time to look at her beloved Saba and wave one more time.