History 1994 - 2016  

 

Decommissioning

In 1995 the Spa was taken out of service by the Belgian Navy and sold to a group of private individuals.

The new owners, five idealists, want to observe whales with the ship. The former Spa finds a berth in Willebroek, near Antwerp, near the railway bridge.

Everyone is always carelessly passing this ship, but at the end of January 1996 it suddenly came to the fore because it had collided with a lock gate, a leak in the engine room and the owners at that time pumped it more than simply into the Vaart. The result was a considerable oil pollution. It became national news in Belgium and everyone immediately knew the discarded warship of the Belgian Navy. The oil pollution and the associated difficulties led the owners to realize that they could do nothing further with the ship. They then put it up for sale again
 

In the meantime, a number of old Dutch navy men, all of whom had served in New Guinea, have reconnected. They are still full of their service and the poverty they encountered there. It is not known who suggests it, but at a certain point in time the plan is set up to set up a foundation with the aim of financially supporting an orphaned child project in New Guinea.

The enthusiastic men want to raise money with the help of a ship with which they want to start a promotional campaign.

 
Foundation foundation

The foundation was established on 2 September 1994. The name "Paradise Bird Foundation" is chosen, with a link to the national symbol of New Guinea. The first monies are raised by the men themselves, among other things by providing interest-free loans. After that a big lottery is held and all sorts of other activities are organized until there is enough money to look out for a ship. As an old marine man, they are aware of the fact that the former Spa is rotting in Belgium.

 
Buy from the ship

At the end of February 1997 the SPA comes into the hands of the "Stichting Paradijsvogel". It is no longer possible to find out exactly what was paid for the ship, but insiders are talking about an amount of 60,000 guilders! The sleeves are rolled up and the meanwhile neglected ship is renamed "Bird of Paradise". Once on board it appears that a few things had to be tinkered to prepare the ship for sailing.

 
Departure to the Netherlands

At the end of June 1997 the ship was refurbished provisionally and the voyage from Willebroek in Belgium to Rotterdam was accepted.

The technical problems initially seem to be overcome, but if the ship sails towards Rotterdam, the problems with the cooling system and technical defects with the engines are greater than expected. Despite testing and test runs prior to the trip, the journey is not going smoothly. The ship had been standing still for too long!

After the first day of sailing, the ship must be anchored at Bruinisse, offshore, for two days.
The food is running out, the water is splashing in the holds and eventually the assistance of a tug must be called for. At a reasonable price the tug brings the Bird of Paradise to Rotterdam where it finally comes in its new home port, the
Bornissehaven, is moored.
 
First home port

In the years that follow, a great deal of time and energy is put into overhauling the original engines, solving all kinds of technical problems and installing navigation equipment. In addition, the outside of the ship is undergoing major maintenance. The portholes in the wheelhouse are replaced by large windows; much is being demolished and in particular copper pipes and cables that are no longer needed are removed and sold. In those days there was almost no sailing.

 
First test run

In September 1999 the first test run is made from Bornissehaven to
the Leuvehaven in Rotterdam. There the ship takes part in the World Port Days.
The 2nd test run follows on 1 June 2000. The journey goes from Rotterdam, via Scheveningen and IJmuiden to Lelystad and back to Rotterdam.

In Scheveningen it is flag day and there is mooring alongside the big brother, the former minesweeper Mercuur. There is a lot of interest.

The ship will arrive in Lelystad on 5 June 2000. The ship is beautifully situated on the coast of the Markermeer next to the H.M. Harlingen, an operational minesweeper.
The repair work is progressing steadily and in August the Paradijsvogel will moor again in the Bornissehaven where the restoration will be continued with power.
Because the ship is in need of a docking, contact is made in 2001 with the historic Jan Blankendok in Hellevoetsluis, where the underwater ship is being refurbished in more than a month and the screws repaired which had been damaged in the Bornissehaven have been repaired.

 

To Hellevoetsluis

After long negotiations with the municipal authorities, the Paradijsvogel will be temporarily moored in Hellevoetsluis.

The old board of the foundation has since resigned.
There were arguments, suspicions and the plan to go to New Guinea with this old and unreliable ship had already been abandoned. The club is falling apart but with the help of a new bunch of enthusiasts a restart is taking place.
The objective is, however, changed. Almost all the money raised by donors and sponsors is spent on the restoration of the ship and New Guinea is gradually disappearing behind the horizon. More and more nautical events are visited where a substantial reimbursement is requested for fuel costs and a profit is also made by having the public view the ship for a fee.

Especially Belgium, the motherland embraces the ship with enormous enthusiasm and in particular the annual event "Ostend at Anchor" provides enough money to be able to continue with the restoration in the winter months.
 

Name change

When writing to organizations to be able to attend an event, the name "Bird of Paradise" regularly provokes wrong associations. They expect a partyship or a sex boat and even when reporting via the VHF radio we do not seem to make a serious impression.

When searching for a different name, connection is sought with the type of mine sweepers of this class in the Netherlands.
This class, of which the Royal Netherlands Navy used 14, was known as the "Beemster class". All ships were given a name of a city or village starting with the B. De Beemster was the first in the row. Then the Bedum, Brielle, Bruinisse etcetera followed.

All these ships were now out of service but the tradition prohibits the use of a name that has already been used.

Because we have a berth in Hellevoetsluis, the name of an adjacent village, Bernisse, is chosen. In 2002 the Bird of Paradise is renamed Bernisse by the Mayor of Bernisse.


Fire!

When we end the sailing year on board with the crew and partners at the end of 2004, the lights suddenly drop out. Upon closer investigation, the engine room appears to be on fire. Presumably a short circuit is the cause. The fire brigade has the fire under control quickly, but the damage is considerable. After a month-long repair at a shipyard, the Bernisse returns to service again, contrary to expectations.

A period of relative calm then follows.
The Bernisse regularly sails during the summer months. We visit various nautical events in both Belgium and the Netherlands. We also make trips with donors and interested parties. Twelve sailing trips were made in both 2008 and 2009, both one-day and multi-day.
 

The Canon
After many official obstacles, in 2009 we finally get a license to get an old Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun from England. In the Netherlands, this cannon is made almost new and comes to the place where it originally stood.
 
Berth problems

After having enjoyed pleasure in Hellevoetsluis for more than two years, a conflict arises with the municipal authorities about the port dues. It is much too high and is charged with retroactive effect, which causes us considerable financial problems.
We leave, but not with the silent drum. The local weekly is full of conflict and even a national newspaper pays attention to it.

 

To Maassluis

We can go there through the Burgemeester van Maassluis. However, again as a temporary solution.
If a restructuring of the outer port of Maassluis takes place, we must also leave there again. Again a problem. We are not welcome anywhere!

 

To Rotterdam

Eventually the director of Smit transport helps us out of the fire by granting us (again temporarily) a place in the Werkhaven in Rotterdam Heyplaat. In 2011 we really have to leave Rotterdam. Smit transport is sold and the new owner needs the space itself. We are for advice.

All sorts of authorities are called but no one is waiting for an old mine sweeper who occupies a decent space at around 44 meters.
 
Again to Hellevoetsluis

Coincidence or not: If the need is greatest, we come into contact with an old relation, a council member of Hellevoetsluis. Together with a well-known industrialist, he will do his best for us.
And with success. We are invited by the municipality of Hellevoetsluis. There is a new municipality that has big plans that we might fit into. Various discussions follow with the municipality, the Councilor and many others.

 
An offer

We are offered a contract for a year with the prospect of extension. We receive a subsidy from the port dues and plans are being developed for the construction of the Koningskade, a boulevard where the ramship De Buffel, the lightship Noord Hinder and we with the Bernisse are given a place. It will be a 'custom made' berth, equipped with all the facilities that we need.
In a beautiful location, close to the Jan Blankendok and the restaurant "Het Pomphuis". The prognosis is that the boulevard will become a major crowd puller.

On March 6, 2012, after almost a year of lobbying, discussions and the like, we receive a message that we are welcome at a temporary berth and we are leaving for Hellevoetsluis again. What a difference with our previous contacts with Hellevoetsluis! Other gentlemen, other laws.
A different wind is clearly blowing now. We are very welcome,
the discussions are taking place in a pleasant atmosphere and we can breathe relieved again.

If agreement has been reached with all parties, the municipality will start work energetically and a contractor will start constructing a museum boulevard, which will be called Koningskade. Unfortunately, the work is temporarily stopped in the spring of 2013 because a (empty) projectile is probably found during the beating of a sheet piling from the first world war.
Work will resume in September 2013 and it is expected that the Koningskade will be ready in the spring of 2014.

In the meantime, we are perfectly at a temporary berth in the Koopvaardijhaven. De Buffel, which has since departed from Rotterdam, temporarily finds a berth in the Jan Blankendok.
 

Royal Visit
A great highlight is the visit of King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima to Hellevoetsluis.
The municipality asks us if we want to transport the Royal couple with the Bernisse to another part of Hellevoetsluis. Of course we want that and thousands of people cheer along the side as the old lady with the newly crowned couple sails through the busiest part of the Fortress City.
 

The winter season

The cruises are over at the end of 2013. Major maintenance work on the ship is carried out during the winter months.
There will be better instruments, parts of the woodwork will be renewed, there will be painted, carpentry and tinkering.
 
The new berth on the Koningskade

At the end of March 2015 we moved to our new berth at the Koningskade. Together with the Buffel and Noordhinder we are in a beautiful location in the middle of the historic center of Hellevoetsluis. The municipality has realized the necessary facilities on the quay for the ships that we are very happy with.

 

Traveling in 2015

For the first time we have been asked to be present at the harbor parties of Blankenbergen with the Bernisse. This appears to be a great success. The next trip showed problems with the cooling of SB engine larger than expected. Just offshore, the journey to Ostend is terminated prematurely. After much tinkering by the operators, the rest of the sailing program can be sailed. The highlight was a visit to the fleet days of the Navy with a large part of the ships and aircraft from the platform.
The platform of Historic ships of the Navy is established and with an official pennant presentation by the commander of the naval forces in Den Helder.
The ties with the KM are considerably tightened with this.

The aft deck will be re-pitched and made waterproof in June. This has remedied the many years of water leaks in the engine room.

With the arrival to the new berth, a number of new volunteers have come on board. There is disagreement among the board on a number of issues. At the end of the year, the entire (old) board stepped down and was replaced by a new board. Fortunately, a new skipper was quickly found who was willing to volunteer at the Bernisse with his colleague and a few other skippers form this pole that we can draw on for our future journeys.
 

2016

2016 is known as a disaster year for the Bernisse. The most important vacancies were eventually supplemented. The range of trips is large but unfortunately with the trial run again problems with the SB engine. The cooling problems have been resolved. Probably as a result of the times that the Bernisse has been stuck over the years, the gearbox of the gearbox has been damaged to such an extent that it must be replaced. After further investigation it appears that the propeller shaft is probably crooked and this has damaged the gearbox over the years.
Parts are no longer available.

The Krimpen machine factory was prepared to carry out the original gear wheels of the SB. As a result, the dock appointment has been canceled for the time being. Fortunately, there are also some positive messages to report in 2016. This is how a volunteer manages to provide the Bernisse with a new whispering unit with very few operating hours. A sponsor provides us with a brand new rubber dinghy and a used outboard motor.

The safety on board is undergoing major maintenance, whereby the ship is provided with a professional fire alarm center and the necessary extinguishing materials are brought up to standard. The Bernisse is provided with a portable motor sprayer, which means that an auxiliary motor no longer has to be started in order to get sufficient fire extinguishing water if necessary. Fire pipes are made operational again and the electrical installation is thoroughly addressed.
The wheelhouse with equipment has been completely overhauled. The ship is being tidied up considerably, all the stuff and remains of wood collected over the years have been brought to landfill. The bad parts in the hull of the ship have been tackled and entire parts have been renewed.
The leakage at the mirror has largely been remedied. The engines have been thoroughly checked. Our sponsor of the digital nautical chart provides us with the necessary software for this and makes it available to the platform. The number of visitors has increased and the Fortress Days were a huge success thanks to the arrival of 2 ships from the platform. Unfortunately, a number of volunteers also left in 2016. Fortunately we have welcomed new volunteers again, including a few much needed carpenters who know a lot about ships and drivers. Unfortunately, from the first hour our driver had to stop his work due to health problems. Fortunately, he continues to assist us with advice that has been used several times. In 2016, much attention was paid to the future of the Bernisse. This way we looked at how we deal with the donors and sponsors. Plans for this are being developed. The site and the Facebook page are regularly updated with new information.