by Randy Piper
Bonaire - Wind Jammer (Mairi Bhan) It is listed in Lloyd's Wreck Returns for the year 1912 - she was carrying a load of asphalt from Trinidad to Marseille, France. Barclay, Curle and Company built her in Glasgow, Scotland in 1874 for Englishman Paul MacIntyre. The three masted iron bark clipper ship was constructed to ship goods from New Delhi to London. She was 239 feet long, had a 37-foot beam and weighed 1,378 gross tons. Mairi Bhan is Gaelic for "Bonny Mary." Contemporary accounts called her one of the handsomest ships. Her maiden run from Glasgow to Port Chalmers, New Zealand was completed in about 75 days, exceedingly fast for the times. She plied her Pacific route until near the turn of the century, when she was sold to the Italian firm of Denegri and Mortola based in Genoa. The Italians turned her into a tramp sailor that maintained no specific route. She simply sailed from port to port wherever the cargo was destined. In 1912, the Mairi Bhan carried leather goods, fabrics, olive oil and marble from Italy to Trinidad. She traded this cargo for a load of asphalt and charted a course for Marseille.
She rode the trade winds along the coast of Venezuela and was starting to make her northeast turn to cross the Caribbean when a sudden squall boiling out of the Venezuelan coastal mountains caught her. Captain Luigi Razeto, the ship's master since 1907, decided to make for the protected reefs of Bonaire, but got blown past it up to the north. On December 7, 1912 Razeto tried to double back down the coast but huge seas crashed into the ship, it ground on the reef and started to list. He dropped his anchor, but it would not hold on the crumbling coral. Barrels of asphalt started to shift in the holds below and many broke open. The fumes built up and apparently were ignited by a kerosene lamp. There was a sudden explosion and a raging fire. Four crewmen were swept off the ship and perished before the remaining 28 managed to abandon ship, making the shore, which was only yards away. The majestic clipper continued to heel to the starboard and water crashed over the deck and into the holds. She slipped below the sea and her center mast snapped off as it snagged the shallow reef. The rest of the ship slid over it and down the drop off, dragging the broken rigging and anchor along. The ship ended its death slide at the bottom of the drop off, on it's starboard side with its keel facing the shore and its remaining masts pointing away from the reef, down the sloping bottom.
The Dive: She sunk in 200 feet of water off the northwest coast of the island, just down from the old oil terminal. The top most part of the wreck starts at 140 feet, making it a technical dive - and only divers with proper experience and equipment should do the dive. Her foremast rests in 35 feet of water and points the way towards her deeper hull. She lies on her starboard side with the top of her port side in 160 feet. Her main mast and crows' nest extend down to 220 feet. The ship lays parallel to shore - roughly east/south to west/north, with bow to the east/south. She lies on her starboard side, at more than 90 degrees. The port side is at about 140 feet mid-ship. It is covered with sea fans and sponges, as well as corals soft and hard. The top of the port side is covered in coral, at the stern, there is a large rudder - there is no shaft or propeller. (As this was solely a sailing vessel) The interior is completely empty - a steel hull is all is that remains. Investigating the interior, there is a porthole, but nothing else of any interest. Mid-ship, you can swim about 100 feet out into the sand, where the mast points away from the shore and the wreck. The interior of the bow is more interesting; looking up you can still see all of the rigging and the bowsprit is still intact. Everything is covered in coral. The reef is in great condition, and provides a great distraction while doing your decompression.