Traversing the keel of the Hilma Hooker, Bonaire

Wreck of the Hilma Hooker

The wreck of the Hilma Hooker is one of the best wreck dive sites in the Caribbean. The story of how the 235 foot long by 36 foot beam Colombian cargo ship was sunk is a good story and a nice piece of history.

In 1984 the ship arrived in Bonaire and anchored close to Klein Bonaire in a little inlet on the leeward side of the island. This was unusual behavior as normally ships would dock at the Kralendeck harbor. The Customs Officials deemed this as suspicious behavior and proceeded to board the ship for an inspection. The captain protested the boarding and as the officials began their search, he pulled anchor so the ship would drift into international waters. The officials got wise to this and at that point seized the ship and had it towed to port. They did a thorough inspection of the ship, going so far as to bring in specialists from Miami to help, yet they found nothing. The captain further tried to swart their efforts by opening a valve allowing water into the ship trying to sink it.

Into the picture enters Captain Don Stewart (1925-2014) an American navigator and avid diver who moved to Bonaire in 1962. Captain Don was hired to inspect the bottom of the ship. He located a metal plate welded to the bottom of the ship that didn’t look right… in the hidden hold twelve tons of cocaine and marijuana were found. The ship’s captain was jailed, the ship seized but the ship’s owners couldn’t be located.

Now the ship was at the dock, in a bad state of repair and listing because of the water that had entered. While no water was still entering, the ship had to be moved off the dock to make room for other ships. It was anchored offshore while the authorities decided what they would do. Captain Stewart and the local dive community wanted to sink the vessel and make it a dive site but were not given permission. Somehow, the ship was moved and mysteriously sunk on September 12, 1984. It now lies perfectly positioned on its side in 100 feet in a sandy spot between two coral reefs. It is a short swim from shore and couldn’t be better positioned if Captain Stewart sunk it himself (which I suspect he did!).

For a good read, look up Captain Don Stewart on Wikipedia… a great story!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.