By Mathias S. Voges
William Peter Watkins Sr., son of Gerald Watkins and Sarah Ann Rogers, was born on August 9, 1862, in Philipsburg. He grew up loving the sea and became a mariner at a young age. At the age of 24, he married Sophia Mathilda Kruythoff, daughter of Evert Tielenus Kruythoff and Maria Sophia Rogers.
From 1890 to 1926, William Peter Watkins was the skipper of several ships that sailed the Caribbean Sea and transported goods and passengers to the different Caribbean islands and South America.
In 1890, Captain Watkins was registered as the master of the schooner Orient. It had one deck and two masts and measured 71.57 tons or 202.76 m3, and was owned by Daniel Aristide van Romondt.
Seven years later in 1897, Watkins was captain of the two-masted schooner Vigilant, measuring 18 tons or 50,98 M3 and belonging to Diederick Charles van Romondt.
In 1899, he was the master of the schooner Active measuring 150.22 m3 that sailed with cargo and passengers to the islands.
Diederick Charles van Romondt owned the two masted schooner Prins Hendrik in 1901, measuring 166.98 m3 or 58.94 tons of 2.83 m3 with Master W.P. Watkins as the skipper. In 1910, this schooner was owned by W.F.C.L.A. Netherwood and his trading partner D.C. van Romondt and had a new captain, namely Albert Benjamin Gumbs. This ship was lost on a reef in Oyster Pond in 1911.
Captain Watkins was the master of the two-masted schooner Koningin Wilhelmina in 1909, belonging to D.C. van Romondt & Co. that arrived from Cayenne, where the ship transported salt and season labourers to work in the phosphate mines at Connetable and returned with four barrels of lard on June 16, 1909.
Little and Grand Connetable are two little islands along the coast of Gayenne. The word “connectable” is a deformation of the Dutch word “constabel”, which means gunner.
In the same year, Master Watkins returned from Demarara on July 28 with a cargo of shingles (wallaba), lumber, cement, cacao, coffee and rice for St. Maarten. The cargo was cleared in the harbour by Gustave A. Huith, the customs officer 1st class.
Captain Watkins also made trips to Flat Island and returned with ballast.
In 1912, W.P. Watkins was the master of the sailing ship Venture of 195.52 M3 that was owned by L.A. van Romondt and Sons.
He travelled via St. Kitts to New York on the SS Guiana, where he arrived November 4, 1913, and stayed in Brooklyn at Adeline Watkins’ home.
At his return from New York, Captain Watkins, until August 1914, was the captain of the Dutch schooner “Kentucky” with one deck and two masts measuring 258,47 M3 of 91.24 tons of 2.83 M3., which was owned by L.A. van Romondt and Sons, who operated the Exploitation Company of Salt Ponds. On August 18, 1914, he was replaced by Captain H. Simmons.
In June 1916, he was the master of the schooner “Kearsage” measuring 347,04 m3 of 123.33 tons of 28.3 m3 with one deck and two masts belonging to L.A. van Romondt and Sons.
William Peter Watkins was sworn in by the substitute registrar Winston Nisbet on July 6, 1926, and obtained the certificate of registry for his two-masted schooner, named Express, measuring 60.62 tons of 2.83 m3 and which ship was mastered by his good friend Captain Johannes Ludolficus B. Bremer.
A year later on October 30, 1927, this great captain and merchant died in Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Source: Oud archief St. Maarten