Gaspard Vynckier, a Belgian industrialist (one of the brothers who founded Vynckier Frères & Co. factory), and his wife Marguerite Massart (the first female engineer of Belgium), both engineers polytechnic, initially visited Cape Verde in 1963, captivated by the climate’s reputation.
The couple found it hard to put up with Ghent’s weather in the winter. Mr. Vynckier was in his seventies and his wife, who was four years younger, was stricken by asthma. The Vynckiers had travelled throughout Europe in search of a year round steady weather. The Onésime Reclus Atlas, which Mr. Vynckier consulted, mentioned “the Cape Verde Islands with their delightful climate”.
Once in Portugal, they got together with some friends who confirmed Cape Verde’s climatic assets.
They were mesmerized by Sal Island, which they reached by boat, via Badhurst, and decided to build their second home there.
Back in Belgium they started planning for a prefabricated house, which was shipped along with all of the materials necessary for its functionality, and most importantly for its independent energy supply.
The project was initiated in 1965/66.
The house was assembled by a team from Santa Maria along with some Belgian workers. An important technical part called a “distil” was set up (it’s still there to this day and the villagers continue to refer to it by this name), which included a woodworking shop, 4 generators and a solar water distiller (a system previously studied by Mr. Vynckier in Greece, which produced from 4 to 6 m3/day) that provided drinking water for the villagers for years.
The official inauguration took place on May 13th, 1967 in the presence of a number of leading figures; the governor of Cape Verde—admiral de Sacramento Monteiro, the Sal Island administrator—Mr. João de Deus Maximiano, Dr. Ramiro and Mr. Pombal, amongst others.
Georges and Geneviève Vynckier only arrived the next day, and attended the lunch party at the Atlantico Hotel, thrown by the governor for all the guests.
Mr. Gaspard Vynckier and his wife got involved in the village life with the help and support of Mr. João Maximiano. They lived in Sal during the winter months.
The couple had studied the problem of seawater distillation with Dutch specialists. After having succeeded in convincing the governor, Mr. Gaspard Vynckier devised (using Belgian and Dutch materials) a heavy fuel distiller with a 90m3 daily production capacity.
From 1970-71 he had the Santa Maria water castle built. A special barge was constructed in order to empty the 40 ton boiler. Mr Gaspard Vynckier presented the administration with a plan for the implantation of a sewage and potable water distribution system.
A small anecdote:
An expedition had left Belgium for the Antarctic to bring back penguins for Anvers’ zoo. A “refrigerated” stop-over was to be organized on the way back, so that the animals would have an opportunity to recuperate prior to continuing their voyage. Having been contacted, Gaspard Vynckier ordered a 16m3 cold chamber from Belgium. During the excursion’s stop-over at Sal, some of the penguins were installed in it and survived.
The same cold chamber was used by the hotel for many years.
Mr. Gaspard Vynckier passed away on January 30th, 1972.