HMS BOUNTY: Lost in Hurricane Sandy

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HMS Bounty

A replica of the good ship Bounty, of Mutinous Fame, has sunk off the Carolina coast south of Cape Hatteras this morning and two of the 16 (or 17???) crew members are reported missing. The vessel, under the command of Robin Walbridge, departed New London, Connecticut, on Thursday, bound for Florida. Evidently, the plan was to sneak past Hurricane Sandy and get west of the storm before it got too far north.

On Saturday, while the vessel was underway, someone in the Bounty organization posted this photo of the ship sailing in heavy weather in 2010 to the ship’s Facebook page:

HMS Bounty in heavy weather

And had this to say about her prospects:

Bounty’s current voyage is a calculated decision…NOT AT ALL… irresponsible or with a lack of foresight as some have suggested.

The fact of the matter is…

A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!

In the next few posts I will try to quell some fears and help to explain some of the dynamics that are in Bounty’s favor.

A quote than can now be enshrined in everybody’s FLW (Famous Last Words) file.

According the ship’s FB page, a distress call from the vessel was received yesterday evening at 1630 hours, to the effect that the ship had lost power and that her pumps could not keep up with the water coming aboard. As of 0430 this morning, the crew had abandoned ship into liferafts and were subsequently airlifted into Coast Guard helicopters.

HMS Bounty position when sunk

Bounty‘s last posted position relative to the storm

Though this has not yet been acknowledged on the FB page, several sources now report the ship has sunk and two crew are missing.

Call me crazy and chicken-hearted, but what I did on Thursday, after seeing what Sandy was up to (i.e., headed for the U.S. East Coast), was decide not to take Lunacy even as far south as Newport until after the storm had blown through.

Lunacy in Newcastle

At the moment she’s all laced up in a berth at the Wentworth Marina in New Castle, NH, buttoned up for some weather. I reckon I won’t start moving her south toward Puerto Rico until Thursday at the earliest.

For the record, I’ll note that my personal understanding of the old “a ship is safest at sea” dictum applies in situations where there is a choice between closing a coast and trying to make a harbor during a storm and staying out in open water until after the storm has passed. I don’t understand it as applying when the choice is between staying in harbor and heading out to sea before a storm arrives, UNLESS the harbor is for some reason apt to be insecure during the storm.

I have no information on what Bounty‘s situation in New London was prior to Thursday.

Mutiny on the Bounty film poster

The replica ship, FYI, was built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando (as Fletcher Christian) and Trevor Howard (as Capt. William Bligh). Allegedly, the replica ship was to be burned at the end of the film (just as the real Bounty was ultimately burned by Christian and the mutineers after they reached Pitcairn’s Island), but Brando threw a hissy fit and demanded the ship be saved.

The replica, it turns out, was also for sale for $4.6M at the time she sank.

Hurricane Sandy

PS: So far this is my favorite Storm Porn Sat Snap of the storm.

HMS Bounty sinking

Bounty goes under (USCG photo by Tim Kukl)

UPDATE: The two missing crew members from Bounty have been identified as the skipper, Robin Walbridge, and Claudene Christian (who is purportedly descended from Fletcher Christian). Amazingly, it seems Christian has been found, but after spending 9 hours or more in the water she unfortunately did not survive. Both Christian and Walbridge were lost overboard as the crew abandoned ship.

Here’s the Coast Guard viddy of the rest of the survivors being hoisted into choppers:

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14 Responses
  1. Alex

    We pulled in with the 60′ Gulfstar we’re moving to Florida on Friday into Morehead City NC. Satarday and Sunday was the peak at 43 kts, but the offshore buoys told the story with the one 25 miles out indicating gusts to 55 kts and the waves at 30′. We all make bad calls sometimes, this one was preventable from the get go. If I was doing an accident analyses the main reason would turn out to be the schedule the skipper had to be in St Pete’s.

  2. Good move staying put. Sandy has been on everyone’s radar for some time. Can’t imagine what someone was thinking deliberately heading out to squeeze past Sandy. The SW quadrant turns out to be the worst, as Sandy was transitioning to a Nor’easter. Maybe I have too little guts and too many brain cells?

    Sigh

  3. I really wish the logical fallacy known as an “appeal to unqualified authority” would be abstained from being committed by so many people.

    Captain Robin Walbridge had a 1600 ton Master’s license; there is nothing to indicate the author of this article has any such thing.

    Above, the author states “…For the record, I’ll note that my personal understanding of the old “a ship is safest at sea” dictum applies in situations where there is a choice between closing a coast and trying to make a harbor during a storm and staying out in open water until after the storm has passed. I don’t understand it as applying when the choice is between staying in harbor and heading out to sea before a storm arrives, UNLESS the harbor is for some reason apt to be insecure during the storm…”

    Well, “for the record”, the US Navy sent, as it always does, it’s ships in the area out to sea to ride out the Hurricane.

  4. This is the way it is done since concrete piers are a lot harder than ocean waves and the ship is more likely to be damaged along side a pier than at sea.

    The US Navy aren’t the only ones who do it that way. Watch the video below from Maersk for more information:

    http://vimeo.com/52383530

    Ships are different than small boats, that’s why a license is required for commanding the Bounty but not a sailboat; evidently the Bounty was VERY recently dry docked, the generator really shouldn’t have failed, and if it hadn’t, she’d probably still be here.

    People too unqualified to even know what has to be considered, let alone which way to decide it, have been foolishly second guessing the people who do. Life is risky, and this was NOT a probable outcome.

  5. Charlie

    @William: OK, I watched the video. Are you seriously suggesting that the U.S. Coast Guard ordered Bounty to put to sea??? I respectfully submit there is quite a bit of difference between a container ship and a 180-foot sailing vessel. charlie

  6. jrowan

    I have been sailing for over 30 years of my life & never in my right mind would venture out into stormy seas, let alone into the direct path of a HUGE hurricane. We went down to double tie up & secure our sailboat on Sat. I didn’t even want to risk turning her around in the slip to face bow out, for fear of loosing steerage, and that was just dealing with the huge tidal surge on the York River on Sat. p.m. That old saying that its safer for a ship to ride out a storm is completely untrue. I’d rather have hull damage from impact with a piling then to sink her, or God forbid loose a life. What a completely avoidable tragedy.

  7. Alex

    “Well, “for the record”, the US Navy sent, as it always does, it’s ships in the area out to sea to ride out the Hurricane.”

    I think the question of sea worthiness may be a little different between a replica of a flat bottomed Galleon and a modern Navy warship, but I’m no 1600 ton captain.

  8. Charlie

    @Alex (and William again): I see on Bounty’s FB page that some folks are saying in the comments there that Bounty was too large to be made secure in New London. I can’t say whether that is true or not, but I’d be surprised if it was. Relatively speaking, she’s not that large. As Alex notes, her schedule may have been the problem. Also, I have to say, losing a vessel because a generator goes out seems very suspect to me. She had just been worked on in Boothbay. Why was she taking on so much water???? charlie

  9. Desmond Brown

    It looks like a tragedy for the skipper, assuming he is still lost and possibly also for the recently recovered crewman. No comparison should be made between modern warships and freighters and a replica square rigger. I could say a lot more but It is totally inappropriate for an “armchair” or small boat sailor.
    Those of us who sail for pleasure should be saddened and await the outcome of the investigation.

  10. For everyone happy to point out that the Navy sorties its ships, please note they rapidly steam out of harms way. Those that steam into harms way often sink as many did in Pacific Typhoons during WWII.

  11. john

    I can not believe the rediculous people suggesting that this ship would be better off or actually sent to sea to ride out this storm. This ship in no way resembles and military or commercial vessel. This 180 ft wooden ship has a total of 750hp engines. Thats like having a trolling motor on a yacht. Sailing 15 people into this storm on that ship criminal!

  12. Nicolas Kats

    Looks like Bounty was in a relatively safe quadrant at time of sinking – I probably would have chosen this course knowing hurricanes usually follow the same curving NE/N/NW track pattern.
    Seems she should not have sunk. A sprung plank? With a steel hull, no problem?
    Winds from the NW perpendicular to the Gulf Stream current going NE.. something of a heavy sea, steep waves. With wind direction changing as the eye passed, a mess of irregular cross seas.
    I look forward to your follow-up comments on this Charlie.

  13. Richard D Elder

    I think the most instructive insight into this tragedy is contained in an interview with the skipper in which he says ‘on the Bounty we go looking for hurricanes’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNDneMuO7-U Looking at her track it appears that was exactly his intent.

    If that was the case, it is another example showing that a Master’s ticket is no substitute for common sense.

  14. Peter Milner

    I am coming late to this discussion and will only add the fact that the Royal Navy lost something like 600 vessels due to stress of weather during the twenty odd years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, while losing only a very modest number due to action by the French. France by contrast lost very few to weather but a much greater number were taken or destroyed by the ships of the Royal Navy. The reason for this – the French seldom came out of harbour and were therefore mostly safe from storms, but as they were comparatively unused to the being at sea they were therefor vulnerable to attack by British ships. Lesson to be learnt – exercise your warships at sea even if it means losing some Peter Milner[size=16px][/size]

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