Having just written Batten Down the Hatches, I couldn’t have imagined that one of the best known wooden replica schooners, the HMS Bounty would actually be out on the water heading into (but hoping to go around) Hurricane Sandy! She was working her way down the coast, navigating her way to her winter haven St. Petersburg, Florida. While fighting 30 foot waves she lost both diesel engines around Cape Hatteras, NC.
Happening in real-time, relatives of crew members were tracking her status via Facebook. As soon as the engines died the wooden Pirate ship that was the star of the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando, started taking on water. Radio calls for help went out immediately.
With sixteen crew members aboard and the ship sinking, the captain gave the order to abandon ship. The U.S. Coast Guard bravely saved fourteen of the crew, one member Claudene Christian who was rescued from the water in critical condition didn’t make it, and Captain Robin Walbridge is sadly still missing.
Why would they be on the water during the “Perfect Storm”? Unimaginable that such a ship could weather a hurricane reported to be one of the biggest of all time. I believe the answer lies in the fact that the crew believed the ship was safer at sea than in port. Unfortunately, not this time.
When I heard this summer that the HMS Bounty was going to be in Norfolk, Virginia along with several other replicas of historic wooden ships at OpSail 2012, I couldn’t wait to see it. The crowds were large and as I stood along the wharf in Norfolk that day I had to hold my camera above the crowd to get a picture of the HMS Bounty going by. There it was; one of the ships that I was thinking would make a great painting, a real life replica of an 18th century famous Pirate ship.
I can’t believe the HMS Bounty is now gone. I’m sorry for the loss of Captain Robin Walbridge and Claudene Christian. I’m grateful that the other crew members were rescued. It’ll be a huge loss to the Tall Ship community and to all of us who love these wonderful ships from days gone bye.
Here is one of my photos of the HMS Bounty passing through the waterfront in Norfolk, ironically with her lifeless sails, all dressed with her flags and admired by all! RIP