The HMS Bounty ~ The Final Chapter!

Recently, Jen and I went to listen to an author’s presentation of his latest book, while having dinner out with friends.  Some slide show presentations can be snoozers, so I was hoping others besides me would want to go to this one. Well the event was sold out.  The book is about a real life drama and tragedy that happened not too long ago and not all that far from here off the coast of North Carolina!  

The book is entitled Rescue of the Bounty ~ Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy.   It is co-authored by Michael J. Tougias and Douglas A. Campbell.  

As some of you might recall, in my Journal, I wrote a blog entitled Lost at Sea ~ Remembering the HMS Bounty.  I tell the story of following the sinking in real time, shocked by the fact that a Captain would take his ship out to sea in Hurricane Sandy.  The storm was billed as the “Perfect Storm”, and I, like many, couldn’t understand why this would happen when the storm was so accurately forecasted!

Prior to the storm, I had completed a commissioned painting of a 16th Century, Spanish Galleon ship and had become interested in the present day replicas of historic wooden sailing vessels along the east coast, and around the world.  A few of them had gathered in Norfolk, VA, for the Tall Ships festival just a few months before Hurricane Sandy hit.  I went to Norfolk specifically to see and photograph the HMS Bounty, The Godspeed, and the Kalmar Nyckel.  

The HMS Bounty photographed by William R. Beebe June 2012

The HMS Bounty photographed by William R. Beebe June 2012

The Godspeed photographed by William R. Beebe

The Godspeed photographed by William R. Beebe

I view these ships as works of art.  The HMS Bounty was built in the early ‘60’s specifically for a Marlon Brando movie, called Mutiny on the Bounty.  Over 200 craftsmen were used to build this scaled-up replica of a real-life pirate ship.  It wasn’t just thrown together for a movie production.  The ship was actually built to be seaworthy.  

So why would a Captain risk it all: a ship valued at roughly $4.6 million and the lives of all of its crew members?

Captain Walbridge had previously weathered a hurricane in the HMS Bounty and all had survived.  He was well known and respected in the sailing community.  Was he trying to show off his sailing skills and the seaworthiness of his ship?  Was he going by what some Captains believe to be a guiding principle that a ship is safer at sea than in port?  Was he so determined to keep to his schedule and making it to St. Petersburg, Florida, that it caused him to use bad judgment?  The author suggests that it might have been a deadly combination of all of the above.  

Sadly, Captain Robin Walbridge either went down with the ship, or was lost at sea.  Therefore, some answers are only speculation and will always be a mystery.

Seated next to me during dinner and the presentation, was the Captain of the Godspeed, Captain Eric Speth.  The Godspeed is a local replica ship here in Williamsburg, VA, completed in 2006.  Equally fascinating that evening was my conversation with Captain Speth, a skilled yachtsman, a student of yacht design, and educated in weather forecasting and weather conditions. I quickly determined that I would be as safe as one could be at sea with Eric as my Captain!  I’m looking forward to taking him up on his offer of heading out on the water to experience the Godspeed under sail.

The Godspeed was scheduled to head out to sea during the same storm as the HMS Bounty.  All of these ships have scheduled events to appear at and participate in during the busy sailing season.  Sometimes it’s a tough decision to have to cancel an event.  Not this time for Captain Speth.  Having seen the weather forecast and charts mapping Hurricane Sandy during the days prior to the storm, Eric made the wise decision not to take the Godspeed out during Hurricane Sandy.  

In the end, both Captains determined the fate of their ships.  The HMS Bounty’s fate was tragic and final.  The HMS Bounty, once in the movies, now has books written about her, and undoubtedly movies will be made. 

One of the many aspects I enjoy about painting ships is knowing that each ship has its own history: a lineage of captains, a log of its many voyages, tales of storms weathered, and other fascinating stories of time at sea.  Some ships' tales are tragic, some are heroic, and some are about survival and longevity.  

If you are interested in the details of the sinking and rescue of the HMS Bounty crew, be sure to pick up the latest book by Michael Tougias, Rescue of the Bounty.  

Thanks for following all that I’m up to in the world of art!  It’s not always about painting, but it’s always about art. 


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe