Now that the calamities of Hurricane Sandy are still being felt in waterfront communities along the Atlantic Ocean seaboard, I wanted to revisit the story of the HMS Bounty, which had visited Greenport Harbor earlier this year.
It sank off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy. The 180-foot, three-mast ship — which was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie, "Mutiny on the Bounty" — was a replica built based on a British transport vessel. It had appeared in a few other motion pictures, most recent being the 2006 Johnny Depp movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." It will live forever in that popular film.
The sad tale of the demise of the bounty started to unravel when it issued a distress signal late Sunday of the storm after taking on water about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C. The tall ship had sailed out of Connecticut for St. Petersburg, Fla. Just before the storm. Bounty Capt. Robin Walbridge’s decision to sail off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a hurricane has been questioned by almost everyone who owns or owned a boat yet Captain Walbridge was known to claim that a ship is safer at sea than in port during a storm. He intended to skirt around the hurricane. But late Sunday of the storm, the ship apparently lost power and began taking on water as it tried to make its way around Cape Hatteras.
Concerning the Bounty crew and their rescue the U.S. Coast Guard reported, “The 16 people donned cold water survival suits and life jackets before launching in two 25-man lifeboats with canopies," as the ship was surrounded by 18-foot seas and 40 mph winds as Hurricane Sandy was moving through the area.” The Coast Guard sent two helicopters that rescued 14 people from life rafts after they were forced to abandon the ship. The helicopters flew the survivors to Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina where they were met by awaiting emergency medical services personnel. A "Jayhawk" helicopter has then dispatched to assist in locating missing captain. After 90 hours of searching some 12,000 square miles of open ocean, the US Coast Guard suspended the search for Mr. Walbridge.
Reports stated Mr. Walbridge’s family wanted that his ultimate legacy “will be one that goes back to the origins of global seafaring: his final act of putting his crew and ship above himself.”
As an annex it was be known who was Captain Walbridge and how did he end up captain of the HMS Bounty. He was raised in Florida although born in Vermont. Born in Vermont, Walbridge grew up in Florida, his family reportedly said Walbridge developed a love of sailing in his early teens. Research says young Walbridge began his nautical career as a houseboat mechanic on the Suwanee River. Next he rose to captain the Governor Stone, Vision Quest, and Bill of Rights achieving his 50-, 100-, and 500-ton captain’s licenses.
Finally he received a commission on the Tall Ship "HMS" Rose, from there fate took his expertise and services to the Bounty in 1995. He also served as guest captain on the USS Constitution when it made its inaugural sail in 1997, after the ship had sat dockside for 116 years.
Walbridge’s sister, Lucille Jansen told a news service ,"He always looked after his crew first…that's the last memory we'll have of him because he did exactly what a captain should do. He made sure the crew was safe. However a sailor myself the question I hear most often is the one Sal Mercogliano, a maritime history professor at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., asked, " The thing that’s striking is why Walbridge put himself in that position,…It’s hard for a lot of people to fathom.” The 14 surviving crew members have collectively decided to not discuss the Bounty’s demise. There is a now ongoing U.S. Coast Guard investigation into the whole matter.