NORTH CAROLINA, USA, Wednesday October 31, 2012 — Hurricane Sandy claimed another casualty on Monday: the HMS Bounty, a three-masted sailing ship that was built 50 years ago for Marlon Brando’s classic “Mutiny on the Bounty” and more recently starred in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”.
The Bounty’s final desperate hours were every bit as dramatic as the Hollywood films she graced, with her heroic crew abandoning ship in life rafts at the last minute before the stately vessel was swallowed by Sandy’s 30-foot waves off the North Carolina coast.
The replica 18th century tall ship had been dispatched to Davy Jones’ locker by the time the first rescue helicopter arrived, with a strobe light atop the majestic ship’s submerged masts marking the spot of her watery grave.
The US Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members shortly after the Bounty’s demise and later located a 15th, who was unresponsive. There was still no word of the missing captain at the time of writing.
The ship left Connecticut bound for Florida on Thursday with a crew of 11 men and five women, ranging in age from 20 to 63. Everyone aboard was aware that the journey could be treacherous.
“This will be a tough voyage for Bounty,” read a posting on the vessel’s Facebook page that showed a map of its coordinates and satellite images of the storm.
A post on Saturday tried to soothe any worried supporters as Sandy’s massive size became more apparent: “Rest assured that the Bounty is safe and in very capable hands. 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!”
The Facebook posts nevertheless grew grimmer as Sandy acquired apparent ‘superstorm’ status. At mid-morning Monday, the final update was ominous: “Please bear with us … There are so many conflicting stories going on now. We are waiting for some confirmation.”
Director of the HMS Bounty Organization Tracie Simonin said the ship tried to stay clear of Sandy’s power.
“It was something that we and the captain of the ship were aware of,” she said.
Video of the rescue showed crew members being loaded one by one into a basket before the basket was hoisted into the Coast Guard helicopter.
“It’s one of the biggest seas I’ve ever been in. It was huge out there,” said Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba, who helped pluck four crew members off one of the canopied life rafts and a fifth who was bobbing alone in the waves.
The survivors received medical attention and were interviewed for a Coast Guard investigation. The Coast Guard did not make them available to reporters.
The crew member who was found unresponsive was identified as 42-year-old Claudene Christian.
The captain, Robin Walbridge, was from St Petersburg, Florida and learned to sail at age 10, according to his biography on the Bounty’s website. Prior to serving on the Bounty, he was first mate on the HMS Rose, the Bounty’s sister ship.
A floating attraction when not starring in blockbuster movies, the ship generally travelled in the spring and summer. In August, large crowds greeted it when sailing into St. Augustine, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina.