On the Waterfront
The Bounty investigation: Part II
February 21, 2013
The hearing into the October sinking of the
180' square-rigged tall ship Bounty
continued this week in Portsmouth,
On Tuesday, the crew took turns
recounting their experiences as the Bounty
made ready to set sail even as the predictions for Hurricane Sandy became more
and more dire. Mothers called their sons and daughters on the crew when they
were docked in New London, Conn., expressing concern. However, each young
crewmember said they had confidence in the boat and their captain, Robin
Walbridge. Walbridge called the crew to the capstan and told them of his plan
to sail south by east to avoid the storm, and offered his now legendary opinion
that “a ship is safe at sea.” No one took him up on his offer to stay behind
with no penalty.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Kevin Carroll
parsed each survivor’s harrowing story, trying to learn exactly what went wrong
and when. The crew shared their fears of drowning as they were swept off the
deck when the ship went into her death roll. Some of the crew got pulled down
by the 10 miles of line in the rig and some got caught by the harnesses they
wore. They struggled to pull the line on the liferaft canister with their teeth
because the immersion suits provided no digital mobility.
No one seemed to know what happened
to Capt. Walbridge, who was never found, or Claudene Christian, who was found
unresponsive and pronounced dead. It was sad and grueling testimony. There were
tears at times from the brave young people who had trusted Capt. Walbridge and
Yesterday, two traditional tall
ship captains weighed in. They provided expert testimony that confirmed what
everyone in the room had been thinking for days. “I was shocked when I heard Bounty had sailed, it's mind-boggling,” Daniel
Moreland, master of the training ship Picton
Castle, testified from the dock in Tahiti. The Picton Castle is a three-masted tall ship based in Lunenburg, Nova
Scotia. Moreland, a world-renowned expert on square-rigger sailing, and Capt. Jan
Miles, captain of the both the Pride of
Baltimore and Pride II, both said
that Walbridge’s decision was foolhardy and vehemently disagreed with the rationale
that Walbridge used that “a ship is safer at sea.”
Regardless of how well the planks
were caulked, or if the swapping around of tankage changed her stability, the
ship sank because she sailed into a very large storm ... intentionally.
So the question remains, why did
Walbridge sail? Was there a back story as reported by Outside Magazine?
And why didn’t the Bounty call the Coast Guard before all
hell broke loose? And why wasn’t the order to abandon ship given while the crew
had a chance to make a safe escape instead of being washed overboard en masse?
That one bad decision surely cost two lives.
You can live stream the hearings today. Scheduled to testify today is Bounty
deckhand Drew Salapatek, and Cmdr. James Mitchell, Coast Guard Sector North
Carolina, search and rescue mission coordinator.