The HMS Bounty is a replica sailing ship which was originally built for the MGM movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, in 1960. It was modeled after the drawings of the original wooden sailing ship built in the late 1700s. At 180 feet, she really is a stunning vessel at full sail. Rather, I should say she was. She fell victim to some really poor decision-making at 0430 this morning when, after taking on too much water 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, the captain gave orders to abandon ship.
For reasons which remain unclear to me, the captain had decided to depart from port in Connecticut on Thursday with the plan of heading to sea in time to be on the east side of Hurricane Sandy. The captain, in his infinite wisdom, decided to take the strategy most often utilized by US Naval vessels and cargo ships while in a wooden replica sailing ship, and charted a path through waters known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. When interviewed, the captain of a similar vessel noted that outrunning a hurricane in a sailing ship is nearly impossible, and is even less advisable later in the season as the storms become less predictable.
Yes, as the administrator of the ship’s facebook page said when defending the decision on Saturday, a ship is safer at sea than in port. However, the crew is undeniably safer in port, and when it comes to a 50 year old sailing ship, I don’t know that particular adage applies. The owner, when reached for comment, stated that the problem was a catastrophic generator failure, which kept the crew from being able to bail out the water in time, rather than the hurricane she was traveling through.
Thankfully, the US Coast Guard received the SOS signal after being notified that the owner lost communication with the crew. The guard to responded promptly with an HC-130J from Elizabeth City, NC to locate the life raft which 15 of the 17 crew members made it onto. They then performed a basket lift of the crew from two helicopters, lifting the first group of crew members only two hours after the captain gave orders to abandon ship, risking their own lives in the process. You might not think of the coast guard when you think of American heroes in the military, but it will be hard to forget after watching some of the footage from the rescue mission.
The coast guard has deployed a 225 cutter to search the waters for the remaining two crew members, who were wearing survival suits and still stand a good chance of being found alive. Three helicopters and another HC-130J are already on the scene, and another 378 foot vessel is just now getting underway as of Monday afternoon. One female crew member was found alive, but unresponsive and the captain is still missing. As is policy of the Coast Guard, no financial restitution will be sought for their efforts, no matter how poor the decision making was that led to the persons requiring rescue.