From The Boathouse: Equipment failure sank HMS Bounty

October 31, 2012|By Mike Whitehead


Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, brought a storm surge Monday that broke the high-water record at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. The late-season hurricane slammed the Eastern Seaboard and hit land on the Jersey Shore. Once the hurricane is over land, the storm loses the energy derived from the ocean and downgrades in magnitude.

The storm damages are from the high surge of water from the Atlantic causing flooding and the strong sustained wind speeds. This reminds me of the late 1990s when the 100-year storm hit Southern California causing Newport Harbor and Huntington Harbour bay water levels to rise above average due to the runoff from the storm drains and creeks causing some docks to break free of their supports.


Sadly, Hurricane Sandy helped sink the famous movie ship HMS Bounty, killing at least one crew member. The captain remains missing as of Tuesday morning.

This 180-foot-square-rigged, three-masted replica ship was built in 1962 for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty," and the tall ship was also used in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

"We received a distress call for Bounty at 1830 Sunday evening October 28th that the Ship lost power and the pumps were unable to keep up with the dewatering," a post on the Bounty's Facebook page says. "At that time we immediately contacted the USCG for assistance."

Being a professional captain, I can attest to system and equipment failures that can put a vessel in peril. Remember "peril" is a legal term in the nautical world. "Peril of the sea" refers to natural accidents on the sea, but in some cases, it is related to natural causes.

However, I digress. Once the Bounty lost engine power, the dewatering pumps failed when the batteries were drained. Reports have surfaced that the vessel was taking on water at a rate of two feet an hour, which is not reason to abandon ship for a vessel of this size, unless the pumps fail, as in this case.

Without power and steerage, the boat would be tossed in the trough of the swells as it sat broadside to the seas, so the 16-member crew decided to abandon ship. They sent a mayday, and boarded the life rafts.

Unfortunately, 42-year-old crew member Claudene Christian was not on board a raft, and the Coast Guard found her unresponsive Monday evening. I believe the 63-year-old captain, Robin Walbridge, held to the professional code of conduct of passengers and crew first, and he might have been trying to save the ship.

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