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The Bounty

Tall Ship Bounty Lost To Hurricane Sandy

By James Donahue

The well-known and popular tall ship Bounty, an enlarged reconstruction of the original British naval ship made famous by the novel and subsequent films Mutiny on the Bounty, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast of the United States October 29-30, 2012.

The ship was lost along with her captain, Robin Walbridge, when the Bounty foundered off North Carolina while attempting to escape the storm on October 29. The other 15 members of the crew were picked up by a U. S. Coast Guard helicopter, although one woman, Claudene Christian, was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

The Bounty, a 180-foot-long three mast full rigged sailing ship, had unfortunately been in drydock at Boothbay Harbor for general maintenance during September and October, 2012, and was making its way down the coast after launching on October 22.

With Sandy heading straight up the coast, Bounty set sail from New London, Connecticut, headed on a wide easterly course in an attempt to escape the storm. The ship’s intended destination was St. Petersburg, Florida. Sandy was a wider storm than Walbridge realized and the storm caught up with the Bounty anyway. The last message received from Walbridge was that the two diesel engines had failed, the ship was taking on water and the crew was preparing to abandon ship.

When Coast Guard helicopters arrived on the scene the wreck was on its side and barely visible. Most of the surviving crew members were in lifeboats. They said Walbridge and Christian were washed overboard. All were wearing life jackets. All but Walbridge were found and pulled from the raging seas.

The Bounty was built in 1960 for the MGM production of the film Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlin Brando. It was the first large vessel built for a film from the drawings and archived records of the original ship. Because the extra deck room was needed to accommodate camera crews, the reproduction was made larger than the original Bounty which was only 86 feet in length.

It was said that the original film script called for the burning of the Bounty at the end of the film, but Brando rebelled and the ship was saved to be featured in several additional Hollywood productions including Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest with Johnny Depp, and Treasure Island.

The Bounty also sailed much of the world, always featured as a visiting tall ship much to the delight of the people who watched her pass or had an opportunity to walk her decks.

The Bounty sank about 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The area is known to marine historians as "the graveyard of the Atlantic."