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Mon Feb 11, 2013, 07:49 PM

Sunk: The incredible truth about a ship that never should have sailed

When the Bounty went down during Hurricane Sandy, millions watched on TV as the Coast Guard rescued 14 survivors—but couldn’t save the captain and one of his crew. A huge question lingered in the aftermath: what was this vessel—a leaking replica built in 1960 for the film Mutiny on the Bounty—doing in the eye of the storm?


On the night of Sunday, October 28, 2012, Coast Guard lieutenant Wes McIntosh and the crew of his C-130 transport plane were holed up in a hotel room at North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Airport. They’d been relocated there the day before, after winds from Hurricane Sandy had forced runway closings at their base in Elizabeth City. The seven-man flight crew congregated around the TV, flipping between Sunday Night Football and the Weather Channel.

It was nine o’clock, and the Denver Broncos had just taken the lead over the New Orleans Saints when McIntosh’s phone rang: the Coast Guard’s North Carolina Sector Field Office—the regional command center in Wilmington—had received a distress email from Tracie Simonin, director of the HMS Bounty Organization. The 180-foot, three-masted ship, a replica of the famous 18th-century vessel, had lost power and was taking on water somewhere near Hatteras Canyon, a treacherous section of the Atlantic roughly 90 miles southeast of the Outer Banks.

No one knew the ship’s exact position or what kind of shape it—or its 16-member crew—was in. Since the captain’s initial email to Simonin at 8:45, the ship’s onboard electronics had failed, and communication was possible only by hand radio, the range of which is limited to line of sight. Storm conditions had intensified beyond the capabilities of the Coast Guard’s cutters and even its Jayhawk helicopters, so the Sector Field Office issued an urgent marine bulletin requesting Samaritan assistance from the handful of vessels still in the region. Only the Torm Rosetta, a 30,000-ton Danish oil tanker, was in hailing range. But it reported back that conditions were too dangerous to respond.

As far as hurricanes go, Sandy was not particularly powerful—on the weekend of October 28, it was fluctuating between hurricane and tropical-storm status—but it made up for that in size and complexity. Sandy would ultimately cover 1.8 million square miles and take on characteristics of what meteorologists call a hybrid storm: in this case, part hurricane, part nor’easter. The Bounty’s last known position—about 100 miles off Cape Fear around noon—put the vessel right in the worst of it, with winds at 60 knots and pelting rain severe enough to render even a large wooden ship invisible on radar. Sending the C-130 was risky, but Coast Guard officials hoped McIntosh could get close enough to establish communication and assess the situation. Once weather conditions allowed, rescue choppers could fly out from Elizabeth City if need be.



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Reply Sunk: The incredible truth about a ship that never should have sailed (Original post)
n2doc Feb 2013 OP
HooptieWagon Feb 2013 #1

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:14 PM

1. Very good article.


I can attest to some of it. My father lives in Boothbay, and has seen (and been aboard) the Bounty many times. The "rebuilds" made there weren't total rebuilds. They were merely repairs of the most egregious problems...minor problems were put off until there was money, or they became major. There was a history of the boat leaking badly.
Boats cost money to maintain. There is an old expression that BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Big boats cost much more to maintain. Old boats cost more to maintain. And wooden boats cost more to maintain.
Addressing the excuse for leaving... It is ludicrous. Yes, Navy ships put to sea before a storm. Navy ships are also maintained in tip top condition, are fully manned, and are capable of 30+ knots giving them the speed to avoid the storm.

My own thoughts, not really covered in the article. The Captains plan to sail east of the storm was a poor one. Winds on the east side of the storm would be from the south. The Bounty would be incapable of heading against southerly winds under either engine or sail, and the ship was too slow to get far enough east to avoid the strong southerly winds.. His course change towards the southwest reflects this...it was the only option left. This course also put him sailing into the Gulf Stream, with very large and steep waves. Breakers even. Also not mentioned in the article is that the 16 crew was very undermanned for a ship like that. Double that would be a minimum.
There are plenty of ports where the Bounty could have holed up in advance of the storm. Even if they had stayed where they were, possibly the ship would be famaged, but the crew would be safe. That should have been the Captain's priority.

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