Daniel Cleveland

Daniel Cleveland – Third Mate of Bounty – is sworn in for testimony in Portsmouth, Virginia: Photo: The Virginian-Pilot, The’ N. Pham, Pool

Tall ship sailors are so easy to like. When you meet them, within minutes, you know you are meeting someone who is doing exactly what they love. They are not at work, they are at home when aboard their boats, and I’ve never met one who even hinted at wanting to be anything else but a tall ship sailor. The jobs are hard, the hours are ridiculous, and the pay is awful if there is pay at all. But step aboard their boat and the lowliest deckhand will look at you with a certain amount of pity that you aren’t them. Like I said – so easy to like.  Daniel Cleveland (third mate) and Laura Groves (bosun) from Bounty were no different.

Testifying on Friday, Cleveland (25) and Groves (29) both spoke of Bounty as a home. They both loved working and sailing on her, and they both had nothing but respect and admiration for Robin Walbridge – their former captain. But they  had something else in common, something that wasn’t going unnoticed by the investigators: Bounty was the first and only tall ship they had ever worked or sailed on, and Walbridge was the only tall ship captain they had ever worked for. The way things were on Bounty was the only way they had ever known.

“My only job before Bounty was as a landscaper,” said Cleveland who came aboard in March of 2008. About sixteen months later, Bounty needed a new bosun and Cleveland requested the job.  He had been aboard the only traditionally built wood hull vessel he had ever known for little over a year and Cleveland was responsible for maintaining the vessel’s hull. The job of keeping the water on the outside of the boat was his. On a steel vessel that task is primarily about coatings – taking off bad paint, cleaning the steel, and putting on good paint.  But maintaining a plank-on-frame wooden hull vessel is decidedly more complex.

The difference between what Cleveland could have learned about his job in a couple of yard periods on a single boat, and what Joe Jakomovicz (see Day Three Testimony) knew after a lifetime of repairing wooden hulls at Boothbay, must be considerable.  Nonetheless during a vessel haul-out of Bounty in October of 2010, Cleveland was teaching his job to Laura Groves (new to Bounty that season) who was looking up at the first wood hull she had ever seen in dry dock. Sixteen months later she would be bosun. This wasn’t the “old guys taught the young guys” school of wood boat repair that Jakomovicz had described, this was the new-teaching-the-new school. This was the illusion of experience. By September of 2012, during Bounty’s final yard period, Captain Robin Walbridge had assigned the responsibility of sealing the planks of his ship to Groves. According to her own testimony, the amount of re-caulking of wooden planks she had done was “not a whole lot.”

Laura Groves

Laura Groves – Bounty’s bosun – testifies to USCG/NTSB Investigators. Photo: The Virginian-Pilot, The’ N. Pham, Pool

Hull repair – for obvious reasons – has been of primary interest to the investigators since the hearings began.  Besides the plank replacements done by the Boothbay Shipyard in the late 2012 yard period, investigators were paying a lot of attention to the caulking – the method used to seal between planks.  Caulking is not a simple (or easy) process on wood boats. It involves literally beating strands of cotton and then oakum (an oiled hemp material) into the seams between planks using large irons and wooden hammers of varying size.  In the days before synthetic materials, the final step was to cover the seams (and the entire hull below the waterline) with hot tar. Today, shipwrights use modern materials. Opinions on what should be used have varied during the Bounty hearings:

Kosakowski –  lead shipwright and project manager for Boothbay Harbor Shipyards – Testimony from Day 2

Shisha: “Was DAP used below waterline on the Bounty?”

Kosakowski: “Yes”

Shisha: “Would you?”

Kosakowski: “No.”

Shisha: “Why?”

Kosakowski: “It doesn’t work.”

But when asked about the sealing material used on Bounty on day 4, Cleveland told Commander Kevin Carroll, “We used DAP, which is a Home Depot product.”

Carroll: “Below the waterline?”

Cleveland: “I thought the DAP worked really well under the waterline…”

Carroll: “Who chose the products?”

Cleveland: “Captain Walbridge.”

“DAP” was DAP 33, a common household window glazing available from any local hardware store. When Groves was questioned concerning the material used during the 2012 yard period she told Carroll, “Starboard side we used NP1 Polyurethane…Port side we used DAP.”      (NP1 is another product sold in local hardware stores.)

Carroll: “Why not just use one?”

Groves: “It was an experiment. Dan [Cleveland] had tried it [NP1] on a spot in 2011 and he saw that it had worked good so we got Robin’s approval to try it on the port side as an experiment.”

Kosakowski had mentioned a product in his testimony that he thought was good for the job of sealing the caulking on wood hulls: Pettit Seam Compound. But Pettit, specifically designed for marine use (and not available at Home Depot), was about ten times the cost of DAP.

When speaking to other hull repairs on Bounty, Daniel Cleveland testified about his Captain’s tutelage concerning the repair of wood rot on Bounty and how good his captain was at that type of work. “He was the one who taught me about Dutchmans, and scarfs.” Cleveland talked about a Dutchman as a common repair method for wood rot found on Bounty.

Carroll: “In your experience how do you treat rot?”

Cleveland: “The most ideal is that you remove the rot – you do a Dutchman.”

Carroll: “What is a Dutchman?”

The 25 year-old former landscaper spoke about how Walbridge taught him to cut out the old rot by cutting a deep scarf into good wood and then replacing it with new wood using epoxy to secure it in the old timber.  “The idea is that it’s as strong as original because the epoxy penetrates the wood and it’s as strong as ever,” Cleveland testified. When asked about surface rot he said, “We treated surface rot with epoxy.” He sounded confident – proud of the things he had learned from his captain.

Groves also spoke of repair work on Bounty and particularly the use of lead patches along the garboard – the plank that tied into keel and among the most difficult seams to seal on any wood boat.  She testified that there were “lots of lead patches on the garboard seam.”  A lead patch was a section of lead sheet applied over a section of plank seam and sealed with roofing tar (again from Home Depot). Groves also seemed proud of what she had learned and confidently spoke of these repairs as adequate.  She and her bosun predecessor Dan Cleveland were so easy to like, but neither knew that if Bounty had been certified to carry passengers, the repair work they had done to the ship would have very likely not been approved by the Coast Guard inspector who was asking them questions. But how could they know?  They didn’t have the experience.

Next: Day 5 – Sins of Omission

Continued Bounty Coverage:

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • JaneSays

    Why did they consistently use cheaper materials to repair the boat? Because the owner was reluctant to put up the money for the more expensive stuff. An ongoing frustration. They were doing the best they could with the resources they had. Someone should dig into THAT. As well as the organization’s financial records…

  • Peter Wright

    Is this innocence, ignorance or incompetence?

    • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

      Groves and Cleveland were less than competent, they were ignorant of proper methods of repair, and completely innocent of both those faults. I’m not going to draw conclusions just yet (if ever), but there was nothing about their work that caused the Bounty sinking. I was simply drawing a picture of the culture aboard Bounty.

      • Peter Wright

        Thanks for the reply Mario and I agree with what you say and with Rick below. It is so sad to see such dedication and enthusiasm being misdirected and to end up with such sad consequences.

    • Lance Cryan

      yes

  • Marcel Muise

    If I remember right, the Pride of Baltimore crew had to cut themselves free of their harnesses, the Concordia crew had to cut their way through rigging, and the DHW crew the raft sea painter. Has it come up at all about the Bounty crew needing knives in the evacuation?

    • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

      So far in testimony, no one mentioned having to cut free. Several of them were injured by the rigging however.

  • Rick Owens

    Perhaps a certain illusion of experience, but not a complete lack of expertise.
    Proper, expert caulking is a poor substitute for unsound structure.

    Yes, a likable, competent, hardworking(under staffed,I think)diligent, loyal, willing and courageous crew.
    A damned shame.
    I wait, expectantly, for the rest of the testimonies and Mr. Vittones’ perspective.

  • jmcboots

    I think this is sadly very common amongst the internet generation. They seem to think they are all so smart and competent, and yet are so foolish that they dont even know they are ignorant.

    Worse still is a captain who accepted them as competent when he likely knew better. He paid for that with his life, and almost theirs too.

    • http://www.kirklarsenfineart,com Kirk Larsen

      The magnitude of the stature, of the Capt of a classic reproduction of a tallship such as the Bounty, implies by his(or her) position a level of competence and expertise that should be the trustworthy. A competant Capt. has as an implicit obligation the responsiblity to instuct his crew, or delegate as such, proper maintanence. If he instructs subordinants in activities of maintanence, wh otherwise do not have that experience, he is substututing his experience for theirs and is responsible for behavior of both. The Captain did not rely on them they were an extension of his direction-He put his own life and those of others at peril if he directs substandard repairs…If a parent tells his 10 year old to put milk in the radiator, you do not blame the child when the car dies…

    • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

      That’s true, Tom. Cleveland thought NP1 held up better in the sun and that DAP cracked above the waterline. To really be fair, I do not believe the caulking had anything to do with why Bounty sank. Cleveland and Groves both testified that they knew the water was coming in through the planks – but that was likely due to excessive working of the ship. She could have been 100% recaulked by 50 year vets and she would have leaked.

      • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

        …but in 25 footers, everything is below the water at some point.

  • elfpix

    Somebody needs to set up a scholarship fund for these kids and send them to IYRS so they get a proper education and can stay in the trade they’ve learned to love. If I were the final arbiter here I sure would make that part of the penalty for such monumental negligence as we’re seeing on the part of the owners.

  • David Schurman

    … or Wooden Boat School, or The Apprentice Shop in Rockland, ME… or an internship at any number of wooden boat shops in ME or NS… or…

  • David Schurman

    Time for an ASTA, or whatever it calls itself these days, to set up a training sylabus/certification program. I remember even Sea Scouts in my day had a step-by-step program/checklist. Certainly the USCG had/has(?) a training sylabus for each rating. And Bos’n was one of the hardest and most respected!

    What does EMH – European Maritime Heritage – have for training certifications? Denmark?, Sweden? and Germany? all of which have large traditional vessel fleets.

    european-maritime-heritage.org

  • David Schurman

    DO READ re. ‘Minimum Standards of Competence':

    http://european-maritime-heritage.org/sc.aspx

    6 Annex II.1, Minimum Requirements for Certification

    Minimum Requirements for Certification
    according to a
    Minimum Standard of Competence
    for Masters, Mates and Engine Operators on Traditional Ships of less than 500 Gross Tonnage based on the STCW Convention and the STCW 95 Code for seagoing vessels

    Why can’t the US ‘get with the program’?

  • http://www.bbbrown.com Robert

    One can talk about caulking and rot but those are just symptoms of a much larger problem that Mr. Vittone is describing in his excellent reporting and that is a culture that places well meaning people in the situation of making life or death decisions with little or no experience. The decision to go to sea in an unsound vessel falls squarely on the captain but the shady world of tall ship dockside tourist attractions being used as sea going vessels casts a much wider net. I hope the end result of these hearings will address that culture.

  • S.P.Gardiner

    The position of Bos’n is more than just a title; it means that you are the subject matter expert on ALL deck-related issues onboard. Fleeting up to that position simply because you have been onboard a few years is an almost sure guarantee of getting someone hurt.
    I remember as a cadet reading a quote in an old Merchant Seaman’s Manual about the sea always being ready to claim the ignorant, the unwary, or the complacent?

  • Christakos Emmanouil

    First i want to thank Mario for giving all these testimonies and information about Bounty,so we can ‘study’ and learn from this.”One mistake is not sinking a ship”.TRUE:Here we can count a great number of mistakes.This story must be a full lesson to the marine schools of any grade.Is including everything.Wrong maintenance,’amateurs’ for crew,decide to sail in stormy weather(and in well known bad area-C.Hatteras).let’s stay in maintenance of wooden ships/boats.It’s an ART,based on experience of thousands of years. Bosun had no knowledge and experience.The materials used were for “roofs and bathrooms”.NOT to watertight an old rotten hull.About the extend of rotten points Witness said [was “not a whole lot.”].well,trying to save money from this,proofs that was A LOT.Remember myself helping an old man,caulking a boat on the traditional way learned from his father..grandfather..etc.I was 15 years old and still remember some.That: wood “is alive”,it matters the season,the humidity,the part of the log for the exact work you do,to cut it along the lines,when is dry enough to “caulk”,EVEN the face of the moon to do certain works and drop it in the sea….This is knowledge of thousands of years.The old ship carpenter couldn’t even answer to my “whys” for some of these.but he was sure that he “must”do it this way (he used the word “must”for all he was saying).Reading the testimonies i appreciate the enthusiasm of the crew but is NOT enough to maintain and sail a wooden ship.Hope to be a lesson to the next “tall ship lovers”,not to have more loses of lives.

  • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone
  • Ricardo Moreno

    Mario is a very careful and professional person. But what is the ‘missing link’ that connects all these mistakes? I think Peruvian Nobel Prize author, Mr. Vargas Llosa, put in a nutshell: La Civilización del Espectáculo. In plain English, everything is a ‘show’ and appearance counts for more than true knowledge and experience. If the bos’n thinks her tatoo makes her a bos’n, she is seriously wrong. The Third Mate ‘loves’ his ship and his job, but that is NOT enough. Quoting another Nobel Prize writer, this time Garcia Marquez, this was “Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada”.

    Ricardo

  • Chuck

    As a licensed GL Master, taking an AB class down south, I ran aross a skipper talking about his tug. A wood vessel, built in the late 1800, it was still an working tug. It should have been put out to pasture long ago.

    Not uncommon in the marine industry, this is all about money and what skill set low wages purchase. Fuel, supplies, cost of materials and equipment are set, wages and the skill set they purchase are where most marine companies look to maintain cost.

    Untrained personnel jump at the chance to live the dream despite the low wages. Turnover ensues and the skills needed to maintain such a vessel are then lost.

  • Kevin

    I have seen this same scene played out dozens of times in my 33 year career at sea. Whether you call it “brain drain” or the wrong method done too many times, it amounts to the same thing. Position does not guarantee competence, yet many people treat it as if it does. In this case, brain drain is the closest phrase…a phenomenon that works like this: I teach you everything you know, which is only 80% of what I know…you teach someone else and they learn 80% of the 80% I gave you, etc. Eventually you have someone in the position who only knows a fraction of what is required. Some call this hawsepiping, others call it dangerous. When people made a lifelong career of going to sea hawsepiping was great; there was ample time to see how things were done from those who knew how to do them. However, one year’s experience is insufficient to learn everything you need to know when you do not have any formal background in today’s industry. My heart goes out to those stuck in positions where they feel they’re doing the right thing, but find out later they were not. The position, pride in ownership, good intentions, and a good work ethic are not enough…some skills need to be learned that must come from someone with great experience or a formal education. When it comes to wooden ships…most academies don’t cover what is required, and experience is king…but 30 years experience of doing it wrong is still wrong.

  • Todd Schaefer

    “The sea is selective; slow at recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit”

    Felix Riesenberg

  • Robert Lindsay

    I’m no expert here but 2 things come to mind when reading all of this .

    1) Seems things always roll downhill. Shove the blame on someone else.

    2) A less than 300 foot wooden boat in a hurricane doesn’t seem too smart to me. Even 950′ steel hull ships know to steer clear.

  • Captain Colin Smith M.Sc

    Was it ever thus? Regulations were brought in to curb the tendency of the Master and Owner to cost-cut to lethal levels. Governments and shipowners have conspired to undermine the prestige and value of the deck rankings, from Petty Officers down to the deck boy. Although Captain Wallbridge may have got his comeuppance, his crew did not deserve him. An experienced seaman would find out pretty quickly whether the Master was a bucko Cape Horn, man-driving risk-taker or a prudent shipmaster, and acted accordingly, probably by jumping ship ASAP. Mario is doing a great job reporting the inquiry’s proceedings. conscientiously free from the kind of hilarious speculation I read on these pages about the “Costa Concordia” debacle from self-appointed experts. Hopefully he will write a final document when the proceedings end. The rule for practicing seaman is ‘never trust a bull-shitter’, but of course first you have to recognize one.

  • Oli Hans Hansen

    This is a accident report regarding a sailing vessel who went down and raised.
    Use google translate. The language is Danish.
    http://www.sofartsstyrelsen.dk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Publikationer/Ulykker%20til%20søs/OKE%20Rapporter/Andre-baade/MARTHA.pdf
    Pictures dos show things…
    The report shows that craftmanships is evident.

    Regard’s

  • Ron Palmer

    As has been said the caulking of the hull has little to do with the ship foundering but it does expose many of the short comings of particularly the Master, Captain Wallbridge who after 15 years in command of “Bounty” thought the vessel and perhaps himself were bullet proof and that he had the ability to ride out any storm. Regretfully, he could persuade innocent untrained crew members to also believed this. As said it can be difficult for novice sailors to recognise seagoing bull shit artists and imposter. There are many of them out there.

  • Tom Hunter

    I’m noticing a lot of people write as if Bounty was sunk by improper caulking.

    I’d just like to gently point out that she sailed into a hurricane, and that might have had something to do with her going down.

    Mario thank you for providing insightful coverage of the hearing.

    • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

      http://mariovittone.com/writing/bounty/

      I don’t think it was the caulking either

    • http://Caphenning.com Henning Heinemann

      Well, kinda, the caulking didn’t hold because the frames were too rotten to provide compression at the joints

      • http://www.kirklarsenfineart,com Kirk Larsen

        It was and certainly will play out to a confluence of factors. The unifying one seems to be the Captain’s descisions over many years. I suggest following all the links, especially Mario’s other pieces and the subsequent commentary below each article. Testimony of former Bounty employees notes a culture wihtin the bounty org. and more pointedly the Capt’s leadership or lack thereof…A good bilge system can overcome a lot of water, good seams can prevent a lot of water but not always all, even on the best wooden ships but incompetant leadership can be tough to overcome. I find it a great irony that we are discussing of all ships, in relation to questionable leadership, The Bounty…and an overzealous Captain…

  • Chuck Lantz

    First of all, in my opinion Mr. Vittone’s writing style is excellent. Letting the testimony speak for itself, while only adding limited and precise observations, is the perfect method in a case such as this.

    Second, having the author not only available to the readers, but willing to clarify any detail, in his own words, makes this series of articles both interesting as well as possibly ground-breaking.

    If a book or other type of compilation comes of this, I hope it includes the interplay between author and reader.

    On the case itself, all I can say is that some of the crew’s testimony reads like dialogue from “Whale Wars.” The term “illusion of experience” could not be more perfect.

  • Captin Joei Randazzo

    1) BRAVO MARIO! (on so many levels)
    2) 50 yr old “Labor of Love” Ship + Hurricane = Sank
    3) Cotton + Oakum + Iron + Mallet + Tat = no leaks
    4) Plan A was to go offshore around “Sandy” = NOT 90km

    2 Questions:

    1) Who decided to head inshore?
    2) Who says you can’t take it with you?
    ~~~_/)~~~_/)~~~_/)~~~

  • brian smith

    The way caulking works is the dry fibrous material is hammered into the gap between the planks. When the boat enters the water the water causes the caulking fibres to expand in the gap and this is what keeps the water out.The function of the “sealing” material ,tar ,putty,modern sealants etc is not to keep the water out. Its primary function is to protect the fibres which are doing the actual work.

    • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

      Yes – and if it cracks (as DAP above the waterline was prone to do) then it is no longer protecting the fibers which are doing the actual work.

      http://mariovittone.com/writing/bounty/

      • Oli Hans Hansen

        Are there no photos of all the repair work at the ship yard?

        Regard’s

        • http://www.gcaptain.com Mario Vittone

          There are – they have been entered as evidence and during an ongoing investigation are not available to the public.

  • Deeana

    So the HMS Bounty was literally “glued together”? How appropriate for a vessel originally constructed for a movie with the intentions of burning it as part of the film plot. The visual picture of these inexperienced young folks running over to Home Depot to purchase the household glues and caulkings used to “repair” the vessel per the instructions of the “experienced captain” boggles the mind!

    The “naval architect/engineer/self-inspector” should likely also have taken the fifth. The owner, as per advice of his attorneys, was surely advised to take the one bad PR hit of announcing that he was pleading the fifth and that is it. Avoids the discomfort of so much – squirming under questioning, self incrimination, and the steady daily drip, drip of bad publicity.

    This loss was even stupider than the loss of the Fantome by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises during Hurricane Mitch. (Ship and 31 crew lost after disembarking passengers in Belize and heading back out to sea.) Another case of believing the ship was safer at sea. And again, well yeah, but what about the crew?

    Great, objective writing in these articles.

    • Todd Schaefer

      Another ship with questionable modifications made by the owner.

  • http://www.hmsbountybook.com L. Jaye Bell

    “The wooden ship was a masterpiece of independent mobility. Its sailors could turn up or improvise the materials of its hull, masts and yards, and its hemp rigging, even in the most remote of new-found lands and islands. Once launched out onto distant and unknown seas, wooden ships were small, self sustaining worlds that could keep the sea out and make do without port facilities almost indefinitely. You could give a wooden ship sailor a knife and a forest,” went the old saying, “and he could build you a ship. And rig it, too.” (From “The Way of a Ship” by Derek Lundy)

  • Deeana

    Here is a youtube video of the owner when he was still talking to the press, shortly after the incident:
    http://origin-www.jconline.com/videonetwork/1934569611001/HMS-Bounty-owner-Something-else-went-wrong-

  • http://n/a Ivan Peter Pawle

    Thank you to Vic Purcell for sharing this ongoing story on Facebook . It raises a raft of issues , extremely well-reported, and generating a wealth of informed responses and opinions…..

  • M taylor

    I don’t care what you caulk the planks with, if the hull is working (planks, frames, other structure are moving) any caulking will be spit out.

    FYI, a “lead patch” is called a “tingle”, usually used as a temporary repair. (I have done several)

  • M taylor

    If 75% of above WL frames were rotten, and she had to pump bilges that frequenty, someone (yard/Wyman) should have raised bloody hell. If the above WL frames were that poor, then the bilges must have been compost.

    This reminds me of the demise of Regina Maris. She was lucky to have sunk at the dock – multiple times – instead of a storm off Hatteras.

  • Hugh Lane

    Thank you Mario Vittone for your reportage. It
    s so rare to see the commitment to journalistic craftsmanship you aspire to.

  • tom ward

    Turns out DAP is adequate for above-waterline work. I’ve spoken to a couple boatbuilders and they say it’s fine, so long as the caulking is tight and the structure is sound.
    One of these builders used a mixture of basically pulverized wood dust mixed in with roofing tar below the waterline on his own vessel, I think she was around 50 tons. “Makes a hell of a mess, but it worked great.” Can’t use it above the waterline because it bleeds through paint. Doesn’t really bleed through bottom paint for all the solids.

    • https://www.facebook.com/watersafety Mario Vittone

      So long as the caulking is tight “and the structure is sound.”

      Not even remotely the case on Bounty

    • Tom J

      What works for a small wooden fishing boat does not necessarily scale up for a three-masted square-rigger. In addition to the wave-induced hull stresses, the inertial forces of the masts & spars as the ship rolls are transferred to the hull via the shrouds and chainplates, thereby adding stresses from a completely different orientation. The working of the hull is nothing like that of small vessels.

  • robert

    owned a wood boat, in puget sound and british columbia boatyards, the preferred caulking below and above the waterline is black tar roofing compound/cement powder in a 50/50 mix. seals without bleeding and lasts for several years in freezing or hot weather. these yards have special men just for caulking, it was done with precision and is very difficult to do unless you have powerful forearms.

  • Melinda Bookwalter

    Joseph Conrad from The Mirror of the Sea: “Of all the living creatures upon land or sea, it is ships alone that cannot be taken in by barren pretenses, that will not put up with bad art from their masters.”

    Such a tragedy…

    • Rick Owens

      Melinda,
      Thanks for dredging up memories of my favorite author and, I think, very apt sentiment.
      Thumbs up.

  • Jesse

    I too feel compelled to praise the author’s excellent reporting on the proceedings, and thsnk him for taking the time and trouble to share his well considered insights and applied experience in his conclusions. The evidence surely does appear to point the finger of blame, responsibility, and culpability squarely at the Captain. My concern is that with the silence and taking of the Fifth by ownership, will we never know what part if any he pkayed in the ultimate decision to set sail that day, seemingly against all logic and concern for the safety of the ship and crew? Surely some of those in positions of authority were aware of the apparent deficiencies in the ultimate seaworthiness of the Bounty. What could have possessed those decision makers to have so acted against common sense and go out to try to face Superstorm Sandy from offshore? I cannot help but think of the terrible irony that a direct descendent of that greatest mutineer Christian Fletcher, died alongside the Bounty’s modern day Captain, not having followed instead in the rational footsteps of her famous forebear and led the crew to ‘mutiny’ against the decision to go to sea with the storm coming. A Mutiny on This Bounty would have saved her very life.

    • Lance Cryan

      well put

  • islandgirl1941

    The title “The Illusion of Experience” is one of the most apt that I’ve ever seen. Those poor kids (and elders) had no real context for knowing the condition of the boat, and the BOUNTY was a boat that was floating on her pumps. At the dock! The “Illusion of Experience” is a common problem in the head boat and “tall Ship” community where folks have not spent many years learning about all facets of sailing — everything from the design and construction of vessels (wood or otherwise), to maintenance, navigation, old fashioned skills of seamanship, safety, and of course sailing…in all weather and on all seas. They’ve spent some time sailing, with really groovy folks and it is a lot of fun, so they get to think they know it all. However, if you have only sailed on one boat with a bunch of relative novices and think that because you’ve spent 50 days steering for 4 hours or 6 hours a day that you are qualified for even a 6 passenger license you are delusional. And where I’ve worked I’ve seen more than a few younger sailors who think that they’ve learned it all when in fact, they know next to nothing.

    The BOUNTY was a tired vessel and there was a lot of vessel that could not be accessed to determine the condition of her floors, lower futtocks, or the backbone and the all the fastenings. She also had a lot of top hamper (all should have been sent down for storm conditions) and she had a lot of shaky equipment. A recipe for disaster! Storm or no storm.

    Frankly, look at the video of the Coast Guard helicopter crew rescuing the crew (themselves in considerable danger…also the man tending the basket wire suffering a dislocated shoulder) and one wonders that anyone was rescued at all. I have never seen a more compelling or sobering segment. It should be required watching for anyone who sails! I nominate those Coast Guard crews for major medals — is the Carnegie medal still around? I still hear that voice “altitude, altitude” and marvel that the helicopter didn’t get swiped too.

    Finally, it is the responsibility of anyone working in a shipyard to make sure that the crew is aware of any deficiencies. The “surveyor” who inspected her (with a conflict of interest no matter how he feels) should be in serious trouble along with the owner and management.

    But the ultimate decision was the skipper’s and one can only wonder how much a certain megalomania clouded his decision.
    We keep thinking that we won’t have nautical disasters like this again but it happens over and over again (I lost friends on the MARQUES and on the PRIDE OF BALTIMORE I) because of various reasons some of which could have been avoided. MARQUES was a converted vessel, and had open hatches. PRIDE was on a tight schedule, etc. etc. etc. I have always told my kids: if you get to a boat and it seems dicey, get off and don’t apologize…just get off and tell them why you did. Maybe you can save someone’s life as well as your own.

  • islandgirl1941

    Forgot to say that this is a very interesting website but the reports on the BOUNTY hearings are fabulous — informative, accurate, and the very best journalism. Congratulations to the author, you are doing us all a major service by attending and reporting.

  • Rob

    The report on this unfortunate affair can tell us a great deal about our human nature. All of us as humans make poor judgments in our life both with small and big ramifications. It is clear that the captain’s decision to sail during this hurricane is one of them and we should learn from his mistake. This process helps progress seamanship and our society. Unfortunately there is part of human nature that uses others mistakes as an excuse to vilify or put themselves as superior to others. We should all be cautious of how we communication about this tragedy. In the reporting and discussions about this investigation we should question ourselves. Do we use our banter about this issue to improve upon society and seamanship or do we communicate about others bad decisions as way to prop up our own egos.

Sign up for the gCaptain Newsletter!

Over 30,000 people receive the gCaptain email newsletter every single day. Get the maritime and offshore industry headlines that matter sent straight to your inbox. Or LIKE us on Facebook!

We will not share your email address with anybody for any reason