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The Disconnect Between Professional Mariners and Recreational Boaters over the Bounty Tragedy

Rob Almeida
Total Views: 17
November 6, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski

Ever since the Bounty sank off Cape Hatteras last week a fiery online debate has literally raged.

It’s a tragic event that pretty much everyone who has ever spent any time at all on the ocean has an opinion on.  HMS Bounty’s Facebook page, gCaptain’s Facebook page, the Woodenboat Forum, the Trawler Forum, and of course gCaptain have been a few of the focal points for this unfolding story.  None have pulled punches, although a few days ago the Bounty’s Facebook page moderators removed the ability for people to comment on their page due to an influx of critical comments.

Nowhere on the internet however, has more criticism been raised of this event than the gCaptain Forum.  With over 20,000 members from around the world, this forum has essentially grown to become the social media platform for the professional maritime industry.   And when it comes to seamanship, you better believe they have an opinion and are unafraid to share it with you.

Steamer, a gCaptain Forum Member, brought up an interesting comment today about the disconnect between the professional community and the recreational community that I thought deserved particular highlight.  Here’s what he posted:

“This Bounty thing has really stirred up a lot of people all across the board and reading the posts on various forums is enlightening and sometimes amusing but some of the stuff from the recreational crowd sends a chill up your spine. A good result though is that gCaptain is getting some mention as a source of professional insights and comment. Heaven only knows how many of their readers faint away like 19th century school girls when they come across the pointy stick style of seafaring criticism. They don’t seem to appreciate facts that are much blunter than a plastic sailboat’s bow.

There was a good discussion going on in a “trawler” site (which included a link to gCaptain) where one of the members was being praised for the high quality of his seamanship after putting his family aboard a little plastic “trawler” boat and setting anchor in shallow water someplace on Long Island. He believed that if anything happened the water wasn’t deep enough to completely cover the boat and if the anchor dragged and they went ashore they could just walk off. A few people condemned his actions, but they were shouted down by the huge majority who went so far as to echo the exact words we have been reading about the late Mr. Walbridge – that the guy was a hero and made the right decision – and for protecting his “crew”/family. The fact that he survived is proof to them that he is a superior seaman. The fact that the guy admits to just hanging on for dear life and did nothing other than be a passenger while the storm raged doesn’t seem to enter into it.

If nothing else this whole Bounty affair is showing us that there really is a gulf between the recreational (including the TSC) hobbyist and the professional mariner. These guys are really really scary, a lot scarier than I ever believed they were. I think this storm has opened a few eyes but unfortunately it seems to have driven some of the survivors into a deeper defensive position, from fear or just embarrassment I don’t know.”

Good Morning America aired an exclusive interview today with the survivors of the Bounty today which, although provided a fairly shallow overview of what happened, provides an interesting look into the decisions made on board the ill-fated vessel, and the reflections of the crew.

While an official US Coast Guard inquiry into the matter continues, the debate will no doubt intensify.  Do you feel Steamer’s point is invalid?  Or is he right?  Feel free to let him know

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