NTSB: “Captain’s Reckless Decision to Sail” Led to Bounty Sinking

bountysinkingThe NTSB Report conclusion came as no real surprise. Captain Robin Walbridge; who was lost along with a crew member, Claudene Christian, in the sinking of the replica of the HMS Bounty; should never have taken the ship to sea with the well forecast approach of Hurricane Sandy.  That is the bottom line.

Depending on your particular perspective, the focus could be placed on the relatively inexperienced crew, the material used in caulking while in the shipyard, the discovered rot in the hull, or the mal-functioning bilge system and lack of functioning back-up pumps. None of this would necessarily have mattered if the captain had sought to take the ship to a harbor of refuge, rather than attempting, and coming very close to succeeding, to sail around the hurricane.

The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the sinking was “was the captain’s reckless decision to sail the vessel into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy, which subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover. Contributing to the sinking was the lack of effective safety oversight by the vessel organization.”

National Transportation Safety Board – Marine Accident Brief : Sinking of Tall Ship Bounty

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3 Responses to NTSB: “Captain’s Reckless Decision to Sail” Led to Bounty Sinking

  1. The NTSB determination of the cause of the loss of the tall ship HMS Bounty is sadly accurate and fair to all those involved both on board and ashore in the vessels administration. The loss of the Master and crewmember Christian is a great tragedy. However I am not comfortable with the phrase “coming very close to succeeding”. Hopefully it will not lead to someone trying to do so instead of remaining in Port. There are hurricane evasion tactics available in several reputable seamanship books which exhibit good seamanship by using an evasion track in the navigable semi-circle. These tactics do not include sailing around a hurricane even in a power-driven vessel and most certainly not in a sailing vessel.
    Good Watch.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    There is no question that the ship should not have been taken out of port. Nevertheless, the Bounty was south of the eye of the hurricane when she sank. If any one of the mechanical problems had not happened, there is a good chance she might have made it to port. Again, there was no reason that she should have gone to sea under the circumstances.

    My concern is a bit different. The conclusion that if a hurricane is brewing, a replica sailing ship should seek a harbor of refuge and not put to sea, is pretty obvious, with or without the NTSB report. My concern is that the Bounty sank in a nasty Nor’easter with wind against the Gulf Stream off infamous Cape Hatteras. I have seen the damage done to steel cargo liners under those circumstances.

    The Bounty could have as easily have sunk in a Nor’easter in the same spot, without the hurricane. The ship should never have gone offshore with a bilge system that was known not to be pumping at capacity, or with untested or properly rigged back-up pumps. It is hard to judge the extent of the rot discovered during the shipyard period or what impact that may have had on the tightness of the seams.

    I just hope that the conclusion drawn from the report is not just limited to not sailing around hurricanes, but also to not taking the ship to sea unless all critical systems are functioning.

  3. Phil says:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGAN) – A bad decision to sail into Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, was a prime factor in the sinking of a replica of the HMS Bounty, according to a report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday.

    The report also blames an inexperienced crew…and shoddy repair work done by the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard a month earlier.

    Captain Robin Wallbridge and a crew member were killed.

    14 other people on board were rescued by the Coast Guard when the Bounty went down off North Carolina.