Search continues for HMS Bounty’s captain after an encounter wth Hurricane Sandy


A crewman of the replica tall ship HMS Bounty is aided by the U.S. Coast Guard after being rescued from the Atlantic Ocean, at the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, October 29, 2012. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew who abandoned the HMS Bounty while in the path of Hurricane Sandy off North Carolina, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts, the Coast Guard said. REUTERS/U.S.Coast Guard/Handout (HANDOUT/REUTERS)
October 30, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy flooded streets and left thousands without power on land, it also wreaked havoc on one tall ship out at sea.

The HMS Bounty, a tall ship most recognized for its role in Hollywood films like 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean,” lost a battle with the hurricane Monday, with one crew member dead and the captain missing. The Post’s Ian Shapiro details the ship’s voyage:

The tall ship began to die early Monday morning in the hurricane-ravaged waters off the North Carolina coast. One of the HMS Bounty’s generators failed. Water flooded everywhere. The 180-foot-long, three-masted tall ship was losing power and propulsion.

By about 3 a.m., the Bounty’s once-optimistic Facebook page, which on Sunday had posted “So far so good!” in its daily updates, had issued a new message for its followers: “Your Prayers are needed.”

Ninety minutes later, the Bounty finally lost its battle with 40 mph winds and 18-foot seas. Its captain ordered all hands to abandon the sinking ship, a shocking demise for a celebrity vessel built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty.”

The ship, which had been trying to make its way around Hurricane Sandy, carried a crew of 16. When the rescue operation ended about 10 a.m. Monday, 14 of the crew members had been saved by Coast Guard helicopters. Two people, Capt. Robin Walbridge, 63, and Claudene Christian, 42, were missing.

Christian’s body was recovered Monday night, but Walbridge remained unaccounted for.

The HMS Bounty, owned by New York businessman Robert Hansen, began its journey Thursday, departing from New London, Conn., for St. Petersburg, Fla., where the ship has docked for years.

As the search for Walbridge continued Tuesday, the ship captain’s wife remained hopeful of her husband’s return, the Associated Press reports:

The Coast Guard used ships and airplanes to search the Atlantic on Tuesday for the captain of the sunken HMS Bounty as the sailor’s wife held on to a sliver of hope that he had survived the harrowing ordeal.

The Coast Guard was also optimistic Robin Walbridge, 63, of St. Petersburg, Fla., could still be alive in his blazing red survival suit 90 miles off the North Carolina coast. Walbridge went overboard early Monday when the replica 18th-century sailing vessel, made famous in Hollywood adventure films, rolled over in 18-foot waves.

Walbridge’s wife waited in their in St. Petersburg home to hear any word, surrounded by friends and crying often.

“He’s been in many storms. He’s been doing this a good portion of his life. He’s been in lots of hairy situations and he’s very familiar with the boat. Same boat for 17 years, he knows it like the back of his hand,” Claudia McCann told The Associated Press by telephone.

The searched for Walbridge was hampered by 15-feet waves, but the water temperature was about 77 degrees.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into survivability. Right now we’re going to continue to search. Right now we’re hopeful,” Coast Guard Capt. Joe Kelly said.

A decision on how much longer to search will come later Tuesday.

The last time Walbridge’s wife heard from him was Monday morning via e-mail, when he told her not to worry about the hurricane. As for Christian, the deceased crew member, she will be remembered as someone who loved what she did.

Rochelle Smith, 44, met Christian this summer in Nova Scotia.

“She loved the Bounty. She absolutely loved it. She was so happy to be on it and doing something that she found that she loved to do,” said Smith, a medical transcriptionist who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

The vessel left Connecticut on Thursday with a crew of 11 men and five women, ranging in age from 20 to 66. Everyone aboard knew the journey could be treacherous.

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