The captain of the historic ship HMS Bounty, which sank off the coast of North Carolina, is still missing. The Bounty is underwater and only the mast remains barely visible, about 125 miles from Cape Hatteras.
The 180-foot replica tall ship was headed to St. Petersburg, when it sank in Sandy's heavy seas and powerful winds. We talked to a local man who helped train the ship's crew.
Grant Bredeson of Palm Harbor is leading an effort to help his stranded fellow crew mates. We also learned more from a former captain and crew member about what it took to work that tall ship on its maiden voyage, and why it almost sunk once before, when it caught fire.
"I was on board in Puerto Rico, helped train-up the new crew for this coming season," said Bredeson, who told us he was psyched to join his crew when they were supposed to arrive in St. Pete next month, only to watch in horror as the U.S. Coast Guard pulled them from the Atlantic.
"God bless the Coast Guard," said Bredeson. "They're doing a great job, but seeing my friends get off the boat, and looking the way they looked, just the look on their faces, broke my heart."
He said the crew trains constantly for a disaster like this, which is why he is hopeful 63-year-old Captain Robin Walbridge is still alive somewhere in his survival suit.
"We practice getting those suits on in 90 seconds and getting the life rafts and being ready to launch those in under two minutes," said Bredeson.
The Coast Guard is searching day and night, and crews from air station Clearwater have already made two passes looking for Walbridge.
"My last trip was in 1995, and it was glorious," said former HMS Bounty Captain Hugh Boyd, who headed the Bounty from 1976 through 1988. "It was a real return to the old days."
Boyd recalls making the trip to Tahiti. The Bounty was built for the 1962 movie version of "Mutiny On The Bounty," starring Marlon Brando.
"He was sort of a loner, and he'd go off up the mast and wait for the next shot to be done while he sat up there by himself, but he was a good guy, yeah, we loved him," said Boyd.
He has a wall in his St. Pete home devoted to his years on the ship.
"We had some terrific storms when we were taking the Bounty to Tahiti," said Roy Boutilier, who was one of the ship's original crew members and was 19 when he signed-on aboard the Bounty. He remembered almost not making it to Tahiti. They were minutes away from abandoning ship; the HMS Bounty was on fire.
"I remember seeing flames coming out of the hatch and I was frightened to death I have to tell you," said Boutilier.
They got the fire out and did not have to abandon ship, but he said it was incredibly close.
The Bounty has survived since that trip until Sandy came along. The U.S. Coast Guard said there are some whispers of salvaging it, but their primary goal is finding Captain Walbridge.
Bredeson is working to establish a fund at Chase Bank to help the crew, who lost everything on the ship. The information is on the Bounty's Facebook page.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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