Hurricane Sandy is beating up the east coast as I write this and one of the biggest stories to come out of it, so far, is the sinking of the tall ship Bounty. I consider myself a tall ship sailor, albeit a very novice one, so this hits extremely close to home with me.
I have been lucky enough to work as crew on two schooners so far, the Patricia Belle (which will always be my mothership!) and the Virginia. When you crew on a boat, it is a very, very small world. In a short amount of time you have to trust and depend on each other almost without question. You learn each others likes, dislikes, habits and so forth— WAY past the point of too much information! Because you spend time together on the open ocean, you build a protective, sibling-like bond with people that you normally might have given a fat lip to if you would have randomly met them in a bar. I believe that this feeling is spread across the tall ship community in general. Tall ship sailors and enthusiasts are of modest number, but tend to be very zealous! It takes true love to work on something that you know is going to suck the blood,sweat and tears out of you on a daily basis, yet we jump at the opportunity to work and sail on one of these beauties every chance we can. So when something like this happens, we all feel it deeply. It could have easily been any of us.
This past summer two tall ship positions were brought to my attention. One was on the Schooner Virginia and the other was on the Bounty: I ended up on the Virginia. Now granted, I would not have been aboard the Bounty at this time, if I would have even worked on her, but it was still extremely eerie when I heard the news. The Bounty was making a run for Florida and they were skirting the outside of the storm. They were off of North Carolina and out of the worst of it when a generator quit and she starting taking on water and lost propulsion. They had been in frequent contact with the coast guard, so dive teams were dispatched quickly and effectively. There were sixteen aboard the Bounty when they abandoned ship, but while getting into the life rafts, a large wave hit and three crew were swept away. Only one made it back to the life raft. Fourteen of the crew were successfully saved by the USCG this morning, but at this hour Captain Robin Walbridge is still lost at sea. The other missing crew, Claudene Christian, has been found and she did not make it. Ironically enough, she was a direct descendent of Fletcher Christian, one of the crew on the original Bounty. She was also 42 years of age which strikes a nerve with me as well seeing as I am 43 myself. Tall ship sailors tend to be in their 20-30’s and male. The girl club is rather exclusive and the older girl club? Very much so.
All I know to say, is rest In peace Bounty and Claudene. Captain Robin, we are waiting and hoping to hear news of your safe recovery soon. And deepest condolences to all friends and family associated with the ship and crew. The entire tall ship community across the world mourns your loss; We are all ship mates.
Parable of immortality ( A ship leaves . . . )
by Henry (Jackson) Van Dyke – 1852 – 1933
I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud
just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, ‘There she goes!
Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
‘There she goes! ‘ ,
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
‘Here she comes!’