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Coast Guard cites mistakes in sinking of tall ship

TIM KUKLEWSKI/US COAST GUARD VIA GETTY IMAGES

A US Coast Guard report has reached disturbing conclusions in the sinking of a tall ship with Massachusetts ties in Hurricane Sandy in 2012 off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

A report on the sinking of the Bounty concluded “that a combination of faulty management and crew risk assessment procedures contributed to the sinking. Specifically, choosing to navigate a vessel in insufficient material condition in close proximity to an approaching hurricane with an inexperienced crew was highlighted,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.

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Fall River was home port to the Bounty from 1993 to 2001. The tall ship was built for the 1962 movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” It sank Oct. 29, 2012, while en route to St. Petersburg, Fla., from New London, Conn.

Two of the ship’s 16 crew members drowned, the captain, Robin Walbridge, and crew member Claudene Christian.

The report found that the captain knew there were problems with the ship, knew that several of the crew were inexperienced, and knew there was a hurricane swirling out in the ocean.

“Heading out to sea under normal conditions requires that the hull be sound, vessel systems be tested and functional, and crew proficiency and readiness be at the highest level possible. When headed into a storm of Hurricane Sandy’s size and scope logic dictates that the importance of vessel seaworthiness, vital system functionality, and crew readiness would increase exponentially. That being said, [the captain] clearly chose to chart a course directly in the path and vicinity of Hurricane Sandy knowing all of the defects listed above,” the report said.

The report said that testimony from surviving crew members indicated that the captain might have chosen to sail anyway for a number of reasons, including a belief that the ship was safer at sea; commercial reasons; superstition that voyages should not begin on Fridays; a goal of finishing the season to get the crew home by Thanksgiving; and the sheer challenge of it.

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“The choice to sail BOUNTY on the course that she followed on October 25 -29, 2012 ... was not based on just one of these reasons, but likely all of them to a certain degree. However, there has been no evidence or acceptable maritime principle presented that justified the choice made ... to expose the BOUNTY’s crew to such extreme risks and court danger as he did,” the report said.

The report also recommended that the Coast Guard review policies for “attraction vessels” like the Bounty, including “vessel manning and operating status,” the agency said in the statement.

More coverage:

Photos: The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Bounty captain visualized ship as a ‘living classroom’

Effects of climate change increase risk of storms’ impacts

For Northeast, a harsh vision of climate change

Coast Guard to probe loss of tall ship in hurricane

15 rescued, captain missing from Bounty replica

Firms put climate change into their business plans

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