Hubris and Hurricanes
Hubris and Hurricanes
Walbridge’s hurricane management, especially while at sea, infuriated other mariners because you don’t take those sorts of risks unless you are George Clooney with a hold full of fish and a broken freezer, or there is some sort of emergency where lives are clearly at stake.
Here’s author Miles in Outside (Simonin helped administer the Bounty foundation, and was the point of contact ashore):
“The AIS records of the Atlantic during those hours are chilling: a sparsely dotted screen of vessels all making their way to port. Simonin attempted to counter growing vitriol online by reminding mariners of the adage that a ship is safer at sea than at port, but that idea was quickly denounced by other captains. Navy vessels and tankers may go to sea, they responded, but only in the interest of national security or averting major environmental disasters. Did Simonin think either applied to the Bounty? She didn’t reply.”
What follows is predictable: injuries, chaos, equipment trouble, flooding, death. Apart from the hubris or idiocy of taking ANY small sailing ship into a hurricane on purpose, the Bounty, a leaky, aging, wooden vessel, was spectacularly unfit for the challenge.
And that all goes back to the captain, Walbridge. So beyond a certain whiff of arrogance regarding hurricanes, why did Walbridge see the need to put his ship, and his crew, at risk. Until the Coast Guard investigation and any lawsuits are completed, we may not know for sure. But Miles and Outside suggest one possibility, a new partnership Walbridge and Bounty appear to have struck up with Ashley DeRamus, a 30-year-old woman with Down syndrome, and her foundation:
“The plan was for Ashley, and others, to crew again on the ship, starting in St. Petersburg the weekend of November 9. To launch the venture, Kannegiesser was arranging to fly in several children with Down’s, and the Down Syndrome Network of Tampa Bay confirmed that it would be inviting some 400 families with Down’s children to the event. Ashley would recite the Pledge of Allegiance, kicking off the Bounty’s new chapter as a place of learning and inspiration.
From St. Petersburg, Ashley (below) and several others with Down syndrome would sail with the ship to Galveston, Texas, arriving by her birthday, December 9. Over the winter, Christian would work with them as the Bounty was modified to accommodate special-needs crew. As the summer season got under way, the foundation would pay for other kids with Down’s to join each leg as crew. In 2014, they hoped to attempt the first-ever tall-ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, again with special-needs people among the crew.”
So it could all come down to mundane scheduling, and a captain and ship that had somewhere to be. The potential partnership is laudable, and Walbridge had a history of using the Bounty well for education and inspiration, and infecting visitors with the spirit and excitement of sailing the sea. But it is not nearly enough to justify challenging a hurricane and imperiling a crew. And, yes, that is indeed second-guessing.