Just a week or so ago, if you walked out onto our breakfast deck, you could see these archaic masts and full rigging standing taller than the trees. As it has been several times over the past ten years, the HMS Bounty was in dry dock at the bottom of McKown Hill.
The HMS Bounty
in dry dock at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard
The HMS Bounty sinking
Photo courtesy of the guardian.co.uk
Claudene Christian has been recovered dead and the Captain, Robin Walbridge, has been lost. The other fourteen crew were recovered safely.
For a moment when I heard the news, I realized how a 19th-century resident of this very town must have felt when they heard similar news; “The Bounty is lost!” and I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The Bounty was a very important ship to this town; there’s hardly anyone who didn’t have a friend or family member on the crew at one time or another, or had worked on her one of the numerous times she’s been in dry dock at the foot of our hill.
Why is this community of sailors so strong? Let me give you an example.
Charlie, Tammy’s son, started working for us when he was 12. When he was in high school, Susan managed to get him on board an Ocean Classroom boat for a semester. When he came back, he announced this was what he wanted to do. Not just go to sea, but to go to sea on a schooner.
Now, at age 20, he is in California going to school for his captain’s license. He called his mother this morning to check in, but not until he had called one of the Bounty crew members to see if she was OK. This crew member had been a crewmate during his first sail, and so she is in some ways as important as his mother.
This ferocious dedication to the craft has kept the tall ship alive through the steam, coal, diesel and nuclear power ages. Once you sail on a tall ship, you understand the reason why men traveled by sea hundreds of years ago, blindly sailing farther and farther into the unknown. The natural rhythm of the sea, the sway of the ship, days and nights out on the ocean are so otherworldly.
And then there are your trusted friends and shipmates. Your Captain. His Mate. The Cook. People that you eat with, work with and joke with. People that you rely on, and who rely on you. I can only imagine how close these crew members became.
I believe these relationships are the reason why Schooner sailors are how they are. Relationships between the crew. A relationship with the boat. A relationship with the sea.
The pain that is felt by the crew and owners of the Bounty is shared not only by Tall Ship sailors in Maine, but by sailors around the country. Claudene and Robin died doing what they loved to do on the ship they loved to sail.
We mourn them and the beautiful HMS Bounty.