Rochelle Smith was devastated Monday to hear HMS Bounty had sunk off the North Carolina coast.
Smith, who volunteered in Nova Scotia this past summer on the tall ship made famous in a pair of Hollywood blockbusters, said she couldn’t believe the reports the ship had been lost, a victim of Hurricane Sandy.
Two members of the 16-member crew are unaccounted for after the sinking.
“I’m shocked. It saddens my heart to know that some of my fellow crew members are missing at sea, the shipmates that I knew,” said Smith, who volunteered when the ship made a highly successful 2010 visit to Thunder Bay, an event that drew more than 5,500 people to the city’s waterfront.
HMS Bounty holds a special place in Smith’s heart, she said.
“Being out there on the Bounty, it just sort of built your character. I learnt so much on it. It was a healing ship to me,” Smith said, adding the Bounty was a very seaworthy vessel and she was surprised it went down.
“I felt very comfortable on her. The crew was very experienced and the captain was very knowledgeable about the ocean.”
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of 16 crew members aboard the Bounty, which was caught about 260 kilometres from the eye of the ferocious storm.
Search-and-rescue teams, hampered by the hurricane, searched the Atlantic Ocean for the missing crew members, who like the rest of the crew had donned cold-water survival suits and lifejackets and were not in either of the ship’s two 25-man lifeboats launched after the ship, built in 1962 for the Hollywood remake Mutiny on the Bounty, began taking on water.
The movie, starring Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian, recalled the tale of the original 18th century Bounty, which set sail for the South Pacific in 1789, only to be waylaid by a crew uprising near Tahiti. The ship also starred in the more recent Pirates of the Caribbean series.
A U.S. Coast Guard release says the ship has sunk, though mast remains visible above water. The coast guard initially received a call from the 180-foot, three-mast ship’s owners on Sunday night, saying she had lost communication with the Bounty.
“The Coast Guard 5th District command centre in Portsmouth, N.H. subsequently received a signal from the emergency position indicating radio beacon registered to the Bounty, confirming the distress and position,” the release says.
“An aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City launched aboard an HC-130 Hercules aircraft, which later arrived on scene and established communications with the Bounty's crew.”
The missing crew members have yet to be identified, though Smith said she had spoken to one crew member who was aboard on the ill-fated trip and had been rescued.
Smith said she first saw the Bounty in 2003 at a tall ships festival in Sarnia, Ont.
Seven years later she was part of the crew, if only for a few short days.
“I got to sail it from Duluth to Thunder Bay,” she said, admitting she was hooked on the tall ship.
“Then this past summer I took a vacation in Nova Scotia because the tall ships were going to be in Halifax. Then I offered to volunteer my services while they were in port,” Smith said.
“I became a volunteer crew member helping out with merchandise sales and helping out with the tours while they were in port. Then I stayed on sailed through various ports in Nova Scotia,”
Kerry Berlinquette helped bring the Bounty to Thunder Bay in 2010 and said she woke up Monday morning to a flood of emails in her inbox telling her the ship had succumbed to the storm.
“I was like, oh my goodness, that’s terrible. Worse yet, to hear that they haven’t saved everyone yet, we’re hoping they’re going to find those other crew members,” said Berlinquette, who was in preliminary negotiations to bring the ship back to Thunder Bay, part of a larger festival she’s hoping to start.
She called it a huge loss, but remembered her short association with the Bounty fondly.
“It was very exciting. It wasn’t something that Thunder Bay gets to see every day. She was a very majestic ship and she was made for the movies, so of course she was exceptionally beautiful, especially when she left Thunder Bay and all her sails were up.”
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