Mystery on the Bounty


David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    Your #3 answers your #2. Remember, Bounty was an elderly lady built in the 60’s. Even with excellent maintenance any ship (especially a traditional wooden one like Bounty) would be more than a little brittle after fifty years.

    My Mum reports that there were black flags in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Bounty’s birth port. She was built to the original specs in the 1960s by shipwrights who were the last generation of traditional wooden ship builders of that style. Those men were elderly even when they built Bounty and they’ve long since shuffled off this mortal coil. Bounty may well have been irreplaceable*.

    I feel for the lost crew and actually feel a little cross with myself over how sad I am over the ship herself as if we lost three people at sea instead of two. It’s probably the macabre romantic in me but I suspect that Captain Walbridge’s final thoughts in that ocean as he passed into the great beyond were “of course, how appropriate”.

    *Which is not to knock modern wooden ship building, it’s faster, safer and stronger but still the old ways have allure.Report

    • Avatar David Ryan says:

      When Phil Bolger was commission to draw a replica of Rose (which went on to play SURPRISE in Master and Commander) he refused to draw her to the original specs because in his estimation they were unsafe. From the Bolger Yahoo group circa 2000:

      Phil did “Rose” from lines which were archived as Thomas Gillmer did “The Pride of Baltimore”. Per request, Gillmer drew Baltimore as close to the original as possible, which proved to be a colossal error. Because of the inadequate stability of the original and the clone hull, the boat capsized and sank a few years ago taking most of its crew to the bottom. Now there’s a new Pride of Baltimore not designed by Gillmer. The hull was designed to modern hydrostatics for safety, but the rest of the boat looks a lot like the original.

      Phil was a keen student of history, but a clear-eyed one too. About Herrreshoff’s beloved 12 1/2 he wrote:

      People used to be more casual about boats that could be dangerous when mishandled than we’re expected to be now. They treated foundering potential about the same way we do the consequences of 40-knot speed and meatchopper propellors.

      That in turn reminds me of an Auden quote I saw recently:

      “The old pre-industrial community and culture are gone and cannot be brought back. Nor is it desirable that they should be. They were too unjust, too squalid, and too custom-bound. Virtues which were once nursed unconsciously by the forces of nature must now be recovered and fostered by a deliberate effort of the will and the intelligence. In the future, societies will not grow of themselves. They will be either made consciously or decay.


      • Avatar North says:

        I agree with you entirely, thus my aside. Modern ship building is in every way superior to the industry that came before and I would never assert otherwise.

        And yet… and yet… I heard and old song down on fisherman’s wharf, can I sing it just one time…


        • Avatar David Ryan says:

          The thing that makes Phil Bolger so interesting as designer and philosopher is that his work drew generously from the past, and he would never dismiss the idea that part of boat design is romance or whimsy. Quoting the last paragraph of the introduction to Boat with an Open Mind:

          “History is a deep mine of such unexpected options in boat design, of beautify of which is that the requirement is hardly ever so sharply defined that the designer has to master a critical optimum. Even in the obvious matters of speed and weatherliness, an inferior options isn’t usually bad enough to prelude use of an out-of-the-way idea offering some convenience, or simply amusement. The category of Entertainer includes boat designers along with classical musicians and strippers.”


    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I think large wooden shipbuilding might at some point have a renaissance (assuming white oak and other good woods don’t go all wacky) due to cheap, accurate, CNC milling, as long as woodbending also improves (perhaps using high-pressure, high-temperature ammonia which temporarily plasticizes cellulose).

      A few decades ago I bought a huge book of line drawings of the Bounty, and have a plank-and-frame model of her under semi-perpetual construction.

      It’s a shame this incarnation was lost, along with two souls, but perhaps one lesson is that maybe such replicas should try to combine the old with more of the new, perhaps akin to something Disney would build as a wooden facade over a modern hull (ie. composite hull planked on both sides).

      I think perhaps there’s a final mission for this Bounty, too. Since they have the site of the wreck on GPS, it shouldn’t be at all hard to find it and watch the wreck change over time, recording the stages in the disintegration of a period wooden ship. Does anyone here know the water depth where she sank?Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Claudene Christian

    Any relation?Report