Damning Testimony at the Bounty Hearing


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 BlaiseP says:

    I don’t know anything about how such things are done, but surely some regulatory body could keep a structurally unsound ship from putting to sea.Report

    • Avatar David Ryan in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Like MON TIKI, the Bounty was a USCG Inspected Passenger Vessel, and based on the post cited, it seems unlikely she would have passed her next (annual) inspection, and would have been ordered to cease passenger carrying operations unless and until the vessel’s deficiencies were corrected.

      As I understand the article, the USCG did issue an Urgent Notice to Mariners specifically for Bounty after she was at sea, but not on the basis of her condition; the UNTM was issued because Sandy was a dangerous storm in Bounty’s path.

      There is no regulatory regime in place that would have made the Coast Guard aware of her condition until her next USCG inspection. The shipwrights obligation was to inform the master of the vessel, which he did. Why Captain Walbridge took the course of action he did can only be guessed at.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David Ryan says:

        That’s just madness. As I understand it, Bounty had already lost her USCG license once and been obliged to replace planking in 2002. There was supposedly another “restoration” in 2007. Surely someone would have observed the framing was in bad shape somewhere along the line there.

        I know nothing about how such inspections are done but if those planks were put over rotten framing, well — WTF.Report

        • Avatar David Ryan in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Agreed that it’s madness, but its the Bounty’s captain and owner’s madness, not the regulatory regime.

          Like a restaurant, there are unsafe conditions that can arise between inspections that are the restaurant’s responsibility to correct at the time they occur, rather than waiting for an inspector to come and make note of them.

          And again, Bounty was not operating under any regulatory regime at the time of her loss. She was not carrying passengers for hire. Her condition and fitness for duty was not a regulatory concern. From a regulatory stand-point she was no different from a boat that I made in my driveway and launched off the beach.Report

  2. Avatar Parris says:

    Growing up in St. Petersburg in the 70’s, we (I, rather) implicitly regarded the moored replica of The Bounty as typical Florida-kitsch designed to lighten unsuspecting snow-birds of the over-priced $2.50 admission fee. Being of the enlightened native population, I must have walked, biked, boarded, bladed, and later driven past The Bounty down by The Pier a million times, but I never set foot on her decks.

    Still, a decade later and 500 miles distant in Atlanta, the mid-80’s news of The Bounty finally leaving her St. Petersburg berth made me feel a tinge of loss. It was precisely the 70’s kitsch that had made Florida such a special place for such a small window of time in my childhood, before the comparatively-synthetic corporate era of MGM, Universal Studios, etc.

    It was places like the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks; Sunken Gardens; road-side Mom & Pop aligator/monkey farms; the Weeki Wachee mermaid show; the Tic-Tac-Toe-playing chicken in the decaying diner at Webb City (formerly the World’s Largest Drug Store); the depressing St. Petersburg Beach aquarium; the abandoned Vinoy resort that stood like a sentinel overlooking The Bounty; and The Bounty herself – they were all the last relics of an age of innocence that no longer exists in Florida, and never will again.

    That photo kills me. The Bounty deserved better. What a shame.Report

  3. Avatar Ginny says:

    Bounty was not USCG Inspected Passenger Vessel. It could not get that certification and did not have the same inspection requirements of sail training vessels. It was certified as a “dockside attraction,” with much more minimal requirements. It was not a sail training vessel and was not permitted to take passengers. This is why it survived with many “volunteer” crew because it couldnt take paying passengers. Lot of loopholes in the regulations that need to be closed.Report

    • Avatar David Ryan in reply to Ginny says:

      You may be right about here being certified as a dockside attraction. Here’s her listing in the USCG database:


      It shows her documented as an UPV, but if you do a search on her records, there are many entries for Certificate of Documentation.

      As to her volunteer crew, what loophole would you close? Requiring inspection of every vessel with a volunteer crew would mean every recreational vessel in the US fleet.

      From the testimony in the cited article, it seems bounty wasn’t fit to go to sea. But she went to sea as a private vessel. How would you regulate that?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David Ryan says:

        It seems to me, based on what I’ve dug up, if Bounty’s repairs were as slipshod as the work done on Shenandoah, it’s small wonder Bounty came to pieces.

        Presumably, and here I betray my complete ignorance, a shipyard like Boothbay would have a master who would vouch for the soundness of a vessel, much akin to a home inspector, rootling around and finding structural problems. A house can be condemned for such. Why not a ship?Report

        • Avatar David Ryan in reply to BlaiseP says:

          At the risk of repeating myself, by what mechanism will this be done?

          Vessels used to be regulated by tonnage, as described in Making a Living in the Wake of the Pelican Disaster, but this encouraged the unsafe operation of smaller vessel. Now vessels are regulated by the number of passengers they carry 1-6 barely regulated and then very regulated at 7 or more (with rising regulatory burdens as the passenger count grows.)

          Please give a rubric by which vessels not carrying passengers for hire would be regulated? Many 40 footers could safely carry 16, the number on Bounty when she sank. How will you decide which non-commercial vessels will be inspected. Where will the money come from to do this?Report