Losing the Bounty in the storm of the century

The Bounty and Theodore Too in happier times

We’re heading into the fury of hurricane Sandy in the next few hours, and in the middle of it all, the loss of a tall ship, the Bounty. We’re still waiting to hear the fate of the people on board, and some are still missing, so perhaps it’s too soon to talk about the loss of this gorgeous ship. But she’s playing in my mind, the vision of a small ship against huge waves, the realization that there would be no saving her, the decision to abandon ship. It’s dramatic, gruesomely visual, and absolutely terrifying.

The Bounty  was off the shore of North Carolina with crew working hard as Sandy approached. We don’t know why they were sailing in such a time of risk – perhaps they didn’t have time to get to safe harbour, or thought to sail ahead of it. I can’t imagine the feelings of the families of crew members – they were a variety of ages, from teen to adult. They are still waiting for news.

I have a small understanding of the feeling – during the huge blackout in Ontario, my son was in the rigging of his own tall ship, sailing as crew on Lake Ontario in a terrible thunderstorm. I spent a lot of time studiously NOT thinking about him that day. I do a lot of that with him, as he sailed with the Naval Reserve on ships with broken-down bits, or travelled through Vietnam and caught amoebic dysentery in Cambodia. If I spent time worrying about him, I’d have gnawed through my knuckles by now. Right now I’m NOT thinking about my other son, in the air from Istanbul, probably arriving right in the middle of the storm.

The Bounty was built in Lunenburg in the 1960’s and created for the movie in the 60’s – Mutiny on the Bounty. She was beautifully made, participated in all the tall ships festivals, hung out in Halifax a lot between training trips. Lots and lots of teens experienced tall ship sailing on her, and she had many admirers, even a few pirates. A beautiful square-rigged ship, now lost.

There’s something to be said about an old-style ship facing the storms of a post-global warming world. This madness that we are creating is destroying things of beauty – the world as a whole, but also the smaller things – so many more potentially to be lost in the rest of Sandy as she screams by New York and Boston and into Ontario. It’s starting to get scary out there, folks. Scarier than the throb of wind vanes, the alteration of shorelines by tidal power, the sheets of solar power panels. We need to start thinking smaller, not buying that huge TV, not driving that huge car, not living large.

Because, hey, we’re coming to the point where all that could be swept away by the fury of a planet ignored. Like the Bounty, we might think we are shipshape, but we run the risk of being lost. And we’re not wearing survival suits like the crew of the Bounty.

Sending my wishes and hopes that all will be brought home safely…

Pirates from the Bounty taking a break after watching the launch of the Bluenose II