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post #123 of Old 12-07-2012
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Re: An Informed Opinion about the Bounty

After reading the ABC report, numerous other news reports, and watching the two Youtube videos that were posted, I believe this ship, and its management there of, had lots of problems before it went to sea in the face of the hurricane.

1) ABC described the engineer as a handyman, and there was no mention of his experience, if any with diesel engines, generators, pumps, and the like. Additionally, the article suggests that he didn't have lots of familiarity with what he had on board. I feel that this man did everything that he possibly could to keep things working, but I wonder, had there been a more qualified person in that job, would the outcome have been different? Specifically, a broken fuel guage was mentioned. Not giving out of fuel on the engines is rather important....wasn't there another way of checking fuel...a measuring tape through a fill port? But the article seem to suggest, that the guage was broken and a guess was made that they still had fuel in this tank. Couldn't they have switched to another tank with a working guage until they confirmed the fuel level in the tank with the broken guage? There was no mention, that I remember, of even topping off the fuel tanks before they left port to go into this storm. Maybe he was highly qualified...I don't know, and I do know that often the news organizations get it wrong in their reports and that they write from a standpoint to make the story interesting.

2) The crew seemed unaware that the storm was coming according to some of the reports. How could you not know? The networks were playing up the storm from the beginning. The crew members had families who were in contact, so you know they had to know. Everyone is a buzz about the storm that is going to hit the northeast and possibly NY city. And buzzing about how bad the storm is and how large.

3) In working the sails, I saw that the crew members had on safety line harnesses, but I saw only one who was hooking up or hooked up. Maybe the others were hooked in, but to me, at least, it wasn't obvious. And if I am correct, that tends to say alot about safety practices on the ship. And in working the sails, they really didn't seem to quite know what they were doing, however, in storm/bad conditions, things become more difficult and things don't always work as they should.

4) The engine room work space was cluttered and lots of things were not secured for sea, much less for a storm, rather lots of things were just laying about and loose. In no way was that ship ready to go to sea, much less going into a hurricane. Trash in the bilges is notorious for plugging pumps. (Granted that the video was not from the fatal voyage, but if it wasn't ready in one case, it was unlikely to be ready in others.)

5) The ships that I served on in the Navy had heavy weather procedures that required extra preparations to secure the ship and its gear. But there is no mention of a heavy weather procedure or special preparations before they got underway. Had they had such practices, the crew would have been working throughout the day before getting underway, just in case they might have to leave. Even at the dock, there was no mention of doubling lines and otherwise securing the ship in place. But the ABC article suggests that they were only informed that they might/would get underway one hour before they did. Even though we were not in the path of the storm, I spent a half day securing my little boat in preparation...they were in the path and then going into the storm and did nothing extra, if you believe the ABC report. And my marina, as I suspect many do, requires a detailed hurricane plan for every boat...and the marina is not going anywhere. It's written out in detail, how many lines, where they attach, what's to be removed, etc. and even has a Plan B spelled out in the event, for some unknown reason Plan A has to be aborted. Should a ship do less?

5) Giving the crew a one hour notice that we are getting underway, seems like a impulsive, knee jerk decision. The captain had to have been running through his mind how to best help his ship...stay put, move somewhere else, ride it out in the storm. And he had to be thinking about this for a long time. If everyone had been informed earlier, and they were making preparations just in case they did get underway, once the final decision had been made, giving one hour notice to decide whether crew members would go or not go is ok and reasonable. But if they were caught by surprise in the one hour framework that has been suggested, that was totally inappropriate.

6) This ship was a movie prop. As I understand it, it was originally was to be burned upon completion of the movie making. It was not and instead had a life in more movies, exhibitions, and ocean sailing. But the boat was a movie prop, and while naval architects were likely involved in designing and/or modifying the ship, they likely did it with emphasis on being a prop and exhibition ship, not one that is going to be spending its time at sea in storms and the like. Cost would increase significantly if you are building for real sea service and I think that the movie accountants would have a say in keeping movie production costs down. Consequently, in my opinion, the ship was being used in a manner for which it was not suited, especially in intentionally going to sea in extreme storms. Additionally, in the yard repairs/modifications, it seems from the reports, that finances may have been tight, in which case, decisions on what to repair, and how, were likely governed by the money available and not necessarily what was needed.

7) Someone mentioned ballast, which was typically used on those early ships in the form of rocks. No mention of ballast for Bounty. Part of the Navy heavy weather procedures for the ships that I was on was, when I served in 60's & 70's, to fill empty fuel tanks and partially filled tanks with sea water to help ballast down to assure the stability of the ship.

So the bottom line, to me, is that the more I learn about the situation, the more disturbing it is. Others may disagree.
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