...I hope these young men and women have learned their lesson how foolish and naive they were, and almost paid with their life...
I also hope they learned from this close call. But I don't blame them. You can't expect novices (including myself) to "know what they don't know." They're at the mercy of their mentors. It's the responsibility of the captain and other certified crew to guide them appropriately, and in this case they were failed by their ship's leaders. It seems like many of them were merely apprentices, but the boat was staffed in a way that expected them to perform as if they were fully qualified. The responsibility for that deficiency rests with the captain, for he is the one with experience and training to recognize the appropriate balance of experienced crew and apprentices. It was also the responsibility of the Foundation to provide him with adequate funding to hire people with the right level of qualifications, so IMO the Foundation shares blame with him. And if they lacked that funding, they should should have stayed in one place as the "dockside attraction" stated in their certification.
That being said, I am concerned about how some are using their 20-20 hindsight to point blame. Case in point: All those who point fingers because the hurricane was so "very accurately forecast" (to quote Jan Miles' letter). That's a sure sign of hindsight, since you don't know the forecast was accurate until after the fact. I'm not saying that Walbridge should have ignored the forecast. It was clearly arrogant of him to think he knew better than the forecasters with his apparent belief (based on the track that he steered) that the hurricane would continue out to sea on a northwest path.
I am appalled at Jan Miles' self-serving letter. Aside from feeding our never-ending curiosity and letting off some of his own inner rage, what good comes from an open letter to a dead man?
What I want to know is where were all these experts as Bounty was preparing to head out to sea? A place like New London must have had dozens of knowledgeable captains and crew roaming the docks to prepare their craft for the approaching hurricane. They should have been telling Walbridge that he's out of his mind to go out. They should have been doing everything they could to convince Bounty's novice crew to mutiny. A ship that large can't just sneak out of the harbor unseen. They should have hopped into dinghys and followed Bounty though the harbor, yelling through megaphones what a big mistake they were making.
Tall ship captains are a small community that apparently "talks" (voice, text, and digital) among themselves a lot. If any one of them heard about Walbridge's plan ahead of time and didn't forcefully try to convince him otherwise, then they have blood on their hands too.
What also bugs me is the apparent disconnect between Walbridge's arrogance that we hear about now, vs. the reports that he had a "great reputation" before this accident. Which is it? If this tragedy was foretold by his prior history of chasing hurricanes and getting away with it (including a prior USCG rescue when his bilge pumps failed previously), why weren't his "friends" in the tall ship community expressing their concerns to him about his reckless past history? If everyone knew the new planks were nailed onto a rotted frame, why weren't his "friends" ratting out this dangerous vessel? If the tall ship community knew that this "shoreside attraction" was skirting the rules by disguising unqualified passengers as qualified crew, why weren't they protecting their colleagues by reporting them to the authorities?
It seems now like everyone in that community is piling on with their hindsight about how reckless the captain was. Too bad they didn't do a little more piling on before two people lost their lives.