The original Bounty and many of these ships were built during the age when we really had very little weather forecasting or prediction. That science was spearheaded hugely by the introduction of space satelllites in the mid 1960s.
So when these ships sailed originally in the 14th-mid 20th centuries they ran into severe weather. Obviously they either survived the weather or sunk. We extoll the coragousness of these men for setting out and being brave explorers and colonists of the Americas and their trade.
If judged by todays standards companies like the Dutch East India Trading Company were recklessly sending these men out in leaky boats ill equipped to handle these storms. None of them had engines, electric pumps etc.
Thanks for the compliments. I spent several years before I joined any Tall Ship (or ever sailed, for that matter) working in maritime museums (Civil War and Jamestown eras), and I have been known to nerd out once in a while.
I'd make the argument that many of these sailors and explorers (in reference to officers) were by no means heading to sea blindly. There are thousands of years of knowledge and sailing lore that we use today. In the Bible, Jesus references the old adage, "red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailor's take warning," (Matthew 16:2-3) a statement that sailors heed today, even with all our fancy equipment.
There's an interesting little article on NatGeo about hurricanes, and instead of quoting it I'll just link to it. (Hurricanes of History -- From Dinosaur Times to Today
And no, most of these ships didn't have engines or electric ships, but they did have hand pumps, which can go a long way.
Bowditch has been around sore over 200 years and Chapman's 100 years, and both are bibles to many mariners.
I'm not focused enough to think about this post too much right now (Christmas flu! Woohoo!) so please forgive me. But really, I recommend Dava Sobel's book "Longitude" and Tony Horwitz's "A Voyage Long and Strange" for some basic understanding of how much mariners did and didn't understand.
Many of the tales told about by the seaman aboard these ships reflect that going to sea was an extremely dangerous occupation, and that for some of them a way of escaping opppression and / or their poor life in theoir countries as well as escaping religios persecution. Many paid with their lives, I am sure for what today we consider recklessness.
Why when we recreate this with many of the tall ships reinactments cruises (I have been on a number) is this not looked at this way. In fact the lifestyle of the tall ship crew has almost a mystique about it like its an Outward Bound Adventure. Somewhere in this giant thread of postings there was discussion of the crew of the Bounty and they were refered to as "cult followers" in regards to the Captain. I didnt beleive that, but maybe there is an element of truth to it.
You obviously love what you do and have fallen in love with the tall ships and their beauty, pureness and historical place in our lives.
As modern crew, we are aware of what our predecessors faced, and have had the discussion of whether we could "do it." Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In the end and for the most part, we are thankful that we have the modern technology and resources we have today. I do believe that we are aware how far we have come, and how much we do not understand still. One of my favorite captains, who was 61 at the time, explained to me that after 40+ years of captaining, the sea still had lessons for him.
To get back to your questions, there is SO much we don't know about sailing 200 years ago, nevermind millennia ago. Lynx and Pride of Baltimore II, both similarly designed vessels have found out in the last 11 and 24 years respectively (and the first Pride in her nine years) that we do not know enough about basic things like rig structure of boat designs less than 200 years old.
The ancient Polynesians traveled between tiny islands thousands of nautical miles apart, and scholars have no idea how they found their way. Clearly, islanders not only knew how to travel around, but also knew the weather. As I'm writing this, there is an amazing NOVA show on television about recreating an ancient Egyptian boat, one that sailed on the Red Sea and beyond. (Video: Building Pharaoh's Ship | Watch NOVA Online | PBS Video
Is it safer now? Assuming you feel it is what makes it safer?
Are there inherent risks in sailing centuries old designed ships?
Why do you think those Captains who sailed 300 years ago in those
rickety boats were not considered reckless and putting their crews in
danger when the cast off into the unknown.
Do I feel "safer?" We have better and more exact resources for predicting weather. We have EPIRBs, the USCG, SSB and VHF (and many other acronyms). We have backup systems like engines and engine- and electric-powered water pumps. We have watertight doors and regular inspections and drills. But no matter what tools we have or protections in place, it does come down to us as mariners maintaining our vessels, being aware, making prudent decisions, and learning from our and others experiences.
When the first Pride of Baltimore sank, the shipwrights, sailors, and everyone involved in the community learned from it. Part of that was adding watertight hatches and reducing sail.
To call it "reckless" is painting the explorers in broad ignorant strokes. As others have said, the difference between (to use posters' term) Walbridge's "reckless" decisions and the "recklessness" of past explorers and sailors is the "why" and the use of knowledge available to them.