Former local man missing off sunken HMS Bounty
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | October 30,2012
AP Photo / Mark Duncan
In this July 7, 2010 file photo, the tall ship HMS Bounty sails on Lake Erie off Cleveland.
The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued 14 members of the crew forced to abandon the HMS Bounty caught in Hurricane Sandy off North Carolina.
MONTPELIER — Relatives of the missing captain of the HMS Bounty, the three-masted sailing ship that sank Monday morning in Hurricane Sandy, say he was born and raised in Vermont.
Robin Walbridge, 63, has been the captain of the ship since 1995.
His sister, Lucille Walbridge Jansen, said he was born in St. Johnsbury and graduated from Montpelier High School.
Walbridge’s wife, Claudia McCann, said the U.S. Coast Guard told her that Walbridge was missing after the ship lost power, took on water and sank off the coast of North Carolina.
The Coast Guard initially rescued 14 others, and one other person was missing. Late Monday the Coast Guard said that crew member, Claudene Christian, was pulled from the water unresponsive and taken to the hospital. Crews continued to search for Walbridge.
“My brother was very devoted and committed (to his crew),” Walbridge Jansen said Monday. “He certainly would make sure that every member of his crew was safe before he would turn any concern to himself.”
The HMS Bounty originally was a prop for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” starring Marlon Brando. Since then the ship had been used for private parties, weddings and tours.
Walbridge Jansen said the Bounty left New London, Conn., on Thursday bound for St. Petersburg, Fla., where it was based. Walbridge was trying to skirt the storm before the diesel engine on the ship failed.
Walbridge Jansen recalled that her father would load the family into their Volkswagen Beetle to take vacations in Maine when she was a child. There Walbridge found his love of boats.
“He really wanted a lobster boat,” she said.
After Walbridge graduated from high school, he worked as a cook at Lake Morey in Fairlee, where he had more exposure to boating, she said.
“After that, he just kind of did anything he could with boats,” said Walbridge Jansen, who lives in Massachusetts.
The peak of his sailing career was when he trained the sailors of “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, for its 1997 voyage after being dormant for 116 years.
Walbridge Jansen said her brother was always at sea.
“His life is the Bounty. He ate, drank and breathed Bounty,” she said.