Hearing: Bounty that sank had 'decaying frame and undetermined rot'

Bounty in the death throes, two lives lost, now the investigation
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The replica 18th-century sailing ship Bounty that sank off North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy had a decaying frame with an undetermined amount of rot in it before leaving port. This is what a Maine shipyard worker has told federal officials Wednesday at an investigative hearing.

HMS Bounty
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The ship, which was built for the 1962 film 'Mutiny on the Bounty,' starring Marlon Brando, sank in October last year, with two fatalities including the Captain, Robin Waldridge, whose body was never found.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members by helicopter. The ship had left Connecticut several days before the incident when Sandy was over Cuba, and its path and effect on the East Coast was still somewhat certain. Sandy was then forecast to be several hundred miles off the Carolinas coast.

Days before it sank, the vessel had rerouted to avoid the brunt of Sandy. (See http://www.sail-world.com/Cruising/international/HMS-Bounty-sinks-in-Hurricane-Sandy---two-missing/103321!Sail-World_story)

Officials from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are holding eight days of hearings to determine what caused it to sink and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Todd Kosakowski told the panel that he showed Capt. Robin Walbridge the rot he found in the ship when his workers were replacing several planks at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard several weeks before the storm.

'I told him that I was more than worried about what we found,' Kosakowski said. Rather than replacing the rotted wood - as Kosakowski said was the only way to fix it - the ship's crew painted it over, he said.

Walbridge was 'terrified' at what he saw, but he decided against removing additional planks to see how extensive the damage was and going ahead and replacing it, he said.

'It was very quickly shot down by the captain,' Kosakowski said. 'That would have required a significant amount of time and money.'

Kosakowski said he was concerned about the ship's condition when it left the shipyard and that he had advised Walbridge to avoid 'heavy weather.'

After the ship left the Maine shipyard, it headed to New London, Conn. There, it provided a tour for Navy sailors stationed at a submarine base.

HMS Bounty officials also met with a potential buyer for the ship before it started making its way to Florida and heading directly.

Before leaving Maine, Kosakowski said, Walbridge told him that he had told the ship's owner, Robert Hansen, that he should get rid of the boat as soon as possible.

Hansen has declined to testify at the hearings, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to be protected from incriminating himself.

Although the hearing being administered by the panel isn't a criminal proceeding, any evidence of wrongdoing could be referred to federal prosecutors.

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