You Gotta Read This From A Former Crewmember Of The Bounty Written Just Days After The HMS Bounty Went Down

Falling Overboard

November 2, 2012 | by Robin Beth Schaer

Illustration by Madzia Bryll, a fellow member of the crew.

At first, I couldn’t sleep on the ship. At night, bunked beneath the waterline, I put my hand against the wooden hull and imagined dark water on the other side pressing back. I lay awake holding my breath, picturing the route I would swim through a maze of cabins and hatches if the ship went down. In port, Bounty had looked tremendous: one hundred and eighty feet long, three masts stretching a hundred feet into the sky, and a thousand square yards of canvas sails. But underway, with ocean spreading toward horizon in every direction, she was small, and inside her I was even smaller.

I had lost my job and my marriage when I saw Bounty for the first time. I wanted to stowaway, cast off, and leave the ruins of my life behind—and Bounty let me. Yet I left far more than grief on land; what mattered at home—education, achievements, appearance—was irrelevant at sea. It was unsettling to abandon all that I thought defined me. I sat in the galley with the other deckhands and wondered what they understood from my face. I was uncertain of what remained.

To leave the shore required surrender; I had to give myself over to the ship and the journey, wherever it led and whatever it revealed. I fell into the rhythms of standing watch and eating meals. Soon even the ship’s deep rolls and strange music of creaking timbers became familiar. I learned lines and sails, practiced emergency drills, and studied the compass and charts; I tarred, painted, spliced, caulked, and I finally slept. I slept deeply, trusting when I closed my eyes others were awake, on watch, keeping me safe, just as I had done for them. We were profoundly dependent on each other.

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4 Responses to You Gotta Read This From A Former Crewmember Of The Bounty Written Just Days After The HMS Bounty Went Down

  1. Incredible story. Robin saw that when you’re out on the ocean, you’re at the mercy of the sea and the weather. There is no big boat in the ocean.

  2. Alice says:

    If you read Robin’s essay carefully, you will note that she says she is at home, ashore, as she watches her ship sinking. ” I am split in two by the storm: I am home as my city floods, while at sea the ship loses power, founders, and begins to sink.” She was not one of the rescued. However, that does not devalue her experience of this ship sinking at all. I found comfort in her shared experience as it validated my feelings and experience of watching the ship and crew go down. Thanks for sharing this. I posted it on the Bounty Crew page so they can see it.

  3. New York Times article today covering the Bounty tragedy. Lufkin at the controls of the Helicopter hoist, Haba, the Coast Guard swimmer. They had practiced rescues but not in a washing machine with 30 foot waves.

    If the NYT paywall is back up just google “Evoking 18th-Century Drama, a Tragedy on the Bounty” and you’ll find it out there.

  4. Pingback: You Gotta Read This From A Former Crewmember Of The Bounty … | The Navy Campaign

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