By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Northwest Maritime Center Executive Director Jake Beattie worked on the 180-foot vessel for 18 months in the late 1990s.
“It was a great job,” Beattie said.
“I learned all about preserving traditional practices,” he said, “and it was all about getting people to experience what the age of sail was really like.”
The Bounty, a replica of an 18th-century tall ship, sank off the North Carolina coast during Hurricane Sandy on Monday, with 16 crew members abandoning ship about 145 miles out to sea.
Of the crew, 14 were rescued, and one woman died while Capt. Robin Walbridge, 63, was still missing as of Wednesday afternoon.
Beattie, 36, was just out of college when he volunteered to serve on the Bounty as a deckhand for a month.
A year and a half later, he was the vessel's first mate.
This experience included a close call.
“The last time the Bounty tried to sink off of [Cape] Hatteras, I was in the engine room up to my chest in bilge water, rebuilding pumps to buy us time until the Coast Guard arrived,” Beattie said.
“We were luckier that day.”
During that time, he worked for Walbridge, who he called “my mentor.”
Beattie said that people shouldn't jump to conclusions as to why the boat was out in the middle of the storm.
“It's easy to Monday-morning-quarterback, but we don't know the story behind the story,” Beattie said.
“When I knew Robin, he had already been sailing 30 years and was one of the best mariners and managers of a ship that I had ever met,” Beattie said.
He was great,” he added.
“Obviously, whatever he chose to do ended up not being the right thing,” Beattie said.
“When you go to sea, you make your best guess,” he said.
“Sometimes it's the right decision, or you can make the right decision and end up with bad consequences,” Beattie said.
Walbridge skippered the Bounty when it visited the North Olympic Peninsula in 2008, pulling into both Port Townsend and Port Angeles.
Beattie said he felt raw emotion after hearing about the disaster and dealt with the feelings in a Facebook post.
“What I do today I do because of what I was a part of Bounty, because Robin Walbridge helped me see it,” he wrote Tuesday.
“I'm not alone. People from the '99 crew — just one year of many Robin helped along — have become captains and pilots, USCG officers, educators and executives.
“It was 14 years ago when I stepped aboard,” Beattie said.
“I still feel closer to that crew than most other folks I have met since.”
While Walbridge has served continuously as captain since Beattie's tenure, the ship has gone through a lot of changes: It has changed hands and been extensively renovated.
“When I left Bounty, we were out of money for payroll, out of money for Bondo and duct tape,” Beattie wrote.
“After downrigging to the lowers with a skeleton crew of four people too stubborn to leave, the last thing I did in the winter of '99 was to put the bilge pumps on a timer, install a lock on the companionway and walk away with tears in my eyes,” Beattie continued in his post.
“I've got them again.
“Rest in peace, Bounty.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.