14 rescued, 2 missing from tall ship off NC
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — A replica tall ship caught in Hurricane Sandy’s wrath began taking on water, forcing the crew to abandon the boat today in rough seas off the North Carolina coast. The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members by helicopter, but two people were still missing.
Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba helped pluck several crew members off a 25-foot rubber life raft. He was also lowered to a crew member floating in the water alone. He wrapped a strap around his body, and raised him to the chopper.
“It’s one of the biggest seas I’ve ever been in. It was huge out there,” Haba said.
Two crew members of the HMS Bounty were adrift wearing survival suits designed to help keep them afloat and protected from cold waters for up to 15 hours, but so far the Coast Guard hasn’t seen any sign of them.
The HMS Bounty, which has been featured in Hollywood films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” left Connecticut last week, en route to St. Petersburg, Fla.
“They were staying in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center,” said Tracie Simonin, the director of the HMS Bounty Organization. “They were trying to make it around the storm.”
The Coast Guard received a distress call late Sunday from the 180-foot, three-mast ship. At about 8 a.m., a helicopter had located the sinking ship, its masts partly underwater and most of the crew, who had gotten into 25-foot rubber life rafts.
Amid winds of 40 mph and 18-foot seas, rescuers were able to save most of the crew from the life boats about 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill said.
Those rescued were taken to Elizabeth City. Most of the crew were in their 30s, although one man appeared to be in his 70s, Coast Guard officials said.
The ship left Connecticut on Thursday 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. However, a statement on its website acknowledged, “this will be a tough voyage for Bounty,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The ship was built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” which starred Marlon Brando, and has been featured in other movies.
The HMS Bounty has docked off and on over the years at The Pier in St. Petersburg, Fla., and was scheduled to eventually arrive there in November, said Carol Everson, general manager of The Pier.
The ship was permanently docked in St. Petersburg for many decades. In 1986, it was bought by Ted Turner, and in 2001, it was purchased by its current owner, New York businessman Robert Hansen.
About 10 years ago, the ship underwent a multi-million dollar restoration.
In recent years, the ship has wintered in Puerto Rico and travels in the spring and summer. In August, large crowds greeted the ship when it sailed into St. Augustine, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.