Bligh boat voyagers bail for their lives

Four sailors sailing a 25ft gunter-rigged launch to recreate Captain William Bligh’s open boat voyage, suffered a serious knockdown and near capsize.

Skipper Don McIntyre, an Australian circumnavigator and his three crew were hit by an unexpected breaking wave just five days before they are set to land in Kupang.  The mast of the Talisker Bounty Boat started to sink beneath the waves and only furious bailing saved the day.

Don McIntyre posted the following account onto his blog:
‘Conditions had moderated during tonight and the atmosphere onboard was very relaxed…I had four hours good sleep and had just been on the helm for two hours..there was very little breaking seas..about 3 meter waves and 15 to 20kts of wind….we did not consider ourselves in the danger zone of big seas and a dying wind which can make them dump…I did not have my harness or life jacket was 0100hrs…the two Dave’s were asleep below…Chris was on the helm and the stars were booming out from the milky way was good!!

‘I heard the wave break about 8 meters on our port side and come toward us at 90degrees to everything else all night..I stood up thinking I would get wet as I was sitting on the life raft…it hit hard..the boat slowly lifted as she went over with the mast lingering on the water as the boat continued to move forward as we had been sailing at about 5-6kts…then we stopped dead with water pouring over the starboard side filling the boat..I had been thrown down to that side and watched as the mast started to go under…At that point I knew the Dave’s were headed out to bucket but I screamed out get your life jackets as it looked like we would be inverted within seconds…I reached in the now side past the vertical dodger to get my life Jacket…after holding on its side for too long..maybe only 30 seconds ..Fortunately we started to slowly recover..the boat was flooded but we were vertical..waves were now coming freely in to the cockpit as Dave. W and I started Bucketing..Dave W was still getting his jacket on and getting the cooking pot to bail…I told Chris to hold dead down wind and we went for it as fast as we could..Dave W then went into the aft cockpit and used the cooking pot..within a few minutes we were winning the race and the last bit was pumped out..

‘We have lost a bit of gear over the side but nothing important..most things in the dodger got very wet including the log and one iridium phone but all look salvageable.

‘I am truly amazed about this knockdown..the conditions were totally benign…very pleasant in fact so this one really caught us out…last night I slept in my harness/life jacket…looks like more of the same for the rest of this evening..

‘It was a scary sight watching the mast slowly sink below the waves once we stopped..I was sure we were going in and in a strange way it was all the training about to kick in so I was pretty calm…as long as we all got to our life jacket/Harness and got out from under the dodger…if not big problems…our harness’s are vital..they include knife, Cyalume sticks, Rocket flares and red/smoke flares and importantly all our individual Fast Find 406 GPS PLB’s…we would have had a good fight getting the boat upright again …so all those other things are just a last resort..but nice to know they are there…

‘I wonder how Bligh would have coped with a similar wave…I think TBB is an excellent sea boat but being smaller than Bligh’s launch may be the only weakness…who knows..TBB is a very safe boat well prepared and crewed but I always said from the very beginning that this adventure has an unknown outcome which is the attraction…..

‘We have trained for an inversion…I just prefer it not to happen…someone is looking over us…just maybe it is Bligh…he would want us to get to the end I am sure….’