Chapter 5: The Walbridge way
This wasn't the captain's first hurricane.
"There's no such thing as bad weather," he said just weeks before setting sail toward Sandy. "There's just different kinds of weather."
In a video that would eventually find its way to YouTube, he explained how to "get a good ride" out of a hurricane, by sailing "as close to the eye of it as you can" and staying behind the storm in its southeast quadrant.
"We chase hurricanes," Walbridge said, smiling.
The captain's third in command on this voyage, Dan Cleveland, 25, was a graduate of the Walbridge school of hurricane sailing.
The tall, likable former landscaper with a boyish, bearded face and a calming baritone voice joined the Bounty in 2008, his first tall ship job. Later that year, Walbridge conducted a lesson in hurricane navigation by charting a course right behind a storm off Central America.
You don't want to be in its path, Walbridge taught Cleveland, but finding a safe place behind the storm is OK. As the ship closed in on the eye, the captain backed off -- fearing its destructive power.
But not everyone was willing to sail the Walbridge way.
Two former Bounty crew members contacted by CNN portrayed the captain as a man who played fast and loose with the rules; a poor leader with an unpredictable command style, who was dismissive of protocol.
Just as Walbridge chose to set sail toward Hurricane Sandy, on other voyages he often made decisions about courses and destinations without consulting the crew, said Sarah Nelson, who served under Walbridge for nine months in 2007. The Bounty was Nelson's third tall ship; she is now a licensed captain.
When Nelson told friends she was joining the Bounty, they paused and took a deep breath. Not a good idea, they said. The boat was falling apart. But the Bounty was being overhauled at a shipyard, she responded. She was willing to suspend her doubts.
Her experience on the ship, however, confirmed her fears. She said that the Bounty operated in a gray area where the rules were vague and clever workarounds could save time, effort and money.
She witnessed the vessel appearing to violate maritime traffic rules while navigating the crowded Strait of Gibraltar.
She saw holes in one of the ship's masts. She reported it, she said, but nothing was done, and she felt unsafe.
Eventually, she reached her limit -- quitting in protest during the middle of a voyage.
Testimony confirmed at least one of Nelson's complaints: The mast on the Bounty was later replaced.
Another licensed captain and ex-Bounty crew member, Samantha Dinsmore, agrees with Nelson: Walbridge wasn't the best captain to work for, she said. He looked for easy solutions to potentially expensive problems like ship repairs, she said, and was a brilliant chess master at finding ways to get around the rules.
Occasionally he could be stubborn, said Dinsmore. And when sailors were on deck, they did what they were told.
John Svendsen, who'd worked with Walbridge for more than two years and was his first mate on Bounty's last voyage, said the captain could be "very firm in his ideas." But he never saw him seek out a storm. The Bounty, he said, wasn't chasing Hurricane Sandy.
Still, Nelson and Dinsmore said they weren't surprised to hear last October that the Bounty was in trouble.
Chapter 6: Crisis in the engine room
Sunday, October 28
A day after the change of course ordered by Walbridge, Bounty was less than 200 miles from the eye of the storm. The crew estimated winds at 70 mph and the seas at 25 feet. It took two people to guide Bounty's helm.
Above deck, the wind sliced a huge lower sail in half on the forward mast. Another wayward sail nearly injured Josh Scornavacchi as he fought to control it.