The sinking of HMS Bounty off the coast of North Carolina in rough seas brought on by Hurricane Sandy was an "unfortunate, tragic accident," the wife of Capt. Robin Walbridge tells CBC's As It Happens.
One crew member died after the tall ship went down on Oct. 29. Fourteen people survived, and while initial reports suggested the captain might be among the survivors, the U.S. Coast Guard later suspended the search for the 63-year-old.
Walbridge's wife, Claudia McCann, spoke to As It Happens co-host Carol Off about her husband, his experience as a sailor, and what she has learned in recent weeks about the sinking of the replica tall ship.
Some have questioned why Walbridge chose to sail given the storm conditions, but McCann said people who weren't there with Walbridge and the crew "can't make that call."
- Listen to the full interview above, or visit As It Happens online.
"I truly feel if he had any reservations he would not have done it," she said from St. Petersburg, Fla. "He wasn't gambling with anyone's lives. He didn't have a death wish...and he loved the boat. The last thing he wanted to do was lose the ship."
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating in an effort to determine an official cause of the sinking. The probe will look at a range of issues, including whether there was mechanical or equipment failure, and whether there was any negligence, misconduct or inattention to duty.
A local public television interview with Walbridge from the summer included a quote from the captain saying that he had previously chased hurricanes.
In the interview, Walbridge said "you try and get up as close to the eye of it as you can, and you stay down in the southeast quadrant, and when it stops, you stop. You don't want to get in front of it — you want to stay behind it. But you'll also get a good ride out of a hurricane."
McCann said Tuesday that during the public television interview her husband was "being a little…cute, I guess."
"But he would like hurricanes because they pushed him, they made him go fast. And he's been in many hurricanes. I mean, I can't even count the number of hurricanes he's been in."
McCann said her husband had been trying to navigate around the storm "and get on the east side of it, which is what he did do."
She said that in the weeks since the ship went down, she has learned of a series of "unfortunate circumstances" at sea, including overwhelmed pumps and generator problems.
The crew has been "extremely supportive and caring and loving" since the sinking, McCann said, adding that the first mate spoke to her about her husband's dedication to safety.
McCann said she will remember her husband as a "humble, gentle soul" who touched people's lives around the world.