New Brunswick

HMS Bounty's loss in Sandy mourned by original crew member

A Moncton, N.B., man who was a member of the original crew of the replica tall ship HMS Bounty in 1960 and appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty is mourning the loss of the vessel in superstorm Sandy.

Roy Boutilier, with the original crew of the replica tall ship in 1960, worked on Marlon Brando film

The U.S. Coast Guard has ordered a formal investigation into the sinking of HMS Bounty. (U.S. Coast Guard)

A Moncton, N.B., man who was a member of the original crew of the replica tall ship HMS Bounty in 1960 and appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty is mourning the loss of the vessel in superstorm Sandy.

Roy Boutilier spoke as a formal investigation is underway into the Nova Scotia-built ship's sinking off the coast of North Carolina on Oct. 29.

Roy Boutilier, of Moncton, N.B., has fond memories of the replica tall ship HMS Bounty. (Michael R. LeBlanc/CBC)

One crew member died and the captain is still missing.

Boutilier says he was in Florida, visiting his friend and past captain of the Bounty, Hugh Boyd, at the time.

"We were together to watch all that on the television in his home and I tell you, it was quite something. The emotions were absolutely incredible — to watch that beautiful vessel go down, with loss of life, of course, it was shocking," Boutilier told CBC News.

He described the deckhand whose body was recovered from the seas — Claudene Christian, 42 — as a "very lovely girl.

"She was absolutely dedicated to the Bounty," said Boutilier. "It's very sad."

The 16 vessel crew decided to abandon ship after getting caught in 5.5-metre seas about 320 kilometres southeast of Hatteras, N.C.

As crew members scrambled to get to covered life-rafts, three of them — including Christian and captain Robin Walbridge, 63 — were washed overboard. Walbridge has not been seen since and the search for him was called off on Nov. 1.

Boutilier said he doesn't understand why the Bounty was out in the storm and hopes the investigation ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard will provide some answers.

"My original thought, as well as [past] captain Boyd's thought, was, 'What is she doing there?' There's no need of her, we felt, no need of her being in that position she was in.

"There was plenty of warning about that storm. And so we just couldn't fathom it at all," said Boutilier. "Why? Why was she there?"

Fond memories of maiden voyage

HMS Bounty last sailed out of Halifax Harbour in July. (CBC)

Boutilier says memories of the Bounty's maiden voyage from Lunenburg to Tahiti in 1960 are never far from his mind.

He was not originally chosen as part of the crew for the ship, built for the filming of the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, based on the real 1789 mutiny aboard the HMAV Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian against the ship's captain, William Bligh.

But when one of the crew members failed a physical, MGM's Jim Havens called Boutilier and asked if he could set sail with them the following morning.

"I hung up the phone and I just about passed out," Boutilier said with a laugh.

"And I walked up that gangplank and Jim Havens was standing there with his arms crossed. He was a very severe man, and he looked at his watch and he said, 'Welcome aboard son,' and I was 19 years old on my way to Tahiti."

Boutilier spent nine months with the Bounty during the filming, sailing through the Panama Canal and across the South Pacific.

"We met some major storms ourselves actually during those days," he said.

And the Bounty's round hull meant she "bobbed a lot," making Boutilier, who had never been to sea before and had no sea legs, seasick.

'It was a thrill' to sail Bounty

Still, she was "a joy to sail," said Boutilier.

"She was a beautiful, beautiful vessel … and it was just an honour to be able to climb up in that rigging and furl the sails and just be a major part of it. It was a thrill."

Appearing in the film several times in a non-speaking role, and working with the stars, such as the late Marlon Brando, who played 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian, was also a thrill, said Boutilier.

Although Brando was difficult with his superiors, he was charming with "nobodies" like him, he said.

"I brought a picture along of the Bounty under full sail, and I asked him if he would sign it for me and he said, 'Roy, I don't sign anything for anybody.' And I said, 'Oh, OK.' And he said, 'But I'll sign this for you.'"

The late Trevor Howard, who played Captain Bligh, also signed the picture, which Boutilier still has, along with a photo album full of memories.

"I'm 71 years old now and there’s not a day goes by, never a day goes by that I don’t think of the Bounty, and particularly now, of course, because there is no more Bounty, but it’s a huge part of my life and it always will be."

The Bounty has also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest starring Johnny Depp.