The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 30, 2012

Wife of tall ship captain awaits word on his fate

— ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard used ships and airplanes to search the Atlantic on Tuesday for the captain of the sunken HMS Bounty as the sailor's wife held on to a sliver of hope that he had survived the harrowing ordeal.

The Coast Guard was also optimistic Robin Walbridge, 63, of St. Petersburg, Fla., could still be alive in his blazing red survival suit 90 miles off the North Carolina coast. Walbridge went overboard early Monday when the replica 18th-century sailing vessel, made famous in Hollywood adventure films, rolled over in 18-foot waves.

Walbridge's wife waited in their in St. Petersburg home to hear any word, surrounded by friends and crying often.

"He's been in many storms. He's been doing this a good portion of his life. He's been in lots of hairy situations and he's very familiar with the boat. Same boat for 17 years, he knows it like the back of his hand," Claudia McCann told The Associated Press by telephone.

The searched for Walbridge was hampered by 15-feet waves, but the water temperature was about 77 degrees.

"There's a lot of factors that go into survivability. Right now we're going to continue to search. Right now we're hopeful," Coast Guard Capt. Joe Kelly said.

A decision on how much longer to search will come later Tuesday.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members of the Bounty by helicopter Monday. Hours later, they found crew member Claudene Christian, 42, unresponsive. She was later declared dead. The rest of the crew was in good condition.

When the Bounty set sail last week, Walbridge believed he could navigate the ship around the storm. After two days in rough seas, he realized his journey would be far more difficult.

"I think we are going to be into this for several days," Walbridge said in a message posted Sunday on the vessel's Facebook site, which reads like a ship's log of its activities. "We are just going to keep trying to go fast."

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