PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- A replica 18th-century sailing ship that sank off North Carolina during superstorm Sandy had a decaying frame with an undetermined amount of rot in it before leaving port, a Maine shipyard worker told federal officials yesterday.
A member of the HMS Bounty's 16-person-crew died, and the captain was never found after the ship sank 90 miles off Cape Hatteras during the October storm. The three-master was built for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" and was in other films, including one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
Officials from the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are holding eight days of hearings to determine what caused it to sink and to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
Todd Kosakowski told the panel that he showed Capt. Robin Walbridge the rot he found in the ship when his workers were replacing several planks at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard several weeks before the storm.
"I told him that I was more than worried about what we found," Kosakowski said.
Rather than replacing the rotted wood -- as Kosakowski said was the only way to fix it -- the ship's crew painted it over, he said.
Walbridge was "terrified" at what he saw, but he decided against removing additional planks to see how extensive the damage was and going ahead and replacing it, he said.
"It was very quickly shot down by the captain," Kosakowski said. "That would have required a significant amount of time and money."
Kosakowski said he was concerned about the ship's condition when it left the shipyard and that he had advised Walbridge to avoid "heavy weather." The ship would later head directly for the path of the hurricane before taking on water, losing power and rolling over as it tossed the crew into the Atlantic Ocean.
After the ship left Maine, it headed to New London, Conn. Before leaving Maine, Kosakowski said that Walbridge had told him that he had told the ship's owner, Robert Hansen, that he should get rid of the boat as soon as possible.