The plan made some of the crew uneasy. None were trained to care for special-needs people, and they were already stretched to the limit with their existing duties.
But Walbridge seemed sure it would work. Kannegiesser showed me a series of texts from both the captain and Christian, sent last fall as plans materialized. Walbridge reported that he’d secured permission for the ship’s new mission, and as the Bounty set sail, Kannegiesser wrote that things were moving along nicely on his end.
“Great,” Walbridge responded. “I think we (mostly you) will make it happen.”
It’s unclear how much all this factored into Walbridge’s decision to set sail on October 25. Kannegiesser and Doug Faunt both say that the St. Petersburg event was on the captain’s mind. But Simonin told me that the HMS Bounty Organization was “not aware of any concrete plans with the DeRamus Foundation at that time.”
Waiting for Sandy to pass, she suggested, just hadn’t seemed necessary. “We’ve been in seas like that before, even worse,” she said, “and we didn’t think it was insurmountable. We always had the utmost confidence in him.”
ON A SNOWY DAY in December, the Bounty’s extended family, including more than 100 former crew, assembled in Fall River, Massachusetts, to memorialize Robin Walbridge and Claudene Christian. They tossed wreathes into the ocean, struggled through eulogies, and stood on the deck of a battleship while DeRamus recited the Pledge of Allegiance. It was an exhausting day. The survivors that I spoke to were all having trouble sleeping. Many were in therapy; some were on indefinite walkabouts as they waited to see what’s next.