Uninspected Vessels

The NTSB report on the Bounty is out. And the conclusion was… (drum roll)… It was “reckless” of the captain to sail an old, rotting wooden boat (that “made water”) into a 1,000 mile wide hurricane.

The Bounty was an un-inspected vessel. Virtually no independent oversight. When structural rot was found during the shipyard period a couple months earlier, a conscious decision was made not to open the boat up to inspect for more rot because they were afraid of what they might find. Soluton: put some paint on what was exposed. End of story. Or at least until the Bounty sank and lives were lost.

Sailing on an inspected tall ship a while ago, I remember an inspector telling me I had to have the name of the vessel painted on the fire axe handle and that were specifications as to the size of the letters. My initial thought was that it was a dumb idea. And then it dawned on me that this regulation probably resulted from an infamous fire axe being passed ship to ship, one step ahead of the safety inspector. Okay, that made sense. A lot of thought goes into trying to make inspected vessels safer.

Too bad there is so little thought that goes into making un-inspected vessels safe. A vessel with 25 crew and no passengers - good luck fellas. A passenger vessel that puts six peoples lives at risk - you folks are on your own. Now if it was 7 passengers thats a different story. Certificates of inspection, manifests, life rafts, type 1 life jackets, safety inspections, haul outs, collision bulkheads, EPIRBS, etc…

But on the flip side, without un-inspected vessels we never would have been entertained by Gilligan’s Island.

In the aviation world Part 135 would be an “inspected vessel” and companies that try creative ways around it are called 134-and-a-half operations. I think the Bounty was one of these. If nothing else, she really should have been over 300 tons IIRC.