They ranged in age from 20 to 66.
Four had been on the Bounty only a few months. Others, a few years. For the engineer and the cook, it was their maiden voyage.
Landing a job on a traditionally rigged wooden tall ship isn't easy. U.S. vessels number in the mere dozens. The Bounty crew members were typical of those who compete for the coveted spots. Many grow up in coastal towns with proud sailing traditions. Some are students or retired naval enthusiasts or Maine schooner bums. Or even middle-aged women who play Mama Bear to a boatload of ocean nomads.
Boarding Bounty for the first time -- as a tourist -- was all it took to make 20-year-old Anna Sprague yearn for that life. The Auburn University journalism major inherited her love for sailing from her father and nurtured it by competing on the school sailing team. But it was at a festival in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, last May that she caught the tall-ship bug.
From the moment her feet touched the deck she made up her mind to sign on. She knew that winning a job on a tall ship could open doors to her dream: adventure combined with constant travel.
Sprague explored Bounty's 180 feet of oak and Douglas fir. Her eyes followed the lines of its three wooden masts stretching a hundred feet into the sky. Every part of the ship, she knew, served a unique purpose, including its 100-plus rope lines and complicated rigging.
With her trademark drive and confidence, Sprague marched up to a crew member and asked, "How can I be you?"
Later that day, she encountered John Svendsen who, as first mate, was second in command. At 41, with hair reaching down to the middle of his back, Svendsen had spent most of his life on the ocean, logging time as a diving teacher and boat captain. He'd joined the Bounty in February 2010.
Confronted with Sprague's enthusiasm and confidence, Svendsen offered her a chance to volunteer as a deckhand. A few months later, she'd earned a paid gig.
She was in.
Like Sprague, Claudene Christian, 42, signed on to the Bounty last May. And like Sprague, she'd never before worked on a tall ship.
Christian had lived in places as diverse as Alaska, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma. Never afraid to try new things, she'd competed in beauty pageants and cheered for the University of Southern California as one of its Song Girls. Christian seemed to like shifting gears in life. She launched a doll-making company. At one point, she co-owned a bar in L.A.
The idea of crewing on a tall ship dawned on her after she visited a replica of Christopher Columbus' famous wooden vessel the Nina. She seemed destined to join the Bounty, if for no other reason than her DNA: Christian claimed to be a descendent of Fletcher Christian -- a mutineer on the original Bounty centuries ago.
The replica of the Bounty had a history of its own rooted in the 1962 MGM film "Mutiny on the Bounty," starring Marlon Brando. Unlike the 18th century version, this ship had two engines to propel it in addition to its sails. The boat was bigger than its namesake in order to accommodate a film crew and fuel tanks required to sail to the remote South Pacific.
It was never supposed to last 50 years. In fact, the plan was to destroy it.
Igniting the Bounty and turning it into a floating inferno surely would have created a spectacular movie image. But Brando said no. The ship was too good to burn. MGM acquiesced.
Over the decades, ownership of the Bounty passed to billionaire Ted Turner, who eventually donated it to the Fall River Chamber Foundation in Massachusetts as an educational vessel. It was overhauled in 2001 and again in 2006. Now it belonged to the New York-based HMS Bounty Organization, which sailed it from port to port as a tourist attraction. The ship wasn't licensed to carry passengers out to sea.
In the weeks before the Bounty left New London, Christian, Sprague and other crew members spent time maintaining its hull. Wooden vessels need special care to protect them from tiny waterborne organisms that eat away at the ship. Rotted planks must be replaced. Cracks and open seams are plugged with special materials. At the half-century mark, the Bounty was expected to leak a little. Rough seas could make it worse.
Though Christian had no tall ship sailing experience, crewmates warmed to her upbeat personality. And it didn't take long for Christian to grow attached to her colleagues. She doted on some like a mother.
Christian and Sprague had joined a band of sailors with different backgrounds and personalities, but they shared the same desire: to see the world as ancient mariners did, when Columbus, da Gama and Magellan were reshaping the Earth from flat to round.