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'The ordinary people rallied around us and restored our faith in human nature.'--Cmdr. Joseph McGuire, Ship's builder and captain : Bounty Sails, Leaving Portside Squall Astern

March 16, 1986|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

On a bright morning after a weekend storm, the tall ship Bounty ended its two-year stay in Long Beach, setting sail on an around-the-world voyage and leaving behind memories both bitter and sweet.

Before His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty grandly departed its back-channel mooring for Vancouver last weekend, it had starred in the TOPSail '84 tall ship parade and had served as a popular, though unofficial, floating museum during its wait for a new assignment.

But it had also been seized and detained for two months by the Customs Service in 1984, then fined $1,000 for failure to register upon entry. And its sailings for charity had been stopped abruptly by federal authorities last summer because a foreign vessel cannot charge fees without a special permit.

'Mixed Feelings'

"We leave with mixed feelings," said Cmdr. Joseph McGuire, builder and skipper of the vessel, a replica of the warship that Capt. William Bligh and Fletcher Christian sailed to Tahiti in 1787.

"A great many people have said how much they regret our troubles here," said McGuire, 62, a former Royal Navy commander of engineers. "But we tell them, 'If it hadn't happened, we shouldn't have met such nice people as you.' "

"In this time of adversity," said McGuire, "the ordinary people rallied around us and restored our faith in human nature."

On weekends, passers-by were welcomed aboard at no charge to share with McGuire and his three deckhands the meticulous care with which their ship was re-created and is kept.

Evenings of Song

Some evenings, those who had befriended the Bounty--port officials, Navy officers and others enthralled with McGuire's vision of the past--were invited aboard to sing sea chanteys with the crew.

Indeed, as McGuire began his early morning walk before the Bounty's departure, he was reminded again of the best of his long stay in Long Beach.

"It was half past 7 and this man stopped me and said, 'What a magnificent ship. I'm a farmer from Montana, and I've never seen anything like it.' That this man, a farmer, would feel that way indicates that deep inside us all is a latent call to the sea."

McGuire, along with a newly recruited 17-person crew, was finally able to answer that call last Sunday. And by Thursday the Bounty should be in Vancouver, where it will participate in Expo '86 festivities beginning May 2.

Bound for Tahiti

Two days later, the ship will leave on a journey that will not end until January, 1988.

The first leg includes stops at the Galapagos Islands off South America, at Tahiti for the four-month shooting of a television mini-series about Captain Cook, at Australia for the America's Cup yacht finals, and then across the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal to London.

From there, the Bounty will lead a fleet of 11 square-rigged sailing ships in a re-enactment of the voyage taken by Australia's first settlers in 1787.

The voyage from Vancouver will mark the beginning of the ship's tenure as an adventure cruise vessel for hire. Passengers are being solicited for each of the 13 segments of the first leg, at prices ranging from $995 to $2,895.

Must Pay Own Way

The Bounty had been subsidized by movie producer Dino De Laurentiis at a cost of $12,000 a month while in Long Beach, McGuire said. But the ship's recent purchase for $1.5 million by a group of Australian businessmen means that it must now pay its own way, he said.

Such bottom-line considerations, however, may lead to safety alterations that violate the ship's original design and bring to an end its service as a training ship for young sailors, McGuire said. On occasion while in Long Beach and for many months after its construction, the Bounty was used to train fledgling seamen, he said.

If those changes occur, McGuire said he will separate from the Bounty for the first time since he was approached by a De Laurentiis representative in 1978 and began planning the vessel's construction for a film of the same name.

"We will have to see how things develop," he said. "We don't want to sacrifice our philosophy of sail training to economic pressures. If I don't like what I see, there's always another unclimbed mountain."

But for now, there is "the feeling of exhilaration that this ship is back in its natural element."

"We have new horizons to look to," McGuire said. "The past is a place you can visit but never linger."

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