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Bligh Me! There'll Be No Mutiny on This Bounty

September 14, 1986|CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER | Baker is a Berkeley free-lance writer.

TAHITI, French Polynesia — It's springtime and the southerly trade winds caress the sails, which billow in bloated contentment beneath a cerulean sky.

Dolphins cavort in the ship's bow waves and the crew makes merry atop the deck. Mutiny is the furthest thing from anybody's mind.

You're aboard the Bounty--on a voyage through paradise in the wake of Capt. Bligh.

If the scenario sounds unlikely, it's not. Bligh could hardly have guessed that a twin to the vessel from which he and 18 loyal seamen were set adrift in an open boat in 1789 would ply these waters 200 years later.

Built for 1978 Film

Built in New Zealand in 1978 to co-star with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in Dino De Laurentiis' remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty," the latter-day Bounty is a full-scale replica of the vessel made famous by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in the book that inspired the movie. (The original vessel was destroyed at Pitcairn Island by Fletcher Christian and fellow crew members on Jan. 23, 1790.)

Unlike the first Bounty, which was sent to Tahiti to collect breadfruit for Britain's West Indian plantations, today's Bounty sails the Seven Seas on a two-year, twice-around-the-world, 20-segment voyage as a pleasure craft and sail training vessel.

Unlike the original crew, the modern crew are paying passengers. And landlubbers are welcome. For spirited travelers a voyage on the Bounty is an adventure fantasy come true.

Bounty's voyages take it to destinations on the dream list of all who sail the Seven Seas: the Marquesas, Tahiti, Australia, the Maldives, the Canary Isles, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Mauritius. So slap on the suntan oil and spend a few lulling days in the bowsprit webbing soaking up the sun.

No Windjammer Cruise

The suntans won't come easy, however. This is no windjammer cruise where deck chair passengers sip jauntily on their cocktails as the great white sails unfurl in the morning breeze.

Those signing on for one or more segments of this voyage extraordinaire will be expected to assume crew duties (and sign a contract to that effect), regardless of sailing experience. Few sailing vessels offer the chance to play out the part of jolly ol' sea tars in quite the same way.

Passengers are assured of climbing the rigging, working the sails and learning the ropes from such crusty sea dogs as the second mate, Jamie White, and nine other professional crew. The romance is assured--particularly because Bounty is the world's only full-scale replica of an 18th-Century sailing ship.

So lay aloft, me hearties!

Life, however, won't be all climbing the rigging, pulling on the halyards and taking a turn at the helm. When watch duty is over, life is indolence in paradise.

The halyards are secured and the afternoon sun dances among the stays and shrouds, casting shadows that roam the deck as the bulbous Bounty tosses gently on the Pacific.

Heartbeat of Polynesia

Soon the entrancing cloud-hung heights of Tahiti pierce the horizon, growing larger and majestic until the rumpled emerald-colored hills give way to lavender mountains crowned in cloud. You sense the heartbeat of ancient Polynesia.

Paradise indeed. Made all the more enchanting for passengers on the Marquesas-to-Tahiti voyage by the moment of their arrival. Seven days out from the Marquesas they have returned to the scene of the crime. Here, or at least close by, Lt. William Bligh was cast adrift on April 28, 1789.

Bligh would be jealous.

The crew travels now in comparative luxury. The ship has two- and four-berth cabins, hot showers and air conditioning. And if comfort is assured, so too is safety.

Despite having been constructed from the 1785 British Admiralty plans of the original Bounty, the 11 miles of rigging hide a wolf in sheep's clothing. Bounty has a steel hull. Below deck are two giant turbo-charged "iron staysails" (diesel engines). Modern radar scanners, a satellite navigation system and depth sounder are eyes for the thickest mists.

Though men and women of all ages are welcome, each must be fit and healthy. Choose your segment carefully. A trip on the Bounty is sure to test your sea legs. Designed to ride over waves rather than plow through them, in all but the mildest weather the roly-poly vessel bobs to and fro as if bloated with drink.

On deck one soon adjusts. But below, in the galley and mess, in rough seas the motion seems a devilish design to tip your dinner into your lap.

Fishing Gear Available

Bounty is outfitted with snorkeling and scuba equipment ($20 per dive), with a qualified diving instructor aboard. Sailboards and fishing gear are also available.

The ship will spend time at islands and ports of call, giving passengers a chance to answer their siren calls: in Australia, being witness to the final of the America's Cup races; in Djibouti, Arabia, as in days of old, and in the Pacific.

Trip segments still available on the Bounty's first-leg voyage are: Tahiti to Sydney (Nov. 6-Dec. 6, $2,100); Sydney to Perth (Jan. 18-Feb. 2, 1987, $1,985); Fremantle (Perth) to the Maldives (Feb. 7-March 3, $2,275); Maldives to Djibouti (March 5-21, $1,485); Djibouti to Malta (March 23-April 10, $1,385); Malta to London (April 12-May 1, $1,995).

On the second voyage--and to celebrate Australia's Bicentenary--Bounty will lead a fleet of 11 square-riggers in a reenactment of the eight-month voyage of the founding fleet 200 years ago. When Bounty and the Reenactment Fleet sail past Sydney Head on Jan. 26, 1988, Australia will be 200 years old. Seven legs are available.

Cost of the trips includes accommodation, all meals and non-alcoholic refreshments, plus use of all facilities, including sporting equipment (except scuba).

For information contact Adventure Center, 5540 College Ave., Oakland, Calif. 94618, phone (415) 654-1879, or (800) 228-8747 in California and (800) 227-8747 elsewhere.

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