ST. PETERSBURG - A veteran mariner has been credited with a unique find: five life jackets from the HMS Bounty, a sailing ship, once based out of St. Petersburg, that sank 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. last October, after it succumbed to Superstorm Sandy.
Captain Andrew Jagger said he was with three others on a boating trip from France back to the United States, when, about 100 nautical miles from Bermuda, one of his crew spotted something in the distance. Jagger saw life jackets floating hundreds of yards away, and decided to investigate.
When his crew pulled the jackets out of the water, they could see, in faded block lettering, the words, "HMS Bounty."
It's not just the find that is impressive. It's who recovered the life-saving devices.
Captain Jagger himself was first mate on the Bounty for about two years. He became close friends with the ship's captain, Robin Wallbridge, who was never found after the ship sank. Jagger said Wallbridge's wife was thrilled to learn that he, a member of the Bounty family, was the one who recovered the jackets, found floating about 400 nautical miles from where the ship sank.
Jagger said the jackets had been tied together, in an effort to help rescue crews spot the survivors.
"This was just in good keeping with best survival practices," Jagger said.
Fourteen crew members were rescued by the United States Coast Guard, after waiting hours at sea. In addition to Captain Wallbridge, crew member Claudine Christian was never located.
The St. Petersburg captain hopes the jackets, once released from the custody of the coast guard, will end up in a museum.