Four men in a boat to recreate Bounty captain's fateful voyage

Group will attempt to retrace Captain Bligh's epic journey in an open boat – using navigation tools from 1789.
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The Independent Travel

Last-minute travel plans rarely come more spontaneous or adventurous than those of Chris Wilde.

The gap-year teenager was last month casting around for something to do when he read a newspaper article appealing for a young adventurer to step into the breach to recreate one of the most famous and gruelling sea voyages of all time: the 4,000-mile open-boat journey of William Bligh after he and his loyal men were cut adrift following the mutiny on the Bounty.

Despite having never heard of the celebrated mariner, or even possessing any sailing experience, the 18-year-old from Warwick will set off later this month aboard a 25ft boat armed only with the same meagre provisions carried in 1789 by Bligh and his 18 men. That means no modern navigation charts nor luxuries such as toilet paper, nor an iPod to while away the seven-week voyage between Tonga and Timor.

Instead the crew will supplement two weeks' supply of food and water with harvested rain and fish caught on 18th-century tackle. They will sail the Talisker Bounty Boat just as Bligh sailed the original Bounty: with a single sail, an old-fashioned sextant and an antique pocket watch.

"I had not heard anything about this before but I have been reading up since," explained Mr Wilde, who was recruited to join the four-man crew after 18-year-old fellow Briton Mike Perham, the world's youngest solo round-the-world sailor, was forced to pull out after undergoing an appendix operation.

"The thing I am most concerned about is the lack of food because I like to eat. But mentally I am a positive guy and I am physically fit. For the most part, my parents are really happy for me, though my mum was a bit concerned about what I was getting in to," he said.

Apart from a few previous mountain-climbing experiences, including scaling Kilimanjaro, Mr Wilde regards himself as a "normal guy who likes films and hanging out". His friends think he is "crazy".

The crew hopes to raise £150,000 for The Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease. The project is the brainchild of the Australian adventurer Don McIntyre, 55, a veteran yachtsman who once spent a year in the Antarctic living in a box. He said it did not matter the young Briton had no sailing experience. "He has the right head space and he is a good swimmer and works as a lifeguard. He is fit and healthy and has passion and drive," he said.

During the voyage they expect to encounter 45-knot winds and five-metre waves. Mr McIntyre said he hoped the project would help people to appreciate Bligh's incredible feat. "We want to try and get close to Bligh and experience what he experienced," he said.

Far from being the cruel man of myth, the then-lieutenant is now regarded as a humane leader, if a little dogmatic. Unlike his mentor Captain Cook, he eschewed corporal and capital punishment though he was fiercely loyal to the Royal Navy and determined to complete his mission to bring breadfruit trees from Tahiti to feed Caribbean slave plantations.

After the bloodless coup led by Fletcher Christian, Bligh sailed for 48 days, losing only one sailor. Christian established a colony at Pitcairn where descendants of the mutinous crew still live.

In his own words: Lieutenant Bligh's ordeal

*From the log of HMS Bounty, dated Tuesday at Sea, 28 April 1789: "Just before Sunrise Mr Christian & The Master at Arms & several officers came into my cabbin while I was fast asleep and seizing me tyed my hands with a Cord & threatened instant death if I made the least noise I however having a reverie called sufficiently loud to alarm the officers who found themselves equally secured by Centinels at their Doors...I was now carried on Deck in my shirt in torture with a severe bandage round my wrists behind my back where I found no man to rescue to me."

*Bligh's description of the small boat voyage in a letter to his wife, written 19 August 1789, in Coupang, Timor: "I was now earnestly sollicited by all hands to take them towards home & when I told them no hopes of relief remained... they all agreed to live on one ounce of Bread a day & a Jill of Water. I therefore...bore away for New Holland & Timor across a Sea but little known, & in a small Boat deep loaded with 18 Souls, without a single Map of any kind & nothing but my own recollection & general knowledge of the situation of Places to direct us. I steered to the WNW with Strong Gales and heavy Rains, suffering every calamity & distress I discovered many Islands & at last on the 28th. May the Coast of New Holland...I got into this place on the 14th. and was received with every kindness & civility. Perhaps a more miserable set of Beings were never seen."

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