BELFAST, Maine — Subtlety is not a word that can be used to describe the HMS Bounty.
As soon as the replica of the infamous square-rigged tall ship tied up at the Belfast city dock Wednesday, a growing crowd of onlookers started to arrive.
“I was walking across the bridge and I saw it,” Francis Marsano of Belfast said Wednesday afternoon after changing his course to get as close as possible to the Bounty. “It’s an incredible vessel. Just spectacular to see from a distance.”
The original Bounty became famous when Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian instigated a 1789 mutiny against Captain William Bligh in the South Pacific. The original Bounty was burned off Pitcairn Island.
The replica was built from original ship’s drawings to be used in the 1962 MGM film “Mutiny on the Bounty” and will be docked in the harbor until Monday. Visitors are very welcome, said Captain Robin Wallbridge, who had just steered the Bounty from Lunenberg, N.S.
He said that wherever the world-traveling Bounty goes, lots of people want to come aboard. There are three main reasons, Wallbridge said. The first is because Marlon Brando starred in the 1962 movie and he still has a lot of fans. The second reason is because the Bounty is something of a Hollywood maritime star, and has played roles in “Treasure Island” with Charlton Heston, “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”
“It’s a movie ship,” the captain said. “But the real reason people want to come by and see it is because it looks like a pirate ship.”
The wooden vessel is 180 feet long, has three masts and 18 sails. It primarily travels by sail, but uses a motor on occasion, he said.
“We’d never be able to get it into places like this without one,” he said.
The Bounty was overhauled in 2006 in Boothbay Harbor, and since then has been a regular at tall ship events in England, Europe, and up and down both coasts of the U.S. as well as the Galapagos Islands, according to the website for the HMS Bounty Organization. That group works to keep the ship sailing and also uses it to teach the nearly lost arts of square rigged sailing and seamanship.
The replica has been to ports in Maine from Portland to Eastport, but this is its first visit to Belfast.
“I like Belfast,” Wallbridge said. “The weather’s beautiful.”
He confided that Johnny Depp, star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, doesn’t know how to sail a boat.
“I’m afraid it will disillusion a lot of readers,” he said. “But he probably was the greatest actor we worked with. He was very polite and very humble.”
And so far, Wallbridge’s 20-person crew hasn’t given the captain any trouble, making a reprise of the fate of the original seem unlikely.
“I have a really, really good crew,” he said. “The crew is here because they want to be here.”
Admission to the Bounty is $10 for adults and $5 for children. The ship will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 12.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, children’s admission to the ship includes a treasure map that will lead to gold tokens hidden throughout downtown Belfast. The first 150 kids to finish the hunt will receive a goodie bag and the chance to win prizes, with the grand prize valued at more than $200.
Additionally, the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a cocktail social on the Bounty from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, that will feature live blues music and local food and drinks.