It’s easy to imagine Capt. Robin Walbridge’s life is filled with adventure and excitement. His ship, the HMS Bounty, almost assures it. The original 18th-century merchant vessel was the scene of the world’s most famous mutiny, a drama immortalized in the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, which was shot aboard the replica Walbridge commands.
The ship, now owned by a New York businessman, subsequently served as a set in Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, a flick in which Walbridge and his crew donned period costumes to sail in scenes with Johnny Depp.
That sort of history, along with the square-rigger’s majestic full-sail beauty, attracts kings and commoners alike, making it a major attraction at events around the globe, including the Tall Ships Festival.
“Two hundred years ago, sailors and ships like this were the scum of the earth,” the 60-year-old St. Petersburg, Fla., native muses. “Today, we sail into all the finest places, and we get to meet wonderful people. Last year, I met the queen of Holland. I do have to remind myself that I probably have the best job in the world.”
Although Walbridge enjoys traveling to foreign ports, he loves sailing the Great Lakes. “When you’re out at sea, one wave looks like the next,” he says. “But on the Great Lakes, there’s always something new to see. You’ve got all these towns on shore.”
He adds that his job isn’t all glitz and glamour. He’s awakened two or three times a night to make decisions such as how to handle a change in wind speed, and he rises just before the sun to check the stars — a necessity for a captain who tries to rely exclusively on celestial navigation. Days on the water are spent training novice crew members, teaching sailing programs for the general public and helping make repairs to the ship. His biggest challenge is getting the boat into port on schedule for appearances.
“Our biggest fear is that we’re going to run out of wind,” he says. “You can sail in ferocious storms. But you can’t sail if there’s no wind.”
July 7 MAJESTIC PARADE OF SAIL:4 p.m. OPENING CEREMONIES: 7 p.m.
July 8-11 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. TICKETS: $12 advance, $14 day of, discounts for children and seniors, 216-241-6000, playhousesquare.org SAIL AWAYS: During the festival, board the Amistad, Appledore IV, Denis Sullivan, Lynx or Roseway for a 90-minute sailing trip. Times vary, seats are limited. Tickets are $45 with fest admission, $35 for children (must be 6 or older to sail). clevelandtallships.com