Interview with Tall Ship Concordia Captain Bill Curry on Sinking

Here is the first interview I have been able to locate with tall ship Concordia’s Captain Bill Curry regarding the sinking. (via CBC Radio – Feb. 24, 2010)

It’s always good to hear directly from the person in charge.

Published by

Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

26 thoughts on “Interview with Tall Ship Concordia Captain Bill Curry on Sinking”

  1. Yesterday, 12th June 2010 Canadian Television broadcasted the news of Safety Transportation Board of Canada finishing its findings to sinking of Concordia.

  2. Thank you for the reports, comments and opinions of this event. While every one seems pleased at the rescue, I, as a master Mariner with over 20 years at sea in a variety of vessels including the size and type of the Concordia, am left with more questions than answers.
    Why has no one mentioned that the crew apparently abandoned ship without all the students and that at least 2 had to find their own way to safety? If the vessel was MCA certified, why did it not have hydrostatic releases on the leeward deck liferafts or why did they not release? When was the last MCA inspection? The students were apparently aboard as crew members, therefore the Jones Act may apply, so why has this not been discussed? While celebrating so many students chose the Nova Scotia ‘Historical Campus’, why was it not mentioned that the school refused to refund the parents? Why is it not mentioned that a class action suit can, should and is being pursued? Why is it stated that legal action would hinder an investigation, a completely false and unreasonable statement? Barbados is registry is one of convenience, in order to avoid the standards of more demanding nations, both at sea and in the bank account. Why has the insurance underwriters not been named? Why have they, if what we read is proof, not investigated the accident, as they certainly have not interviewed the entire crew. After listening to the Captain’s CBC interview, the questions are growing and the lack of action on behalf of authorities, and the PARENTS, is, to me, astounding! It is critical that rather than applaud Captain and crew when things were clearly not right, it is more important to determine the sequence of events so as to maintain the reputation of those who deserve it and continue to work upon the seas, entrusted with lives and cargo.

  3. I have been reading all the articles etc. about the sinking of the Concordia with interest as I crewed aboard her a couple summers ago. Am I the only one out there who had an almost entirely negative experience aboard? I actually chose to end my contract early because I did not feel safe aboard the vessel and did not want to sail her across the Atlantic. The only good memories I really have of the Concordia are the students and two of the other crew members.

    It is certainly a blessing that everyone got off alive and basically unharmed and it speaks to the maturity of the crew and students. In my experieince aboard, however, there was not what I would call extensive emergency training. There was all the standard walk-throughs and drills that I have done aboard every ship I have worked on. This is not to say that these drills are not valuable, but the drilling and training I did aboard the Concordia was no more intense than any other vessel I have worked aboard.

    I won’t go into the mudslinging details but I did not find the culture aboard the Concordia one that harbored teamwork or safety and I am wondering if anyone else who sailed her experienced the same?

    1. Christine;

      Thanks for visiting, commenting and sharing your experience.

      Honestly, your’s is the first negative one that I’ve encountered either here or online. Not saying they aren’t more out there, but my search system hasn’t produced any. This has surprised me a little bit because ships are incredibly unique environments where we work AND live. On top of that, tall ships/sail training vessels are even more unique in that their sole purpose and focus is to educate and develop character. As a result of this, over time, you’re bound to have some people who have good experiences and at least a few who don’t. Strangely, both perceptions can be correct.

      While I never sailed on Concordia or worked for Class Afloat, my experience with management and crew was always positive. I know and respect the founder, several of the captains and many of the crew. Having said that I know and respect your opinion as well and I think I had a little more than a small part in launching your sail training career when I was ASTA executive director. :)

      One of the things that fascinates me about ships is how they are amazing leadership learning laboratories. While I know some may try to argue with me, ships are simply inanimate objects. It’s the people that make the difference; from the top (owner), through the hawsepipe (crew) and on the deck (trainees and passengers). Our shipboard experiences will certainly be shaped by the people that we encounter along the journey.

      I created this content on the Concordia sinking as a reference for people who might in the future want to learn about and from the casualty. And there’s lot to learn from so many different perspectives and dimensions. I agree with you about avoiding all of the “mudslinging details” here because I’m trying to avoid emotional arguments (aka flame wars) that are unfortunately so common to internet conversations and distract from the real learning that can occur.

      Thanks again for visiting and contributing to the discussion.

      1. Thanks Gary, I’ll have a look over there.

        You are quite right Peter, you did play a role in launching my career as a tallship sailor and I am daily pleased at my luck to be a tallship sailor.

        You are more than right, the boat itself is an inanimate object. It is the people aboard that make the experience. However, in my experience I have found that some boats (particularly those with longstanding progams such as Class Afloat) have a culture all their own, no matter who is on board. I wonder if anyone else out there who crewed aboard Concordia felt the same way I did, or if I am the outlier in this?

        I am most interested to see what becomes of the investigation and even more so how it affects the tallship community in general. Whatever my feelings about Concordia and Class Afloat they were, and are, quite a presence in our little community. I wonder what the fallout of this event will be for similar programs and boats.

      2. Hi Christine,

        Thanks for keeping the conversation going. I think that it’s important.

        While ships offer an amazing platform to study leadership, they are also representative of life at large. The challenging human dynamics that “longstanding programs” present aboard a ship also take place every day in corporations, nonprofits and other formal and informal organizations. The significant difference with a ship is that we can’t just walk away (at least until we arrive in port and even then it might not be that easy). Organizational culture can be pretty immune to change.

        I share your interest in what effect this casualty will have on the sail training industry. I’m hopeful and optimistic that some valuable lessons will be learned and ultimately implemented by vessels. ASTA can and should play a significant role in leading the process.

  4. Not mentioned in the interview was the extensive and professional emergency training those kids would have had prior to being allowed to sail. The same is true of historic Great Lakes ships, as the Niagara on which I sail.

  5. It is undoubtly a remakable feat of seamanship to save all on board during such a rapid sinking.
    It is most important that a full enquiry(s) is carried out unecumbered by the threat of proscecutions. Too many of these type of vessels have sunk and the results of the investigations is of lifesaving importance to the marine sail training commmunity.

  6. @Peter… just checking. I prefer to be clear on these things. I find the web home to excessive snark, and I do my best to avoid contributing to it.

  7. Peter, I did not mean to imply that poor seamanship was practiced. I also agree the speculation should be kept to a minimum. I just speak from my experience underway and under sail. I think that the crew did an amazing job at getting everyone off safely, and keeping them safe in the rafts.

    Gary, though it may not do us a service to give the impression that ships or boats can be sunk by high winds it is the truth. Even the most amazing mariner can get defeated by the ocean in way they weren’t expecting. I would second Peter’s recommendation of Tallships Down, its an excellent book both technically and accessibilty wise.

    1. Ben, I didn’t take your comment as implying poor seamanship and very much value your contribution to the conversation. Thanks again for being part of the learning process/teachable moment this casualty offers us.

  8. I spent nearly all of my career as mariner on “tallships” I’d I’d put money on the fact that a bunch of the water tight doors were open. Usually in the tropics (and even in fairly temperate climates in summer) a bunch of doors, hatches, and portlights are open to promote ventilation. One of the realities of lower tech ships is no A/C, and it can be VERY hot below, so hot as to make it impossible to sleep. The ships I’ve sailed on have had rules about the combination of doors & hatches that could be left open. It was the on-watches responsibility to get everything closed up if you saw anything that looked like a squall either with your eyes, or on the radar.

    1. Ben;
      Thanks for visiting and contributing to the conversation. I assume that the investigation will look closely at stability, watertight integrity and vessel operations among other things and hopefully some valuable lessons will be learn for the future. Thanks again.
      Fair Winds, Peter

  9. Good to hear from the horses mouth so to speak. I am a rank amateur sailer, having spent only 9 days on tall ships, and only 5 of those at sea. Both ships had several water tight doors isolating the deck from below ships. I find it very interesting that none of the reports I have read so far question the rapidity with which the ship sank, (30 min to 2 hr). I think it is quite possible that one or more water tight hatches on deck were not closed. I had hoped the interviewer would ask the Captain about this since he asked some other very probing questions. Possibly some of the profession captains who read this blog can shed some light on this.

    1. Gary;
      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’m sure when everybody is debriefed and investigation is concluded, there will be some valuable lessons learned. I’m sure there will be a lot of focus on the speed at which the Concordia sank and her watertight compartmentalization.

      Not sure if you’ve read Dan Parrott’s great book, Tall Ships Down, but in it he profiles several other significant tall ship casualties. Lots to learn there and very readable.

      Fair Winds, Peter

      1. Thanks for your comment Peter. I recently visited Lunenburg and the Picton-Castle. While there, I spent 5 days onboard the ship, and had a long conversation with Captain Dan Moreland. I came away from that visit with two distinct impressions. The first was that there are not a great many hatches on the Picton-Castle, and they are all massive and designed to be water tight. The second was from the Captain himself, who in the process of discussing the ship, mentioned the amount of ballast in the hold, and spoke of the ships ability to right it’s self. As I mentioned above, I am no expert… however, I think it is important to get the facts/evidence out for the public to evaluate quickly. It does no one in the Tall Ship business any service to leave the impression that a high wind can rapidly sink a ship (absent a hurricane of course). I will get a copy of Tall Ships Down. It sounds interesting.

      2. Thanks Gary. Ships and the sea have complex relationships; there are so many different forces and actions at play. For these reasons, I’ve avoided speculating what took place aboard Concordia and frankly I much prefer posting the stories (written, audio and video) of those who were aboard. They will provide the information that will help figure out what went wrong and right on Feb. 17, 2010. Thanks again for being part of the conversation and helping us all learn together.

  10. It looks like stiff neck report. Nothing new except for clarification of early reports of ship loss on Thursday Feb. 18th. He didn’t mention about open hatches at the bow of the boat. Shame.
    God bless him he is still alive and among us so we have somebody to blame for.

  11. Captain Curry sounds cool as a cucumber—which may at least partly explain why his young crew a) knew what to do and b) apparently avoided panic.

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