Like Sprague, Claudene Christian, 42, signed on to the Bounty last May. And like Sprague, she'd never before worked on a tall ship.
Christian had lived in places as diverse as Alaska, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma. Never afraid to try new things, she'd competed in beauty pageants and cheered for the University of Southern California as one of its Song Girls. Christian seemed to like shifting gears in life. She launched a doll-making company. At one point, she co-owned a bar in L.A.
The idea of crewing on a tall ship dawned on her after she visited a replica of Christopher Columbus' famous wooden vessel the Nina. She seemed destined to join the Bounty, if for no other reason than her DNA: Christian claimed to be a descendent of Fletcher Christian -- a mutineer on the original Bounty centuries ago.
The replica of the Bounty had a history of its own rooted in the 1962 MGM film "Mutiny on the Bounty," starring Marlon Brando. Unlike the 18th century version, this ship had two engines to propel it in addition to its sails. The boat was bigger than its namesake in order to accommodate a film crew and fuel tanks required to sail to the remote South Pacific.
It was never supposed to last 50 years. In fact, the plan was to destroy it.
Igniting the Bounty and turning it into a floating inferno surely would have created a spectacular movie image. But Brando said no. The ship was too good to burn. MGM acquiesced.
Over the decades, ownership of the Bounty passed to billionaire Ted Turner, who eventually donated it to the Fall River Chamber Foundation in Massachusetts as an educational vessel. It was overhauled in 2001 and again in 2006. Now it belonged to the New York-based HMS Bounty Organization, which sailed it from port to port as a tourist attraction. The ship wasn't licensed to carry passengers out to sea.
In the weeks before the Bounty left New London, Christian, Sprague and other crew members spent time maintaining its hull. Wooden vessels need special care to protect them from tiny waterborne organisms that eat away at the ship. Rotted planks must be replaced. Cracks and open seams are plugged with special materials. At the half-century mark, the Bounty was expected to leak a little. Rough seas could make it worse.
Though Christian had no tall ship sailing experience, crewmates warmed to her upbeat personality. And it didn't take long for Christian to grow attached to her colleagues. She doted on some like a mother.
Christian and Sprague had joined a band of sailors with different backgrounds and personalities, but they shared the same desire: to see the world as ancient mariners did, when Columbus, da Gama and Magellan were reshaping the Earth from flat to round.
Adam Prokosh, 27, was an earnest, thoughtful five-year veteran of tall ships who'd been on board for eight months. He hoped to captain his own vessel someday.
Deckhand Jessica Hewitt -- a trusting, strong-willed 25-year-old and a licensed graduate of the prestigious Maine Maritime Academy -- had a big smile and a bright attitude.
Another MMA grad, 37-year old Matt Sanders, was the second mate. The tall, broad-shouldered and square-jawed sailor had never served aboard a wooden tall ship.
Ship engineer Chris Barksdale, 56, and cook Jessica Black, 34, were Bounty's newest crew members, coming on board within a month before the ship set sail from Connecticut.
Mark Warner, 33, was a bright deckhand who'd joined the crew the previous May. He came with experience: Bounty was his fourth tall ship.
Deckhand John D. Jones, 29, was a tall-ship first-timer from St. Augustine, Florida, who'd never before worked aboard a wooden vessel.
Drew Salapatek, 29, hailed from Blue Island, Illinois. With long blond hair and a beard, Salapatek had a gentle way about him and a great deal of respect for Walbridge.
Laura Groves, 28, was a three-year Bounty veteran. She held the rank of bosun -- the ship's taskmistress in charge of assigning and prioritizing duties. With dark hair and glasses, she was short in stature but towering with confidence.
Doug Faunt, 66, had been with the Bounty for five seasons as its volunteer electrician. After two decades working at IT giant Cisco Systems, he could afford to follow his tall ship passion without getting paid. The wiry, balding, white-bearded resident of Oakland, California, possessed valuable knowledge about computers, engines and communications equipment.
He also had a sensitive side. He brought his prized teddy bear onboard and took some shipmates under his wing, including Christian and another deckhand named Josh Scornavacchi.
Scornavacchi, 25, gave off the quiet, intense vibe of an old soul. Born with the heart of an explorer, the Eastern Pennsylvania resident came to the Bounty with a dream of one day circumnavigating the globe.
They all came to work for Walbridge, a Vermont native who'd borrowed a sailboat at age 18 and discovered his passion. He worked his way from houseboat field mechanic on Florida's Suwannee River to Massachusetts, where he trained crew for the Navy tall ship USS Constitution.
In 1995, he took command as Bounty's captain -- and teacher to a host of sailors who Walbridge liked to brag were the "future captains of America."
For new crew, basic ship training included a safety tour and lessons on how to don emergency immersion gear called Gumby suits. Later, they would learn how to climb the masts to tend the sails -- "going aloft," as it's known.
The captain sometimes quizzed his crew on how to maneuver the ship under various circumstances. It was his way of keeping them thinking about the big picture -- how their roles came together to sail the boat.