"He's been in many storms," his wife, Claudia McCann, said Tuesday from the couple's St. Petersburg home. "He's been doing this a good portion of his life. He's been in lots of hairy situations and he's very familiar with the boat."
McCann said she talked to him on the phone on his birthday — Oct. 25 — and last heard from him in an email Saturday. He said he and his 15-member crew were prepared to sail around the storm.
But by Monday, the ship began to take on water, its engines failed and the crew abandoned the boat off the North Carolina coast. They were rescued by the Coast Guard, though one member had died. The captain was swept into the sea.
Walbridge's wife waited in their in St. Petersburg home to hear any word, surrounded by friends.
The couple met 17 years ago in Fall River, Massachusetts, during an after-hours reception aboard the ship. It was about the time Walbridge took the ship's helm.
"He was a gentle soul and he was like no one I had ever met before," she said.
About seven years ago, the couple moved to St. Petersburg, which was also where the Bounty has called home off and on since the late 1960s.
Life as a sailor's wife wasn't always easy; they would go months without seeing each other. Sometimes, she took voyages with him, staying in his cramped and rustic sleeping quarters.
"He was a fantastic captain and he was the best in the industry," she said. "He had a reputation that followed him."