After months of construction, first working in the humid heat of LA, then the cold rains of Maine, both ships seemed ready for the treasure hunting season to begin. I know Greg and the crew were more than ready. Martin and Toryn (cameramen) were eager too. They had been on the ship a few weeks getting footage and learning of the process, but had come to see us pull up treasure. Each day Martin would ask Greg or Gary when they thought we would be leaving for the site, and each day would be the same answer,” We are waiting for a weather window.” We needed three or four days of decent weather at the site before we would even attempt going out, otherwise it was a waste of fuel and time.
It was Tuesday, July 14, 2009 when I parked on the dock and headed to the ship to begin my day on the Sea Hunter. As usual, there were a couple of the crew already up and on the deck, but as I got closer, something didn’t seem just right. Alex was the first to inform me that Nine (ship’s cat and crews best buddy) was missing. I could tell he was really concerned. It wasn’t like Nine to wander off. He may, on occasion, walk the plank to get on the dock but would come right back. He was comfortable and knew the ship was his home.
I headed into the galley to start breakfast. As the rest of the crew showed up, they, too, were informed of the situation. Even the new crew was concerned, as Nine touched everyone around him, whether you were a cat lover or not. A few of the guys decided to scour the area in case he did get off the ship and was somewhere in the parking lot. They asked everyone working in the offices near by if they had seen him. The rest of us looked in places on the ship that were impossible for him to hide in, but you never knew. Of course, there was the possibility he fell overboard, but no one wanted to discuss or even think that.
The entire morning went by and everyone was trying to look busy, scraping, painting or organizing the deck. Nine was on our minds, and every once in a while, I would hear one of the guys yell his name. I would say a little prayer that he was found as I busied myself making lunch. After lunch, as I was cleaning up the galley, some of the guys went outside to the deck for a cigarette. Halfway through washing the dishes, I heard one of the guys say, “There’s Nine!” As I ran outside onto the deck, I looked to where they were pointing. Walking very slowly across the plank from the dock to the ship, was Nine. At first glance, he looked alright, but then he stopped and sat down, and we knew instantly, something wasn’t right. Alex went to him first, calling his name with a treat in his hand. Nine got up slowly and started walking towards him. Greg and I stepped a bit closer and saw that his usual sleek and shiny fur, was dull and matted and it seemed each step he took caused him pain. We then noticed his tail. About two or three inches from the end, it was bent and crooked. He looked so exhausted, I wanted to cry. Greg suggested not picking him up as he may have something broken besides his tail. He made it inside where we had a bed made up for him. We brought him some water and let him rest awhile. We were so jubilant that he was finally home, but couldn’t celebrate just yet. After he settled a bit, Greg and Alex (the two he trusted the most) examined him all over. They noticed many puncture wounds and a large piece missing from his backside. We assumed he was in a fight for his life with a feral dock cat. Greg knew he needed medical attention, so he took him to the local Cat Doctor. Again, began a waiting game.
A couple hours later he returned without Nine. He was a bit teary as he explained his injuries and said they needed to keep him a couple days for healing and observation. Though I was glad he was found, I wasn’t sure this was any better. I went to visit him after work, as did a couple of the crew. He was use to having so much freedom aboard the ship that it broke my heart to see him in a cage. He was sedated, but awake. He looked so sad and beaten down. As a child growing up, we had both cats and dogs, but I always preferred dogs. I just never thought cats were very smart or as lovable as dogs. But in that moment, as I lightly petted him and whispered in his ear, he cocked his head to lean into my hand, opened his eyes and stared directly into mine. The look he gave me, without a doubt, I knew he was thanking me for loving him, and I did love him.