I can remember the first time my dad took me out on his boat. I was probably about six years old, and that boat was the R/V Silver Seas. The ship stands out in my memory, because it was painted bright teal and white. While I was scared to be on the boat because of a fear of deep water that probably came from almost drowning when I was very small, I still thought the boat was interesting because it was my dad’s. My memories of this boat are few and faded, because I was so young. I can recall the life jackets the crew wore, bright orange and puffy. Everyone was enthusiastic and loved to be out there.
As I got older, I became less nervous around boats and would come out more often. I remember the “7” pretty well. I remember reading books on the bow, which was my favorite spot of the ship. I liked being in front and being able to see the water ahead. When we’d go around the bay in Portland, I’d help the crew members spot buoys or lobster traps. They were always friendly and kind to me, and made me feel at home. Chris Russon, who lived aboard the “7” and kept watch most nights, would give me tasks to feel like I was helping out, even though I’m sure his radar took care of most of those things! I was only eleven or so at this point, and I liked to feel involved even if I wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing.
Around this time, Sub Sea had an office. The office moved around a few times, starting out on Fore Street in Portland and eventually ending up at 440 Commercial Street. Some days my mom would go in to answer the phone or do paperwork, and I would join her. The office was full of artifacts, such as plates from the Porcelain Wreck in Haiti, bronze spikes from other Haitian shipwrecks, and other small treasures. There were old maps and a big globe that sat in the corner. I looked at those objects so many times that I still can remember exactly how they were shaped and the color of the porcelain plates. People would come into the office for updates or news, or with resumes. I can recall back around 1999 or so, there was a fire in the office which almost destroyed everything, but was contained before too much was damaged. We had to go to Portland in the middle of the night and everything was covered in a thick layer of smoke and dust. The fire had been put out, but you could still smell it on everything inside. The globe I loved was ruined by the fire, but none of the shipwreck artifacts were affected, thankfully. After that, the office was gradually open less and less and then eventually moved to my parents house. It was a good decision financially, but I missed going to the office with all of its treasures and charms.
Growing up with a treasure hunter for a father always made for some interesting experiences. It seemed a bit incredulous to others, and on occasion someone would seriously doubt I was telling the truth! Most people were fascinated, though. I can remember in school when we had parent-teacher conferences, and the parents were supposed to hear how their children were doing in their classes. The majority of the time at my conferences were not so much about me… “Oh, she’s doing fine!” they’d say, and then rush on to talk about my dad’s business and how it was going. It’s interesting, and people don’t hear about things like that every day. Now that I also work for the company, I am asked about it at length when people ask me what I do for a living. People I know often ask me if my dad is hiring, and if they can come work on the boat. Everyone is fascinated, and I don’t blame them. It’s certainly unusual and outside the norm, and the story of Sub Sea Research could easily be made into a movie or book. (Maybe it will, someday!)
As the business grows and ages, I continue to observe and help in whatever way I can. Since I’m older now, I understand things on a different level and am able to assist with more than just buoy-spotting. While changes have been made, there are still many things that stay the same. My desire to help is stronger than ever, and as I learn more about the times I lived through but wasn’t fully able to grasp mentally at the time, new facets of the business are revealed to me. Every day I grow to appreciate it more, as I learn, and as I see the excitement and fascination in the people who ask me questions about it. It really is thrilling, and I am lucky to be a part of it.