As summer was quickly fading, we knew our first season was coming to an end. No one wanted to think about it as it felt like we had just started. Both the M/V Sea Hunter and the Son Worshipper had made many trips to the site and we were just getting into the routine of the many things that always needed to be done. Everyone knew their own job along with a few other jobs. When we would leave Boston for the site, like clockwork, the crew would take their positions on the deck (of course, radio in hand) and would do what needed to be done to get us safely into the open waters. I thought back to the first few times we went out and how much longer it took. Now it was almost automatic, like a well-oiled machine.
By the end of summer we lost a couple of our marine guards and replaced them with two new ones. It’s always a bit of a challenge breaking in a new hire. First they have to learn who everyone is and what they do and to become familiar with both ships. When you work and live in tight quarters with people, you get to know a lot about one another. The two guards that left had fit in well with everyone. They were professional, respectful and hard working. Not to mention they were extremely clean and would help pick up whether it was their mess or not. So you can see why I liked having them around.
When the two new guards came, we all could tell right of the bat that they were different. They didn’t seem to want to get to know anyone and kept mostly to themselves. Though they had big shoes to fill everyone was cordial and tried to make them feel comfortable. Even the cameramen (Martin and Torin) tried to put them at ease, but by the end of the first week they still were not completely meshing with the crew. We all had to accept that was the way they were and as long as they protected us and did their jobs, all would be okay.
It was in August when we left Boston for another trip to the site. Though they didn’t come right out and say it, I could tell the two new guards were looking forward to their first trip with us. The weather was perfect, warm, clear and sunny. After 10 hours we reached the site. Everything seemed to go smoothly. We hooked up to the first three buoys with ease. The fourth one took about four hours but no one really minded as the waters were flat calm. I noticed the guards observing the crew as they worked throughout the day. I believe they were impressed with how hard and seamlessly they all worked together. It had been a long day, so after dinner everyone was happy to kick back and relax in the lounge area.
We again awoke to a beautiful day. I just loved being on the site when it was like that. Being inside the galley, you wouldn’t even know you were at sea. The Son Worshipper was scanning the wreck site and got some great images of the hull of the Port Nicholson which was turned upside down. This boosted the spirits of all even higher. Even the guards seemed happy for us. One of them came in to share the news with me and I believe that was the first time he had a real conversation with me, brief as it was.
It was another successful day and everyone was in a great mood. After dinner, instead of watching a movie, they decided to do a little target shooting. Not only did the guards have weapons but some of the crew had personal hand guns. Everyone headed to the stern of the ship. Someone had brought a bunch of balloons with them. So with the balloons inflated and tied off, they were thrown into the water. Once they got about 20-30 feet away they would take turns shooting at it. Though the water was calm, there was still a slight up and down movement so at times you wouldn’t see the balloon as it was hidden between the small swells. I tried a couple shots (not successfully) and though it was something different to do, it wasn’t my thing. However, the guys loved it and continued shooting until it got dark. It was a good way to end a perfect day at sea.
Little did we know, but it was the calm before the storm. It was approximately 2:00 am and everyone was asleep except the person on “watch”. Within minutes the seas started picking up fast and furious. He decided to wake up the captain to inform him of this sudden change. Upon checking the weather, Capt. Gary Esper, saw that we weren’t far from the path of a hurricane. He decided that everyone had to be woken up and report to the bridge. Within 15 minutes we were all up and it didn’t take long to realize, things weren’t looking good. By now the winds were blowing 35 knots and the sea was producing 15’ waves. We all put a life jacket on for safety. Since we were tied up to all four buoys there was no escaping the storm. We had to ride it out until morning and pray it subsided. For those who have never been out to sea in a storm, let me tell you, there is nothing scarier! First, it is so dark out you can’t see a thing, then, you have to hold onto something so you won’t be thrown across the room. A couple of the guys ran down and tried to secure things throughout the ship as we knew we were in for a very long night. Of course you always have a few that love the challenge of making it through a storm, but I wasn’t one of them. All that kept running through my mind was the movie, The Perfect Storm. I tried to secure myself in a safe area of the bridge and try not to be thrown around. For the next four hours as each wave crashed against the ship, I would wonder if this was it. You could hear the wind howling and rain beating against the windows. Gary kept assuring us all it would be okay and the ship was made to endure this kind of beating. I had to put my trust in what he was saying so that I could keep myself calm.
As dawn approached and the winds were subsiding, it got a little lighter out. I looked around the bridge to see what damage had been done. Thankfully nothing was broken in the bridge, but as I looked across the room I could hardly believe my eyes. One of the new guards was sitting in a fetal position rocking back and forth. I think he was like that the entire night as I don’t remember hearing him say a word. As scared as I was, I believe he was a lot worse.
The guys got to work and somehow through the rain and winds got us unhooked from the buoys. As they were doing that, I made my way down to the galley. Since I had the habit of putting things away I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. The coffee pot and a few other things had fallen off the counter and crashed onto the floor, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. Everyone chipped in and cleaned areas of the ship that needed it as we steamed back to Boston. I was proud of myself for making it through my first storm like a trooper. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for everyone. The one security guard didn’t say a word the entire trip home and once docked, left the ship, never to return