(This blog is about my personal experiences working and living aboard the M/V Sea Hunter, a 220’ treasure hunting ship)
It was far worse for me going into that second night of the nor’easter. The previous day, though we had been warned, I didn’t know what to expect. The night seemed to go on forever with sleet and howling wind gusts. Now, here we were, still anchored in Delaware Bay, being told that this night would be a repeat of last night. Though I didn’t have a choice, I honestly didn’t know how I would make it through another night. I was terrified, tired, and bruised. Would the M/V Sea Hunter be able to take another night of bashing waves and freezing rains? And what about all the boxes full of donations that were already soaked? I was sick thinking they had survived one night, but now another night?
And poor Dan Kidd (a volunteer) was trying his best to stay strong. He had been seasick since the day we left and the storms were not helping. I felt so badly for him and kept trying to get him to drink water or hot tea. He couldn’t keep anything down and was getting weaker. The rest of the crew were weary but were also trying to keep positive. They kept saying how tough the ship was and that by the next day we would be fine and steaming on our way to our next port, Miami. Please God, I thought, get me through one more night.
Everything that could have fallen throughout the ship had already done so the night before. We all tried to close our eyes but could only get a few minutes of sleep at a time. It’s hard to relax when you are constantly being pulled from one side to the other. Some of the crew even tried to play cards while sitting on the floor in the pilot house, anything to keep your mind elsewhere. Since it was next to impossible to cook, we were eating crackers or maybe a sandwich and drinking endless cups of coffee. I finally asked everyone to only fill their coffee cups half way as most of it was spilt by the time they reached the pilot house. The rug in the pilot house was soaked from endless spilled cups of coffee.
I was never so happy to see the morning light. The storm seemed to be subsiding and the waves were becoming smaller. By midmorning, it was decided to forge ahead. I always despised the loud grinding noise the anchor made each time we either set it or lifted it, but not that particular morning, it was music to my ears. As we steamed to our next destination, everyone started to settle down and get back into the routine of ship life.
Once again, the old ship was steaming at 10 knots and the music was blaring in the pilot house. Everyone was in high spirits and felt like we could conquer anything! Even I was a little proud of myself for making it through two nights of terror, but it was only because of the brave crew. They continued to be positive and wouldn’t let me think the worse.
For the next few days the weather got calmer as we headed south. I would go outside and spend time feeling the warm sunshine and enjoying the ocean. It was amazing how one moment at sea could be so frightening and the next so enjoyable. I kept busy cleaning the common areas and cooking endless meals and snacks.
I was never so happy when we finally pulled into the Miami dock. You could feel the excitement everywhere. I just wanted to get off the ship and feel the earth under my feet. We had been in contact with Greg, as he, Mac (security guard) and Bill Neminz (reporter) had been in Miami a couple of days to line up the additional aid we were to take to Haiti. I spoke to Greg earlier and shared my last frightful days and nights with him. I knew he had been in similar storms in the past and could relate. We both had a love for the ocean but also had a fear of what it was capable of doing. He said I was finally a true sailor now that I had gone through the storm.
February 11, 2010, the Sea Hunter finally pulls into the dock in Miami loaded with soaked boxes of aid and a weary crew. There was a huge cruise ship across our way with passengers boarding for their trip. We all looked on with a bit of envy. As much as we would have loved to be taking a Caribbean cruise, I know not one person aboard would trade places if they had the chance. We had come this far and nothing would stop us now.
As Greg and the others boarded the Sea Hunter, hugs and handshakes were given out freely. We all had our own stories to share. Even Dan was finally up and feeling better. He even entertained us with some songs from his ukulele.
The jubilation didn’t last very long as Greg informed us of what he had been going through since being in Miami. It seemed the US Customs and Coast Guard had put a hold onto our trip to Haiti. They required we have a 200 ton licensed captain and first mate aboard. Though Gary Esper had steamed the M/V Sea Hunter thousands of miles without any issues, he lacked the proper paperwork, according to the Coast Guard. If that wasn’t enough, they gave Greg a deadline to provide a full inventory of every piece of aid that had been donated in both Portland and Boston. They also required us to pay a “duty tax” based on the total value of all donations.
WHAT???? Are you serious, is what we were all thinking. Hundreds of people had donated items both new and old, and they were tightly boxed away in many different areas on the ship. We had no idea of what exactly was aboard. We had just come through a couple really rough storms, and now our own government was delaying us taking this much needed aid to Haiti. It seemed unreal; however, Greg was not deterred. He was proud of us and asked that we stay strong and determined, as there was a solution and he would find a way.