Spotlight on… Shawn Ruarke

Shawn Ruarke is a former employee of Sub Sea Research, who worked as a marketer for the company in 2008 and was then employed as a deckhand for the spring and summer of 2009. He and I worked alongside each other in the autumn of 2008, writing press releases for the company. Shawn made deliveries to local places who wanted to display artifacts from Sub Sea. A local credit union, Ocean Communities, had a small display of pottery recovered from a French wreck by Sub Sea. This type of thing not only looks exciting, but helps advertise the company to the public.

In 2009, this work was enough for one person and so Shawn transferred over to the boat. He had never worked on a ship before, but he was eager to learn the skills necessary. In the spring of 2009, the Sea Hunter was docked in Portland, but it would soon travel to Massachusetts to work on the Port Nicholson wreck. Shawn’s job was fairly general and included hard work aboard the ship. He was responsible for cleaning, which is a very vast duty aboard a large ship like the Sea Hunter and has to be split amongst several people. Cleaning the bathrooms (heads) and kitchen are important tasks. My aunt Cindy was working as the cook at that time, and so Shawn often helped her with dishes and cleaning the kitchen. He worked in the hydraulic room, cleaning up any fuel that may have spilled. He often swabbed the decks, which would get messy from all of the metal-working that was being done on them.

Shawn enjoyed taking pictures and filming what was going on onboard. The Discovery Channel was there that summer, taking footage of the Port Nicholson recovery effort. Shawn began doing his own documentation, by writing in a journal and taking photos every day. One of the most exciting days of his summer onboard was the day the crew sent the grappling claw down to the wreck below. While mostly mud and dirt was brought up from the ocean floor, bits of the ship came up too. It was a great day for the crew and brought morale up tremendously.

Shawn’s favorite part of working onboard was learning new things from the crew members, and getting to hear their stories. Being on the ship 24/7 means that the crew gets very close, and Shawn said he definitely formed friendships that summer. It was difficult to be away from his family and loved ones for so long, and it helped to have people aboard the ship that he could trust. The work itself was difficult, and the schedule was strange. He would often have to stay up all night doing watches, and after only a few hours of sleep get back to work. The hardest part though, in his opinion, was being out at the wrecksite with nothing around them but ocean for miles and miles. Not having much experience with boats, this was intimidating. It was a challenge, but he says he is glad he had the experience. He left after that summer to pursue other things. He says his respect has grown for those who work on the sea. There is so much work and time put into their positions, and he admires anyone who dedicates themselves so much to their chosen field.

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