This blog is about my personal experiences working and living aboard the M/V Sea Hunter, a 220’ treasure hunting ship)
As much as we were all enjoying the Miami sunshine, we were so ready to head to Haiti, however, we were being held up by the US Customs and the Florida Coast Guard. They had given Greg a list of things that they required we do before they would allow us to continue on.
Though as frustrated as it all was, we knew we would never give up, that we would do just about anything to personally bring the cargo to Haiti. We attacked the list and everyone went to work. The crew and volunteers spent a couple of days reorganizing and loading supplies in the ten additional containers we took aboard in Miami. We then had to be sure they were properly secured to the deck of the Sea Hunter. Dave St. Cyr, a crew member went to work welding each one to the deck. This took a lot of time and hard work but it was one of the requirements.
As I stated previously, a lot of the boxes of clothes that were stored on the deck had gotten soaked from the two storms we endured while anchored in Delaware Bay. One of the crew members, Alex Bezkorovainy, set out to drying each and every piece. He first gathered the wet clothing and got rid of the ruined boxes. He then set out lines anywhere he could across the entire deck of the Sea Hunter. He carefully separated and hung out each piece of wet clothing across each line. When he ran out of space he covered every inch of the top of each container with wet clothing. As you looked out from the pilot house onto the back of our deck, it looked like a refugee camp, but I knew Alex did this out of love and respect. He respected that each person that donated an item entrusted us to get it to someone in need. That they trusted we would do our very best to deliver it all. He also has a love for his fellow man and would do anything to help in a time of need. Watching him painstakingly hang each and every piece of clothing, was a true labor of love for him and it endeared him more to my heart.
As I remember back on that crazy and hectic time, it almost seems unreal. It was one thing after another without a chance to even catch your breath. Pulling into Miami we had such high hopes, and in an instant they were crushed. It really was an emotional time for everyone aboard.
We still found time to enjoy the little things. On top of all that was going on, I didn’t forget that it was Greg’s 59th birthday. I honestly don’t think he remembered as he was so busy from the moment he awoke until he went to bed. He went from one phone call to the next throughout each day. It was impossible to have a conversation with him without his cell phone ringing. In fact, when he eventually compared his cell phone bills since the beginning of this venture, he had an amazing 2300 calls. I went out and bought a birthday cake (not a good baker) and informed the crew that we would have a little get together in the bridge after lunch. With everyone working on different projects throughout the ship, it was difficult to get everyone together all at once. I thought this would be the perfect time to not only celebrate Greg’s birthday but for all to relax and have a little fun.
After lunch, as usual, Greg would head to the bridge to make phone calls as that was the only semi quiet place on the ship. After he was there for a few minutes, we all walked in singing Happy Birthday with his lit up birthday cake. By the look on his face, I would say he was quite pleased as well as surprised. For the next hour we all enjoyed cake and ice cream while laughing and sharing stories. It was a much needed relaxing time for all. As we got ready to get on with the rest of our busy day, Greg thanked us all for our hard work and reminded us to stay strong. That he and many others were working hard to get us out of this mess and on our way to Haiti. He updated us on where we were with the “to do check list”.
There was a captain from Orlando, Florida that had ties to Maine Maritime Academy and had heard about our dilemma. He volunteered to come and meet with Greg and check out the ship and the crew. If all worked out, he would pilot the ship to Haiti. This was positive news and helped to lift our slightly broken spirits.
It was also decided to go out to dinner as a group that night. We had been on the ship for over three weeks and to have the opportunity to get off it for a short time was well met by all. No one was more excited than me, as it meant one less meal to cook and clean up for. Also, I had never been to Miami and was looking forward to a little sightseeing. That afternoon went by quickly as we anticipated a fun night out and off the ship.
I believe we ended up taking taxis and piling into the rental car Greg had. By chance, we ended up, believe it or not, at a Haitian restaurant. I thought it was the perfect choice. The owners were more than happy to push tables together to accommodate our large group and once they heard what our plans were, they had many words of advice and encouragement. They shared personal stories of courage and struggles from family that was still in Haiti and that had survived the earthquake. They were happy to give us advice and even names of people that might be able to help us once we got to Haiti if we ran into a road block. That night was enjoyed by every member of our crew. It was a first for most of us trying different foods, such as goat. Plates were passed around and shared with laughs and teasing from some that was afraid to try anything different. All in all it ended up to be a perfect and much needed evening, shared with like minded souls. As glanced around the table, watching my fellow crew members, the volunteers and Bill Nemitz laugh and carry on, I just knew that somehow all would work out and we would soon be heading to Haiti.