(This blog is about my experiences working and living aboard the M/V Sea Hunter, a 220’ treasure hunting ship)
The morning came quickly with anticipation as we awaited the response from the new captain. Things were finally looking up after two weeks of being held up in Miami for violations. We had just received the go ahead from US Customs and now only needed a licensed captain willing to take the Sea Hunter and crew to Haiti to deliver its cargo.
Greg had spoken with his wife Kathy regarding his health and whether or not he should continue on the trip. Kathy has always been the voice of reason but when Greg makes up his mind to do something, there is nothing she can say or do. It was decided that he would continue with the antibiotics and the breathing treatments for the next few days and if he wasn’t any better he would reconsider. Though I was really concerned about his health, I also knew how much he wanted to complete this trip with his crew.
The possible “new captain” came to the ship early that afternoon to speak with us. By the look on his face, I didn’t have a good feeling. He bluntly stated that he would do it if we met a list of his conditions. He was concerned about the safety of both the ship and the crew. As he read off his list of demands, I knew there was no way we could ever fulfill them all. Firstly, they would take too much time. One of the demands was having the Sea Hunter hauled out of the water to have some work done at a shipyard. Secondly, the cost was nowhere in our budget. With his regrets, he wished us well and left.
With the devastating news it seemed like the final blow to the crew. It’s funny, but whenever something happens (good or bad) songs come to my mind. That particular moment brought to mind a song I like to sing by John Prine “One day you’re up, the next your down, it’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown. That’s the way that the world goes round.” Things seemed to be looking up and in an instant, it all fell down. I think it’s a coping mechanism for me. However, things changed again in a moment.
On the off chance this captain didn’t come through, Greg had already been in contact with another one. This captain was from Maine and held the license that the US Coast Guard required. He and Greg had been talking back and forth for a few days. He asked Greg to answer a list of questions he had and to send them back to him along with pictures of the ship and cargo. After looking everything over he decided things were in good enough order and that he would lend his services. He would be arriving in a couple of days, and of course, this was music to our ears!
In the meantime, we were informed by the marina that they needed our space and we would have to move. Since there was nowhere for us to go, we went about a mile off of South Miami Beach and dropped the anchor. Spirits were once again high as we awaited the new captain’s arrival. We spent the next few days practicing ship drills. Though we had gone over some of these with the volunteers before we left Maine, it’s always a good idea to keep it fresh. I always enjoy doing drills as it not only keeps me educated but its fun to do as a group. I learn something new every time.
We decided first to practice, MOB (man overboard). This was one of the drills we couldn’t exactly do while docked in Maine in January. Now we were in the 70 degree waters of Miami. The key was to understand first the hazards that could cause someone to go overboard. Many people think (and I was one of them), if you are on a large ship that it’s almost impossible for someone to fall over the side. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Greg and Gary went over many scenarios of how this happens. I can tell you truthfully, it opened my eyes.
Rick Woodbury (a volunteer) decided he would be the one that goes overboard. As he jumped in the warm waters, we practiced the steps required. If you happen to see this happen to never, ever take your eyes of the person. To notify the pilot house so they can sound the alarm and set the GPS for the position. We took turns tossing the life ring into the water. All in all it was a success and helped to build confidence amongst the crew.
The morning came for the new captain to arrive. Since we were not at dock and anchored offshore, he was picked up in our ship’s tender, Mini Me. I had made sure the ship was in order and looking good and that his room was ready for him. As I saw Mini Me steaming towards the bow of the Sea Hunter I decided to be the first one to greet him. As I helped to load his luggage aboard and lent a hand for him to step onto the ship, he greeted me with a smile and stated he was happy to be here. I knew in that moment, that we would be okay and shortly on our way.