Meet the Crew: Capt. Gary Esper

(This blog is about my experiences working and living aboard a 220’ treasure hunting ship, the M/V Sea Hunter)

Gary Esper

Gary Esper

I’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the crew of the M/V Sea Hunter and Son Worshipper. I’ve observed their behaviors (good, bad and ugly) their skills, work ethic and overall demeanor. We’ve eaten endless meals together sitting around the table in the galley. That was always my favorite time, as throughout the day everyone is usually scattered in different areas of the ship. Eating brings us all in one place where we can let loose, share stories and have conversation. You learn a lot during this time.

I recently asked the crew to share some information about themselves. With their responses and what I’ve observed over the years you can get to know them a little better.

Gary V. Esper is the captain of the M/V Sea Hunter. Gary has always loved being on any body of water, especially the ocean. After earning his diving certificate in 1984 there was no looking back. His interest in the underwater world and salvaging shipwrecks became part of him. In the 90’s he worked as a dive master for several dive shops in the Boston area.

In late 1990, Gary and a fellow diver, Ed Michaud, were salvaging spikes while diving on the warship, the USS New Hampshire. Ed had done some research previously for Greg and knew he would be interested in the spikes. Both he and Gary met with Greg and ended up sharing stories about shipwrecks and diving. Greg, and his then current crew, was taking his boat Seven to Nantucket in the hopes of finding a sunken submarine. He invited Gary to go along and that began his employment and friendship with Greg Brooks.

Throughout those years, when times were slow or money was tight, their was an understanding and Gary would take time off and do carpentry work. He had a mortgage and three children to support. Gary’s only son is autistic, and though many would feel it a curse, he has stated many times that he feels it a blessing. He enjoys bringing his children to the ship on occasion and they seem to be developing the same love of the water as their father.

Gary diving for lobster

Gary diving for lobster

Throughout the years, Gary has immersed himself with learning all he could about the underwater world and the history of shipwrecks. While working for Greg he has had the opportunity to salvage and dive in many different places. He has been to Haiti twice, once to dive a shipwreck and another to deliver aid. However, one of his favorite experiences was diving at 180’ off of Key West looking for a ship called the Dragon Fly. He has absolutely no fear in the water and says deeper the better.  He eventually earned his USCG 200 ton master license and is now the captain of the M/V Sea Hunter. He is second in command after Greg and his primary concern is the safety of the crew and ship. While at dock you can usually find Gary renovating something on either ship. He just about remodeled the entire Sea Hunter and much of the Son Worshipper. Other times you can find him scraping, painting or cleaning different areas, as he takes tremendous pride in the ship’s appearance.

It is also his responsibility to keep watch of the weather forecast. Throughout the day he checks a few different sites and compares the information. With this knowledge he then makes the call on whether it is both safe and worthwhile to take the long ride to the Port Nicholson site. He takes this very seriously and stands his ground when he and Greg have a difference in opinion (which happens frequently and is always fun to observe). I’ve always said his second career could be as a meteorologist, but I don’t think that would ever happen. Gary says this is his dream job and once the Port Nicholson is salvaged and he shares his cut of the money with raising awareness of autism, he will be ready and eager to go onto the next wreck!

2 thoughts on “Meet the Crew: Capt. Gary Esper

    • I meant to say that is the worst picture of me that I have ever seen (dumb phone).. Good job Cindy although I have been to Haiti about 12 times over the years not 2

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