March 3, 2010

This time Mainer's not hunting treasure, he's delivering it -- to Haiti

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

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Treasure hunter Greg Brooks of Gorham, owner of the 220-foot Sea Watcher, holds a Haitian child during one of Brooks' many trips to Haiti. Photo coourtesy Greg Brooks

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The 220-foot Sea Watcher, normally used to hunt for shipwreck treasures, could set sail as soon as Monday to aid the relief effort in Haiti. Photo courtesy Greg Brooks

But if there's one place that keeps beckoning, it's Haiti -- and not just for the myriad of shipwrecks that dot its many offshore reefs.

''It's the kids,'' said Brooks. ''They'll melt your heart.''

Initially, Brooks' primary goal was to sail to an orphanage he's visited numerous times just outside Port-au-Prince, where an estimated 200 children are now stranded with less than a week's supply of food and water. Only three children died in the earthquake -- the rest were still outdoors when it struck -- but Brooks has received reports that the facility is badly damaged and no longer habitable.

Because the roads in and out were impassable, Brooks planned to load the children aboard the Sea Hunter and take them down the coast to Les Cayes, where a larger orphanage had agreed to take them.

But Thursday morning, word came that there was an overland route after all and it appeared the ship rescue wouldn't be necessary.

No matter. Brooks is full steam ahead anyway.

His most immediate need, he said, is to get his hands on about 30,000 gallons of fuel to get to Haiti and back, and to come up with about $10,000 to pay his crew.

''I can't use my investors' money to do this, so we have to raise the money and/or fuel,'' Brooks said. ''I wouldn't get paid, but the crew would because they work pretty much paycheck to paycheck.''

(Donations can be made online at -- follow the ''latest news'' link -- or by mail to the Haitian Relief Fund at Ocean Communities Credit Union, 17 Westbrook Common, Westbrook, ME 04092.)

If all goes well, Brooks said, he could cast off as soon as Monday and be in Haiti within a week. He figures the sooner the better -- the Sea Hunter's 12-foot draft, raised propeller and heavy-lifting equipment make it much more versatile than many of the larger vessels heading for the disaster zone.

''I know there are much bigger ships going down, but they have no docks left down there so they have to helicopter everything to shore,'' he said. ''I'm pretty sure that in certain places we can put the stern right up there, lift the containers and put them right on shore.''

But first he's got to get there. And soon.

''I'm just a guy who does whatever it takes,'' Brooks said. ''I always have been.''

And never has his cargo been more valuable.


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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