March 3, 2010

New shipmaster steps in for Sea Hunter

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

MIAMI — Even as one licensed shipmaster declined to accompany the Maine relief ship Sea Hunter to Haiti, another stepped forward today and tentatively agreed to make the 700-mile voyage.

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks of Gorham confers by telephone with the Coast Guard this morning.

Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer

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Volunteers, from left, Dan Kidd of Limington and Rick Woodbury of Scarborough and deckhand Shawn Jordan of Portland, secure loose items on the main deck of the Sea Hunter this morning.

Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer

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“I’m excited as hell that we’ve got somebody,” said Greg Brooks of Gorham, owner of the Sea Hunter, after speaking to the new shipmaster by telephone.

Brooks said the latest volunteer, who holds a Coast Guard license for vessels up to 1,600 tons, asked that his name be withheld for now while he takes care of personal business in Maine and prepares to fly to Miami on Sunday.

But the commitment appears to be firm, Brooks said.

The Maine shipmaster made his decision after Brooks e-mailed him photos of the ship and its cargo.

“He asked all the right questions,” Brooks said. “I feel really good about him.”

Moments after Brooks spoke with the new master, Richard Devins of Orlando declined to make the trip.

Devins boarded the ship and delivered a list of eight conditions – all of which he said “would cost a fortune” – that would have to be met before he’d consider sailing with the Sea Hunter.

They focused on securing various components of the cargo, including 10 20-foot containers and a large medical mobile unit, and other safety issues.

The report by Devins, a retired oil-tanker captain who holds an unlimited ship master’s license, was effectively viewed by both Devins and Brooks as the end of Devins’ involvement in the venture.

“I did it with a lot of regret,” Devins said. “But I’d be more regretful if somebody got hurt.”

Coast Guard officials could not be reached immediately to comment on the latest developments.

But in an interview earlier today, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Lingaitis said the Coast Guard would entertain a second ship master’s assessment of the Sea Hunter’s seaworthiness if one were to come forward.

“If (Brooks) can get another master or somebody else to say, ‘Hey, that’s one master’s opinion. I’m another professional master and I think it’s good and it’s safe,’ we’re going to evaluate that professional master’s opinion,” Lingaitis said.

Preparations are under way to move the Sea Hunter this evening from its berth in the Port of Miami to an anchorage to await the arrival of the new master.
At the same time, Brooks said, three non-essential members of the crew have decided to leave the ship and return to Maine.

The departures stem from crew members’ personal commitments and the need to open up more space aboard the vessel, Brooks said.

 

11:47 a.m.

MIAMI — A licensed shipmaster, after touring the Maine relief ship Sea Hunter, expressed deep reservations Tuesday about the vessel’s readiness to complete its humanitarian mission to Haiti.

“I’m not here to burst bubbles,” said Richard Devins of Orlando, Fla., who came aboard Sea Hunter at 2:30 p.m. “But I know what I have to do.”

Devins spent about an hour examining the vessel and its cargo before speaking at length in Sea Hunter’s galley with ship owner Greg Brooks of Gorham and chief engineer Brian Ryder of West Bath.

“There’s nothing here that’s not solvable,” Devins said. “It’s just how much money do you want to put into it?”

Specifically, Devins said, the 10 20-foot containers on the ship’s main deck, all loaded with relief supplies, would have to be welded with metal plates to one another and to the ship’s deck to ensure they remain stable in heavy seas.

“If one (container) gets loose, they all get loose,” Devins said, adding that his years at sea have trained him always to prepare for the worst. “It’s always the 'but what if?’”

(Continued on page 2)

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at bnemitz@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks briefs his crew after a successful trip to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol office Tuesday morning.

Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer

  


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