March 3, 2010

Stymied ship unsnarls sticky knot in red tape

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

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Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer: Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks, right, confers with Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Lingaitis, left, and inspector Paul Bates aboard the Sea Hunter Friday morning. Looking on is Chief Engineer Brian Ryder of West Bath.

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''(Stowe) told me where she was coming from, what she thought needs to be done, and I think I can fit the bill there without too much pain,'' Devins said. ''And it sounds like they've been going through a lot of pain down there'' in Haiti.

Friday's activities began with a meeting -- half strategy session, half pep talk -- between Brooks and his crew on the bridge of the Sea Hunter.

''This is going to be the day that decides what happens here,'' Brooks told the 10 crew members and two volunteers, all but three of whom are from Maine.

''We started this -- and we should finish it,'' Brooks said. ''We all know that this aid is going to save people's lives.''

Moments later, the crew fanned out among the dozens of pallets on the ship's main deck -- many of them still soaked from three major storms encountered by the Sea Hunter during its 11-day voyage down the East Coast.

Upon discovering that several of the dockside containers were not completely full, the crew opened deck space by transferring most of the pallets into the containers with the ship's 40-ton crane.

''It was back-breaking,'' said deckhand Shawn Jordan, 31, of South Portland. ''But it was worth it.''

By late afternoon, under growing pressure by dock owner Bernuth Marine Shipping Inc. to finish the loading operation, the crew stepped back as container after container was nestled into the ever-shrinking deck space.

''I was ecstatic when they all fit -- everybody was,'' said Stephanie Ferrante, 28, of Portland, who serves as marine archaeologist during the Sea Hunter's normal treasure-salvage operations.

While the crew labored, Chief Engineer Brian Ryder, 37, of West Bath and volunteer Dan Kidd, 61, a mechanical engineer from Limington, hunched over a laptop computer and a calculator. Their task: to perfect a loading plan to keep the ship stable with its now-estimated 200 tons of cargo.

Shortly after they finished, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Lingaitis and inspector Paul Bates came aboard.

They sat with Brooks for almost an hour in the galley, reviewing the Coast Guard's hold order and setting the various licensing and safety benchmarks to have it lifted.

''We're willing to work with you,'' Lingaitis told Brooks. ''Let's keep discussing this.''

Brooks later said that despite the regulatory setbacks, his hopes for reaching Haiti remain undimmed. ''I'm hoping there's a solution in sight,'' he said.

He's hardly alone.

Cynthia DeSoi of Greene is medical director of Hope Village, the orphanage in Les Cayes founded eight years ago and still run by the Rev. Marc Boisvert, a Roman Catholic priest who grew up in Lewiston.

In an e-mail Friday, DeSoi said she flew home to Maine on Thursday evening after spending the past two weeks at Hope Village.

The supplies aboard the Sea Hunter are needed now more than ever, DeSoi reported: The orphanage, home to 600-plus boys, just agreed to take in 100 more who have arrived since the earthquake Jan. 12 ravaged Port-au-Prince, 140 miles to the east.

''We were really counting on the supplies aboard that ship to provide for them,'' DeSoi wrote. ''There are so many hopes riding on that vessel.''


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


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