March 3, 2010

Sea Hunter arrives at 2nd Haitian port

If all goes as planned, the ship will spend the next few days offloading almost 200 tons of food, clothing, medicine and other relief supplies onto small vessels here.

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

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Captain Gary Esper of Hopkinton, Mass., right, and volunteer Shipmaster Kevin Garthwaite of Wells guide the Sea Hunter to its anchorage this morning off the Haitian port of Les Cayes.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist

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Additional Photos Below

Upon arriving in Les Cayes early this afternoon, Brooks said, he will start offloading as much of the Sea Hunter's estimated 200 tons of cargo as possible onto smaller vessels.

The smaller boats will then ferry the clothing, food, medical supplies and other goods for survivors of Haiti's earthquake to the shore in Les Cayes, which lacks dock space with deep enough water for the 220-foot Sea Hunter.

Monday's last-ditch effort to offload the large items began when Brooks ordered the Sea Hunter's tender, the Mini Me, hoisted into the water to take Brooks and a small delegation about a mile from the ship to the dock.

There, the group met Berthany Piard, an assistant to the Rev. Marc Boisvert at Hope Village in Les Cayes.

The orphanage, founded and operated by the Lewiston-born Boisvert, is the intended beneficiary of all of the Sea Hunter's cargo except the medical mobile unit and the water desalinator.

Piard, speaking in Creole through Felix Vital, Brooks' interpreter, said he had been told earlier in the morning that the offloading was being held up by the Haitian customs bureau. Customs officials would allow it only after a formal "manifest" showing what was on board the Sea Hunter was hand-delivered to Port-au-Prince, Piard said.

Brooks and the others explained to Piard that officials who boarded the Sea Hunter last week were provided with a small stack of documents listing everything on board the ship.

"But they say it is not a manifest," replied Piard. "So they're having their secretary type it into a manifest and then it will be sent to Port-au-Prince."

"Which could take weeks," muttered Brooks.

"Or longer," agreed translator Vital, speaking for himself this time.

The Sea Hunter group then asked Piard to drive them to downtown Miragoane for a face-to-face meeting with Port Captain Odrick Therazin.

(Late last week, Therazin promised Vital that the large items would be offloaded "one way or another" from the Sea Hunter on Monday.)

Along the two miles of heavily rutted dirt road, Piard placed several cell-phone calls to Therazin, who responded each time that he was "at the bank" and told Piard to call back later.

Finally, after the Sea Hunter group spent two hours sitting in 90-degree heat at a curb in the crowded downtown marketplace, Therazin stopped answering his phone.

"That's it, let's go back to the ship," Brooks said. "This is getting us nowhere."

Returning to the dock, the Sea Hunter group headed for the Mini Me. Moments before they cast off, however, Marlon Peter, chief mate aboard a ship at the dock, came after them.

"This is crazy. Stay here. I will make something happen," Peter said before disappearing down the dock.

Brooks, unimpressed, ordered the Mini Me to return to the Sea Hunter. But soon after the group arrived back at the ship, Peter appeared at the Sea Hunter's stern in an oar-driven water taxi and asked that Brooks and the others return to the dock.

"The number-two customs guy in Miragoane is waiting there," Peter said. "He wants to speak to you."

Back into the Mini Me went Brooks and his delegation. At the dock, they were led to a man in an open dress shirt, dark trousers and polished black shoes sitting beneath a shaded overhang in a plastic white lawn chair.

"Come, sit," the man said with a smile.

Vital and the man then spoke in Creole for several minutes, after which the man addressed the rest of the group in broken English.

"I try to help you," he said as dozens of curious dockworkers pressed ever closer to listen. "We will find a way to get your things to the dock."

(Continued on page 3)

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Additional Photos

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks rides Monday morning through the Haitian port of Miragoane in search of permission to offload the relief ship’s 10 containers and other large cargo. Above, the Maine relief ship sits at anchor.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist

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Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks, left, and Captain Gary Esper, center, listen while Guerda Michel, CEO of Guerda Terminal Inc., speaks with dockworkers Monday afternoon at the Haitian port of Miragoane.

Bill Nemitz/Columnist


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