MIAMI — It’s one of those images that stick with you forever.
Ten years ago, on the first of his many seagoing voyages to Haiti, Brian Ryder looked out at the approaching port city of Les Cayes.
Off in the distance at the end of a rickety dock stood a small boy, maybe 4 years old, staring intently back at Ryder.
“He was all stove up – had bloody knees and legs and he was sparsely clothed,” recalled Ryder, a 48-year-old father of five from West Bath.
Asking around, Ryder later learned that the Haitian boy had no mother, no father, no family at all. Like a stray animal, he relied on the people who worked around the dock for his meager survival.
“It was a life-changing experience,” recalled Ryder, who now serves as chief engineer aboard the treasure-salvage ship Sea Hunter.
Late Friday night, as Ryder lay in his bunk aboard Sea Hunter wondering if the ship will ever complete its on-again, off-again relief mission to Haiti, the little boy once again forced his way through the thicket of Ryder’s worries.
“How would my kids feel if their whole family was gone and they’re in this strange place with nobody really to hold them and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK. Don’t cry. Don’t be scared’?” Ryder said. “Man, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.”
It’s easy, in the storm of controversy now swirling around the Sea Hunter and its owner, Greg Brooks, to lose sight of what this anything-but-conventional vessel and its crew are ultimately trying to accomplish.
Click on the link for the rest of today’s column by Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald.