MIAMI — The Maine-based relief ship Sea Hunter took two steps forward and one step back Friday in its owner’s quest to deliver supplies to an orphanage in Haiti.
By late afternoon, the ship’s owner, Greg Brooks of Gorham, confirmed that a licensed shipmaster from Orlando, with ties to Maine Maritime Academy, had volunteered to come aboard early next week and ride Sea Hunter to Haiti and then back to its winter berth in Boston.
The decision by Richard Devins, who holds an “unlimited master” license, could satisfy the Coast Guard’s demand that Sea Hunter no longer sail without licensed personnel aboard.
“It’s amazing that this man donated his license and his time to come down and help us,” said Brooks. “All he asked was that when we get back to Boston, we buy him a plane ticket home.”
Taking another step toward their goal, the crew and local dockworkers finished clearing the ship’s cluttered main deck and taking aboard 10 containers of relief supplies donated by a Florida-based charity shortly after 4:30 p.m.
That beat the dock owner’s deadline for loading the containers. Under a more flexible deadline, the move to another berth nearby finally got under way at 9 p.m.
“Everybody pulled together, that’s for sure,” said Rick Woodbury, 49, of Scarborough, a friend of Brooks’ who volunteered for the mission. “It was a good day, no doubt about it.”
Enthusiasm about the forward progress was tempered, however, by news that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Miami had ordered Brooks to provide, by this afternoon, a complete inventory of all goods taken aboard in Portland and Boston.
In addition, customs officials told Brooks he must pay a duty based on the total value of the tons of clothing, food and equipment brought to the ship in late January by people and businesses all over Maine.