S.O.S… PLEASE SOMEONE HELP ME…
www.sleepingwiththechef.com © SWTC 2016
Over the last several years, Bryan and I have discussed collaborating on several projects together, but there was one we always went back to. One that was more important to us than the others. A passion project of sorts, that meshed food, photography, culture, the coast and recording the history of a culture and lifestyle that is quickly becoming extinct. While it’s no secret how much we love the gulf, we are just as equally enamored with the people who call the gulf coast ports their home and also depend on it’s resources in order to survive. Unfortunately, they are becoming less and less as their industry, formerly inclusive primarily of mom and pop operations, changes in order to keep up with the current demands for product.
So a few weeks ago, on Tuesday, August 30th, we finally embarked on a trial exploration of our project. Leading up to our trip, we constantly discussed our plan and plotted our course deciding to dock in six different ports over two days, starting in Galveston, stopping in Port Alto, Port O’Connor, Seadrift, Rockport ending with our final destination, Port Aransas. Then we would fly back to Houston from Corpus Christi just in time to make lunch service at Reef while someone else drove our boat back. It might be ambitious but we are never ones to cower in the face of a challenge.
The 30th quickly approached and we finalized all the details, started packing our bags and set up a few contacts along the way. We even hired Capt. Billy Love to help us manage our boat so we could primarily focus on our vision. Bryan even went as far as to create the Mise en Place set up out of a tackle box. It was the perfect plan.
But, like they always say…”The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
In the days prior to our departure, we almost had to reschedule the trip due to a storm that mysteriously developed just off the coast. A storm that also had the minor possibility of developing into a tropical depression. It literally just popped up over night right off the coast of Galveston… which is almost unheard of. The 24 hours prior to leaving, we obsessed over weather reports as well as reports from our Captain on what the commercial fishing boats were doing. Most were coming in from the Gulf to dock safely but nobody was going out. Luckily, it only pushed our trip back by hours and not days but also meant we would definitely need to pack our rain gear.
Tuesday morning came and we were off to Galveston to visit with our first contact at Katie’s Seafood conveniently allowing even more time for the storms to pass. We recorded great conversations, shot some photos, bought a sheepshead for dinner and even made friends with the pelicans littering the docs and fighting over scraps of fish as they were being filleted.
We couldn’t have had a better start. We met Capt. Billy Love at our boat and he and Bryan loaded our absurd amount of provisions:
- Food for 83 people (even though there was only four of us on the trip)
- 1 case of red wine1 bottle of Belle Meade Sherry Cask Bourbon
- 2 cases of Topo Chico, because we would die without it
- Tackle Mise en Place
- 3 real tackle boxes
- 1 captains bag
- 7 pairs of sunglasses
- 1 ipod circa 2007 filled with God knows what
- 4 yetis, 6 if you include our tumblers
- Bryan’s knife roll
- 18 towels Rain Gear 350lbs of ice which was supplemented as it melted
- 943 fishing poles
- Several bags/suitcases
- 2 camera bodies including my newest addition, the D5
- 2 lenses; 24mm, 70-200mm2 mics
- 1 Osmos 4K video camera, which has since been renamed, “The Evil Video Device From Hell”
- 3 junk tripods, purchased at the Target in Galveston due to my inability to remember my Manfrotto’s while drinking wine as I packed… but that’s another story
- 2 Macbook Airs
- 1 brand new, mac formatted, 2TB WD external hard drive to store the photos and video files
It might seem like overkill, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Especially, when the few shops along our way only sold fish, crabs or shrimp.
Every day was filled with beautiful landscapes, incredible stories from the people we met along the way and ridiculously yummy dinner cooked nightly by Bryan with ingredients we sourced as we went. There were many serendipitous discoveries along the way. Like how we found out one of the Uchi chefs who served spicy tuna rolls at our wedding was the son of the lovely Vietnamese family Bryan grew up buying crabs from for family BBQs at their nearby bay house. We connected the dots only because we spent an hour waiting out a storm at our stop in Sea Drift before walking into town to eat lunch. I will share the full story soon.
As we pulled up to our final port, our rental company texted the details of the home we would sleep at that night. The beach house just happened to be named the same as our project… XXXXX XXXXXXX.
I quickly started to fill my new external drive with copious amounts of footage from the weathered faces of the men who had spent their lives on boats under the unrelenting sun as well to the jaw dropping sunsets and coastal scenery. I even captured a pod of dolphins as they led a massive ship out to sea. Bucket list items were being crossed off left and right and as they were, the cards from my camera were dumped one after another onto the drive.
When we arrived in Port Aransas Bryan and I felt like our time on the boat wasn’t over. We made the decision to cancel our flights and comfy hotel room in lieu of another night in Port Aransas in a lumpy bed so we could meet two additional fishermen. This also meant we would now be riding back on the boat with Capt. Billy Love. This time however, we would make the trip in a single day without stopping.
It may have been the best decision we’ve ever made. Not only did we capture and record the history of an amazing man but we were also able to help a stranded shrimp boat – down on their luck. We wouldn’t have stopped had I not begged Capt. Billy Love to turn around so I could photograph, what I thought was an abandoned ship. As we inched closer, it turned out it wasn’t abandoned. They were stuck on a shoal after breaking down and drifting too far in the wrong direction. We used our 30 ft Grady White, not a huge boat but capable, to pull them to safety only breaking one fishing rod in the process. Again, a story I will post soon.
It was one unbelievable moment after another. All documented, all placed on my external drive. I tried at each port to connect to wifi to upload the files to my cloud for safe keeping but as luck would have it, I was never able to back up more than a few due to the size of the files and the weak signals. While I did worry a little about my lack of ability to backup my work, I didn’t focus on it too much… I mean, the drive was brand new… what could possibly go wrong in just a few days with a new drive.
Famous last words of a fool.
The last time I uploaded files to the drive was on our way home when we were three hours away from completing our trip. Everything was working fine, so again, I was not worried. After being delayed an hour by a lowered bridge and after the sun disappeared and the mosquitoes dined on our flesh like a Las Vegas buffet, we arrived back at the yacht basin. We unloaded all of our stuff, showered on a friend’s neighboring yacht and jumped in the car to pick up dinner from the only place still open on the island at 10pm before heading to our hotel.
As Bryan drove, I plugged in my external drive to start backing up to my cloud storage to preserve every amazing moment. I connected the drive but instead of showing up like previously, it was nowhere to be found. I powered down, unplugged the drive and restarted my computer thinking maybe it just needed a little break.
After a few minutes, I powered up.
Plugged in my external drive and…
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I tried everything I knew of to recognize my external drive. Still, nothing worked.
What had been the most amazing trip of our lives… was now becoming overshadowed by this technological disaster.
Everything from that moment on was a blur. I do remember walking, in a zombie like fashion, into our hotel and melting into a pool of tears on the bed while Bryan texted our IT expert, Doug, hoping for a solution. The phone rang immediately after he sent the text. It was Doug, thank God, so we put the phone on speaker. The first thing out of his mouth was, “Step one, you need to assign a value to the drive…. What are your memories worth to you?”
Minutes passed by of what would have been silence, had I not been sobbing like a love sick widow.
Every last file being held hostage by that failed drive was important to me. I didn’t see the contents as little blue folders containing .NEF and .MOV files. They were so much more than that. They were the histories of people and a culture soon to be gone and subsequently… forgotten. Not only that, I realized those files had become part of my and Bryan’s story as well. We had plans for those files; important plans. There were people counting on us to deliver those files so that we might possibly move forward with a bigger platform other than just this blog.
Finally, I responded, “it’s priceless.”
Doug replied, “Good, I’m glad you think so, because it’s sure not going to be cheap to get them back.” He also forewarned we would probably have to ship the drive off to a recovery company but he would be able to check it the following Tuesday after the Memorial day holiday and hopefully save us some time and money. It was late Friday night which meant I had three more days of hell before I would have any idea what to expect.
I was devastated.
When Doug was able to look at the drive he realized it was too big of a problem for him alone and we made the decision to ship it to a company in California, DriveSavers. I researched them a little and they seemed legit with a good success rate, so I gave the ok.
After what seemed like an eternity they finally called and said they received the drive and there was in fact still data on it and they were 99% sure they could recover the majority of it for the mere price tag of…..
Drum roll please…..
It was then that I was reminded of the mastercard “priceless” ads…
Over the next several weeks I will share the incredible stories and spirit of the people we encountered along our priceless adventure. I would say that it was a once in a lifetime event, but I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be repeating it again very soon. Only next time, we hope that the the trip is longer and includes more ports than our first voyage… fingers crossed.