TORNADOS, TACOS AND A TEXAN


S.O.S… PLEASE SOMEONE HELP ME…


A month ago, we went offshore on a trip that we put together and donated for a gala we were chairing as the auction chairs. It was the fishing trip of a lifetime. Bryan, offshore fishing guru, myself documenting each moment, plus the biggest reason: legendary Houston Texans nose tackle, Vince Wilfork, as a fishing buddy for the day. All on a 54 foot viking. After the glorious trip, Bryan would then create a delectable meal from the fish that was caught along with sides and tasty libations. Sounds like any fishermen’s or woman’s dream, no?

Unfortunately the winning bidders, were not able to find a date that worked for their schedules. It was tricky, to say the least, to schedule due to many moving parts and calendars. Including the limitations of the nearing end of snapper season, which is short even with a commercial license. So, the trip was auctioned off again, in hopes of achieving the same, or close, high bid it garnered previously. Not wanting our efforts to be wasted, we placed a modest bid. To our surprise, we won the trip… along with it, the best Captain in the gulf, Capt. Billy Love.

Yes… you read that right, Capt. BILLY LOVE.

If his name alone were not cause for distinction, you have to see his highly revered mullet. Billy, known throughout the coast, not only for his captain skills but also, his hair. We’ve been friends for a long time and can bare witness to the infatuation over his golden mane. Men are envious of his full head of hair and women flock to run their hands through it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the one and only, Capt. Billy Love.

Captain Billy Love… with a rib

Prior to a trip, we always check and double check the weather and buoy reports for storms and wave heights. The reports the night before we left, noted a slight chance of rain, which we could avoid and a wave prediction of 2-3 feet. The conditions, while not perfect, were definitely doable. Bryan and I had been off-shore a lot together and have, on several occasions, experienced 2-3 foot waves. I reassured all parties that the conditions would be fine and gave the green light for the next day.

I wasn’t worried.

Yet.

The next morning, we met Vince and his wife, Bianca, along with two of our friends, Justin Saunders and Lance Zierlein. Justin is the incredibly talented and driven general manager at our tex-mex restaurant El Real and Lance is the host of Houston radio’s, Sports Talk 790 as well as an analyst for the NFL draft. Once everyone arrived, we loaded the boat with all kinds of delicious food and if you’ve ever been offshore with Bryan, you know what I’m talking about. He thinks of every little food related detail, from snacks to full meals to condiments. To say the least, fishing with a chef, is a very different experience than most are used to.

After we left the dock and started getting closer to the gulf, I felt the stress of our daily life wash away. Bryan too, I could see it all over his face. That is why we love being on the water… All things disappear.

All the meetings.

All the phone calls.

All the responsibilities.

All the stress.

All the chaos.

All. The. Things.

When we were about a mile off Galveston, Lance, who appeared to be turning a pale shade of green, asked if we were close to our first stop. He may have had a tiny stroke when Bryan informed him that we were going 60 miles out and we were only a mile from the shore. Lance’s first offshore experience quickly went from a dream to reality, unfortunately, not for the better.

Sometimes Bryan, the veteran that he is, forgets how hard a big trip can be for newbies especially, their first time out. The first time he took me offshore, we went out 60 miles and I didn’t bat an eye… but I’m definitely not the norm. Not to mention, neither of us get seasick. However, this trip was enough to make even Bryan sport a pair of seabands. Thankfully, I was still ok.

Lance, visibly becoming more uncomfortable as the cold sweats set in, went inside the cabin and lied down on the sofa. Pretty much the worst possible thing you can do when you’re seasick. Bryan explained that and was able to coerce him back outside while the first mate located an electrical shocking bracelet. Finally, he started to feel better.

But, of course the bracket died shortly after, leaving him curled up in a ball of nausea for the majority of the trip.

About a mile offshore…

Yay! Bryan to the rescue… let’s shock Lance with little electronic pulses until he has no other option but to feel better. Seems like a legitimate thing to do.

Eh… maybe not…

Maybe… someone should get a paper sack, you know, just in case…

Once the waves lied down and the boat stopped tossing from side to side, he was able to cast a line.

All kidding aside, everyone felt terrible that Lance was having a less-than-stellar-time for his first offshore experience.

As the day went on, we stopped a few times weaving our way between storms, but only caught snapper. Which would have been great… if it were still snapper season. Did I mention yet, how I found out, less than 24 hours before departing, that commercial snapper season just ended? Originally, I was told that it ended the day after our trip. Not… the day before. Either way, there were still plenty of fish in the sea (sorry, I had to) and Bryan had his heart set on hunting cobia.

Buuuuuuut…. yes there’s another but.

The original scattered light rain… turned into several large storms, changing our stops as we navigated around them. Which also meant, our most anticipated spot, was no longer an option. We still rolled with the tide (I, know, I’m sorry again) and stopped often to fish and a few times to eat. We had plenty of tasty BBQ ribs and chicken, along with quest and Vince’s favorite of the day…. TACOS.

Vince started to believe in a new a superstition that day and joked that the tacos brought him good luck while fishing. One of the most endearing qualities of an athlete, is their heartfelt belief that a ritual will bring about good luck. His ritual was to eat a taco, then cast a line. If he didn’t get a bite, he would eat another taco and then, low and behold, catch another fish. Truth be told, he caught the most fish that day. He was clearly on to something. I’m willing to bet, tacos on the boat, will now become a tradition.

As I finally had a minute to put my camera down and drop my first line of the day, I heard Capt. Billy Love declare, very excitedly I might add, “hey… y’all check out the waterspouts over there!!”

I stammered something to the tune of, “Uh, what? A water what? A spout? Isn’t that just a word for a water TORNADO??? Where? Why? Billlyyy!!!! Why are you down here and not up there, in the tower, taking us home!?!? How far is the shore?? Toto? Auntie Em? Anyone?”

At that point, I would have jumped on the back of one of those creepy flying monkeys from OZ and flown home, since I didn’t have a pair of ruby slippers handy to carry me back to safety.

Capt. Billy Love, now laughing at my spaztastic display of fear, casually said, “oh… was I not supposed to mention that? Next time, I’ll just keep it to myself I guess,” as he climbed back up the stairs to the tower.

Billy, obviously, wasn’t aware of my very real and very strong fear of storms, mostly the kind that have tornados. The week of my ninth birthday, a bad storm hit… along with it, a tornado. This continued for the next couple of years. Same week, right around my birthday. It would either take out part of our roof or slice down one of the trees, just feet away. The tree would then end up in our pool or my parents bedroom, where we all happened to be, hunkering down. Those nights, were enough to haunt me to this day.

Regardless, I picked up my camera, leaned over the edge of the boat and shot a photo… as did Bianca. We both were in disbelief that there was, in fact, a tornado on the water and that we could actually see it. It was a situation we both clearly would like to avoid at all cost.

Lance, also interested in water tornados, taking a photo along side me and my almost dead D700. Just incase you can’t find the giant tornado, I circled it… I was shooting with a 24mm… sooooo…. tornados are actually closer than they appear. Just sayin.

Meanwhile, Bryan just kept saying, “we’re fine! We can outrun pretty much anything on the water.”

Meanwhile, Bryan just kept saying, “we’re fine! We can outrun pretty much anything on the water.”

Except, there were storms on all sides of us, leaving little room to run anywhere. Eventually, the storms moved on and we were finally able to make our way back to the dock just in time for a beautiful sunset.

Even though we mostly caught snapper, which we threw back while cursing the end of the season, and there were tornadoes and waves big enough to make even the manliest of men sick, we had a good time. Vince caught the most, including a shark, several snapper and a kingfish. I, came in second… all snapper and all returned to their home. Bryan was proud. I think he forgets, as do I, how much I love to fish until we are actually on our boat – fishing. I contribute this love to my competitive genes; he thinks it’s because of him. In reality, it’s probably both.

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