Sometimes people come into our lives for only a season. Whether it is a professor, co-worker or an oysterman. God has a way of using these people to slap us in the face and allow us to realize the amazing world around us. That person came along with total surprise and opened my eyes to an amazing world of the “Whiteboot Brotherhood.” His name was Vince. Vince was a part of an exclusive brotherhood made up of hard- working fisherman who have a passion for the sea.
Hard work and love of the sea encapsulate this Whiteboot Hero. Having only the pleasure of knowing Vince for a few short years, he made a major impact in my life and work.
Vince was a gentle soul whom you could not help but love. Whether it was his inspiring work ethic on the oyster banks or his willingness to help others, he was just a good guy.
I would like to take a moment to share the first time I met Vince.
Back in 2014, I got a call from Craig Reaves (owner of Sea Eagle Market) telling me he is heading out to the oyster banks. He asked me to join him. Not knowing what to expect I said sure! We hop into his boat at the Broad River landing and off we go. Standing on the bow of the boat with my telephoto lens we approach the oyster banks. In the distance, I see a man covered in mud surrounded by oysters that had the appearance of flowers in the soft light of the evening. Bent over his basket, I simply watched Vince work with a tidal-like rhythm.
Eventually we pulled up closer and I introduced myself as he flung a 50 pound bag of oysters over his back. He simply said hello and looked at me with such joy as if he knew the secret to happiness. Indeed he did.
As I reflect on my adventures with Craig and Vince, I feel incredibly humbled that I was able to help the world see this amazing individual. Portraits of Vince now hang proudly in the finest homes in Palmetto Bluff, Sea Pines and beyond. And his image pulling up crab pots became the cover for our book on Southern blue crab.
I will continue to honor the life of Vince and the passion he gave me for the sea. There is much work to do as we preserve and protect the seafood culture of the South. Rest easy my friend, may God grant you a following sea into the gates of heaven.
The culture of the oysterman is being lost because the knowledge is not being passed down. Oyster harvesting is an art form that requires experience and skill to harvest efficiently.