So That Others May Live… The US Coast Guard Cape Disappointment for The American Worker Project.


So picking up where we left off,  our ongoing travels this fall took us all over the Northwest, ranging from the Oregon coast up through Washington State and onward into Canada to Whistler BC.  Which brings me to this current post and latest installement into The American Worker Project.

Over the course of several cold mid November days, I had the distinct honor and privilege of working with the brave men and women stationed at the United States Coast Guard Station, Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington.   After making contact with the station’s Commanding Officer LCDR Tom Condit, I was invited there to document the hard working members of the motor lifeboat rescue teams that patrol the turbulent waters off Cape Disappointment.


A little bit of history for those who are not familiar with aptly named Cape Disappointment…

Located at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean,   Cape Disappointment is known as one of the most treacherous and deadly waterways in the western hemisphere.     Commonly referred to as “The Graveyard of The Pacific,” the waterways in the area are so turbulent that since their discovery in 1792, well over 2000 shipwrecks have occurred and over 700 lives have been lost.   The reason for this, is an occurrence that happens when the large waves emanating offshore from Japan and the Aleutian Islands, charge across the Pacific and collide with the strong currents flowing from the mighty Columbia River, culminating over the bar at the mouth of the river near the jetty.   The result is incredibly turbulent water and high surf that is unpredictable and extremely unforgiving.

When someone is in trouble at sea,  stranded,  alone and taking on water, it is the US Coast Guard who answers the call.  They will go out in extremely adverse conditions and lay their lives on the line to rescue those in need.  As you can imagine this requires lots of training in often intense and hostile situations, so that they may be prepared to take on this task regardless of the conditions.

As I mentioned above,   I had the good fortune of being granted access into this world for a few days to document these hard working and dedicated men and women for my American Worker Project.   First off, I have to say what a pleasure and honor it was working with them.   As you would expect from any US military unit,   their level of professionalism and expertise were unparalleled.   During my time with them I was able to go out on onto the high seas several times on the dawn patrol “bar runs” that go out every morning at dawn.  The purpose of these runs is to give first hand reports of the conditions on the bar so that they can set any restrictions for the day for all watercraft entering or leaving the cut at the Columbia River.  I also got to photograph them working on both their 47 foot and 52 foot motor lifeboats as they did high seas surf training, man overboard rescue training. boat to boat rescues and towing drills.

The most exciting activity of the bunch, hands down was the high seas surf training.   I was reminded several times by the crew and Senior officers of how lucky I was to be included in this activity, as it is extremely rare that a civilian is allowed to go out in these conditions with them.   It is not something that I took lightly and did my best to capture just a little bit of what it is like for them out on the water.

The experience is amazing!  At times it is not unlike being in a huge washing machine as the boats are tossed around like toys by the power of these huge waves.     Imagine yourself standing roughly 15 feet off the surface of the water, tethered to the railing atop the upper deck of a 47 foot boat with 5 crew members, looking up at waves that are cresting easily 10 feet higher than you.   Your instinct is to want to go the other way, but instead the Surfman who is driving the boat sends us charging toward the wave, tossing the boat up into the air with a wall of water washing over you as you hold on for dear life and then brace for the next wave which comes only 6 – 10 seconds later.  Now consider this… the day I was on board for surf training was a relatively tame day for them.  While it was a white knuckle ride for me,  it was but a fraction of the conditions that they are actually able to handle.  Quite an experience to say the least, but all in a day’s work for these folks.

It was decided that I would ride atop the 47’ as it is the “drier” and more stable of the two boats in the 15-20 foot seas that we were about to experience.   Plus, this would allow me to get some amazing shots of the 52 foot lifeboat named “Triumph II.”   A boat commissioned in the 1960’s and one of four still in service today.     This boat has the unique feature of being much heavier, which means instead of riding up and over the waves, it tends to cut through them, resulting in some very dramatic views as you can see from the photos above and below.  The boat completely disappears from view, only to punch through like a submarine surfacing.   As amazing and treacherous as this seems, it is something this boat is well equipped to do, being that it is designed to operate in winds of up to 70 mph and waves in excess of 32 feet in height.

I imagine it was quite comical to them watching me as I tried to hold on with one hand while attempting to shoot photos with the other hand… all the while bouncing around like a tethered paddle ball, as we experience several G’s when our boat careened over a mountain of water which then proceeded to rain down upon us like a waterfall.   Now I like to think of myself as having my sea legs, as I’ve spent a great deal of time on water over my life, but I was definitely being challenged that day.   Funny as I may have looked, it was good that I opted not to use my normal surf housing but instead rigged my cameras with splash bags to save on the extra weight.   It is a miracle my gear survived in tact, but better to have a lightweight splash bag than something that ends up being more like holding a bowling ball on a roller coaster.   In hindsight it was comforting knowing that I was with highly trained professionals and that if something goes too horribly wrong, you can escape out of the surf zone and regroup… but one can only imagine what it must be like going out in a bad storm in seas that are twice as high and not just restricted to one small area, but rather go on relentlessly for hours.   To add to that, once you reach the people you are trying to save,  it often requires a rescue swimmer going into the cold turbulent waters to pluck them from the sea.   Bravery is an understatement.   Moreover their sense of pride and dedication in what they do is infectious.

Special thanks go to Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi for helping to connect me to the right people, To Lieutenant Commander Chief Tom Condit, (without his trust and permission I would never have gotten the access needed to create these images) and last but not least Sr. Chief Greenlief and the many other crew members that took me under their wings for a few exciting days on the water.

I have the utmost respect for what they do.   They put themselves and their lives at risk daily, doing whatever it takes to keep our waterways and homeland safe.   After hanging with them for just a few short days it really brings new meaning to the slogan used for many of the branches of the US military.   “So that others may live…”

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

firestonewalker0081 We recently had the opportunity to shoot at the Firestone Walker Brewing Company in California.      Firestone is a cool up and coming company in the brewing world.    Founded by Adam Firestone,   great grandson to Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and his brother in law David Walker.  Firestone Walker has a unique brewing process where they age their brew in oak barrels during fermentation.    This renders an oaky taste to the brew which is unique in a beer.

In our shoot we focused on the various processes from working the initial brewing vats through quality control,   sampling the raw brew stock to labeling and packaging.firestonewalker0148

firestonewalker0315firestonewalker0494firestonewalkerthree

 

Winterberry Farm – American Worker Project #6

Earlier this fall,   I had the opportunity to shoot at Winterberry Farm as part of my American Worker Project.

WinterberryBlog02WinterberryBlog01Located in the heart of the Belgrade Lakes Region in Belgrade, Maine, Winterberry Farm is a small, diversified certified organic farm set on forty acres of open fields, pastures and woodland.      It is owned by a very nice and hard working family.    Mary Perry is the owner, and she along with her 3 kids, (Kenya,  Gil and Sage) run the farm.    As anyone can imagine,  running a farm is hard work but doing it on your own with just your 3 kids (Kenya is actually off to college now) is very hard work.  Did I mention that they don’t use machinery to tend the fields?    Instead they have 2 very stout oxen that do the heavy lifting.   Regardless, hard or not,  to look at them you just know that they love it.           For more on the family and their farm, see their website here here.

WinterberryBlog03 WinterberryBlog04

Only fifteen minutes from Augusta and Waterville, it boasts an 1870’s Victorian farmhouse, a shaker-built barn, lush gardens, and the Winterberry Farm Farmstore where they sell some of Maine’s finest all-natural and certified organic foods.

Their mission is to create a sense of community and belonging by offering wholesome food and flowers and to restore old-fashioned values by inviting people to come and experience life the way it used to be, on their animal powered farm.

Their commitment to sustainable agriculture allows us to produce abundant food and flowers without depleting resources or polluting the environment.

Their certified organic food is produced specifically with families in mind, to ensure the health of our children and the land on which they are raised.

WinterberryBlog05

WinterberryBlog07 WinterberryBlog08 WinterberryBlog09 WinterberryBlog11

WinterberryBlog06 WinterberryBlog12 WinterberryBlog13 WinterberryBlog10WinterberryBlog14 WinterberryBlog15

 

Surfing Pioneer & Surf Shop Owner – The American Worker Project #5

SidAbbruzzi01

Heading on down the coast to Newport,  Rhode Island I met up and photographed my next subject for The American Worker Project.   His name is Sid Abbruzzi.    Sid is one of the early pioneers of East Coast Surfing and has owned an operated Water Brothers Surfing Company since 1971 making it the longest operating Surf Shop in New England.     During my brief visit with Sid I was treated to a virtual history of New England East Coast Surfing as Sid shared story after story with me about his life.    He is a super cool guy and has a ton of stories to share.      It just so happens that this very weekend on January 16th Sid is being inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame under the Pioneers of Surfing category.    Congrats to you Sid!!

SidAbbruzzi02

Sid is well known in the surf and skating world as one of the earliest pioneers of surfing.   He’s traveled the world surfing,  has rubbed elbows and is a friend with many surf and skating legends like Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk.     Starting back in the 6o’s he and a group of surfers travel far and wide looking for the perfect wave.   The late 60’s and early 70’s were a weird time in surfing.  After Vietnam many people had stopped surfing and the industry lacked direction as people tried to figure out if surfing was just a dying fad or was it something that could endure and evolve.

He ended up back in Newport and in 1971 he opened Water Brothers Surf Company in an old shack right on the beach in what was then, a derelict end of Newport Beach on a private beach called Seven Seas Beach.   Based on a handshake verbal agreement with the owner of the shack, he was able to lease the building for $300 a year until the land sold.   $300 a year!  for Newport Beach!     Well they had a pretty good run there until 1993 when someone bought the property and forced them to find a new location.   Sid describes those 21 years as “the wild west of east coast surfing”.   They were forced to find a direction and that they did…. They basically made up the rules as they went along,  did what ever they wanted and had a ball doing it.    In addition to surfing,  they also built large vert ramps for skating right next to the shop,   right on the beach.    During the 70’s & 80’s Water Brothers was THE place to be if you were a surfer or skater in the New England area.     SidAbbruzzi_07From there Sid moved his shop into a much larger space and opened was was to be the largest indoor skate park in the US.     This park is actually featured in one of Tony Hawk’s video games as a park you can skate within the game.     Over the years that location changed hands after a partnership turned sour and Sid eventually ended up in what is now his current location.   The shop as it stands now is a wonderful space and is like a museum of east coast surfing history.   The walls and ceilings are covered with memorabilia from a rich life in the surf industry and Sid is like a tour guide,  with a story to tell about each individual piece of history that surround his store.

SidAbbruzzi04

One story that stood out to me was how Sid actually saved one of Newport’s most coveted surf spots,  Ruggles Beach….  TWICE.      The first time was when he fought against city government officials who tried to outlaw surfing at the prime surfing spot.    He campaigned against the new law and won and was able to make a public park out of the area where everyone can enjoy it’s beauty and killer wave break.      The second time was when a developer had gotten approval to install a huge rock jetty at Ruggles that would have basically not only ruined the break but would have been an ecological disaster,  killing the ocean life and changing currents that could change the structure of the shore line forever.     Sid organized many people to campaign against this impending injustice and saved Ruggles Beach a second time.

SidAbbruzzi03

You can follow Sid on Instagram  @waterbrothers 

The Sheet Metal Man – The American Worker Installment #4

JohnGawler122-3
For my 4th addition to The American Worker Project I decided to include a local icon in my home town of Belgrade Lakes Maine.    His name is John Gawler and he is another person that no matter when you see him,  he always greets you with a warm smile.    He is one of these guys who you’d be hard pressed to find someone who had something negative to say about him…  a genuinely good person.  

For most of his life John has made his living working in sheet metal which means he works a lot fabricating and installing people’s roofs, making metal chimneys, metal flashings and other things of that nature.   Over the years he has worked on pretty much everything from roofs for the locals to high profile jobs for people like Oscar De La Renta doing custom copper work on his New England home.   One might imagine that being a roofer in Maine can be tough especially in the winter months but you’d never know it talking to John…. he’s been doing it since he was 17 years old and seems to love every minute of it.   Ask him and he will tell you that he has always loved being outdoors and being up high, even as a kid he was always up high in a tree somewhere.

In addition to being a damn fine roofer,   John (and his whole immediate family) are extremely talented musicians and entertainers.    When I was a kid I remember they used to throw a folk festival called “The Buttermilk Hill Festival”  up on their farm every year. Today they regularly perform and play concerts for many of the local community events and elsewhere around the state.   They even have a few cd’s with their music on them.     But that is yet another story for another day….

 

JohnGawler146 JohnGawler174-3 JohnGawler200 JohnGawler251

 

If you like what you see here,   please follow me on Instagram  @PeteBarrettPhoto to keep up with where we are in the world and what projects we are shooting.

Follow along on the map of our Journey…

I created a little map of our Journey around the country so far which documents where we have been, shoots we have done and also where we are headed in the months to come.    Be sure to check back on a regular basis to see where we have been and what we have in store.

You can zoom in on the map by clicking on the + or –  button on the left to better see each pin.    Also, the pins are color coded…  Red pins are places we have stayed along the way.   Green pins are shoots I have done and the yellow pins are places we are headed in the coming months.     Click on the pins for more details.   On the green pins there will be links to the images we shot at each location as I can get them posted to the blog. Click on the Green Hammond Lumber and Lobsterman pins in Maine for an example of this.

 

Beginning The American Worker Project.

HammondFinal11

Well at long last after hunkering down over the holidays we are able to post the first of many shoots to come for my new ongoing project called “The American Worker Project”. As we are traveling around the country we are getting the opportunity to meet and shoot all sorts of new people and things.     The American Worker Project is a way to visually feature and document (both on video and stills) some of the wonderful people we are meeting along our journey.   So far we have had the great pleasure to shoot in a lumber yard in Maine,  lobster fishermen on a lobster boat,    a man who hand makes wooden boats and also carves wooden boat models,  an old friend and metal roof man,  the owner of the oldest surf shop in New England,   Amish dairy farmers,  a train engineer and much more.   Here are a few images of the first of many to come.   Stay tuned….

UPDATE:   Added more shots from new shoots,  see below…

HammondFinal05 HammondFinal12HammondFinal01HammondFinal14HammondFinal25 HammondFinal15Lobster Fishermen from Maine

Lobstah10 Lobstah13 Lobstah12