For Sabrina Galloway Shrimping Is Still a Part of Her Life, Even After Father’s Death

by / Newsroom Ink on November 12, 2014
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Sabrina Galloway, her 13-year old brother Cody, their father”Ronnie Galloway, Jr. and their deckhand had just finished a day of shrimping in Galveston Bay on the “Mr. Anthony” when a sudden storm capsized the boat killing her father and trapping her for more than four hours in the engine room. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Trapped in the engine room of her father’s capsized shrimp boat for more than four hours while struggling to stay alive with her father’s lifeless body somewhere beneath the murky waters of Galveston Bay, 19-year-old Sabrina Galloway has good reason to hate her father’s boat, hate shrimping, hate Galveston Bay and hate a passion that has been a part of her life since a little girl. Instead, shrimping, the boat and the bay remain an important part of her life, as well as an important part of the healing process allowing her to move forward.

Sabrina and Dad

“I fell in love with shrimping because my dad loved it, if my dad loved it I wanted to know all about it,” said Galloway pictured with her father Ronnie during happier times. Photo: Sabrina Galloway

Galloway, her 13-year old brother Cody, their father Ronald “Ronnie” Galloway, Jr. and their deckhand had just finished a day of shrimping in the bay on the “Mr. Anthony”. Around 2 p.m., as they navigated Cedar Bayou in the Houston Ship Channel headed to their Baytown dock, a severe storm came from nowhere. Suddenly the vessel went sideways and overturned, killing her father and trapping Sabrina.

Her younger brother managed to shove his fist through a window on the starboard side of the boat. She boosted him through the window. The deck hand went next, but on his way out he accidentally kicked her in the face, knocking her back into the engine room.

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Her younger brother managed to shove his fist through a window on the starboard side of the boat. She boosted him through the window. The deck hand went next, but on his way out he accidentally kicked her in the face, knocking her back into the engine room. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“That’s when everything went black, except for a small beam of light. I kept screaming and banging and yelling for my dad,” Galloway remembered. “The water kept coming in and coming in.”

Topside her brother and the deck hand flagged down a fisherman who was able to enlarge a small hole, giving her more light and air.

“I was looking at my cellphone when the boat flipped, it was exactly 2:12 p.m.,” she recalled. “The 911 call was made at 3:03 p.m. and they finally got me out shortly after 6 p.m. The Coast Guard arrived around 4 p.m., but it was the Port of Houston Fire Department that cut me out of the boat with the Jaws of Life.”

Covered with slimy black diesel oil she yelled as she emerged from the boat, “I can’t see, I can’t see.” A rescuers voiced chimed reassurance, “Don’t worry I got you.”

Grew Up on Bay’s Water

The 19-year-old University of Houston student grew up on the waters of Galveston Bay. Ever since an early age she idolized her father and loved his shrimping profession. “I fell in love with shrimping because my dad loved it, if my dad loved it I wanted to know all about it,” she told Gulf Seafood News in an interview conducted on the deck of the “Mr. Anthony”.

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According to Sabrina Galloway there are just a handful of shrimp boats left in her part of Galveston Bay. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Galloway has been shrimping with her dad since the age of three.

“I was young, but I can remember going out on the weekends with my dad,” she reminisced. “I remember when my brother was four years old we used to tie a rope from mom to the back of his life jacket. It was only three feet long, but he enjoyed sitting on the deck and playing with the fish. We were all raised on the boat.

Her best boat memory occurred when she was eight. “Dad was working in Texas City, about two hours from here, because there was no shrimp in the north end of the bay,” Galloway aid. “It was a weekend and his deckhand called to say he couldn’t make it the next day. He was going to go alone, but I begged him to let me take me with him.”

The next day, after her father set the rigging and the nets were the water, he put a milk crate next to the pilot wheel for his daughter to stand on so she could drive the boat.

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Sabrina and her mother Jessica Galloway share a love for shrimping and the “Mr. Anthony”. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“There was eight year old Sabrina standing on a milk crate driving the boat while my dad pulled out the fish and put the shrimp in the live box,” she recalled. “Dad would tell me to point the boat toward that white water tower. I will never forget that white water tower. I’m tall now, but certainly wasn’t tall then, and it was a struggle to keep it aimed at that tower. When we got to the dock, my mom, two sister and Cody were there. Dad was so excited he beamed ‘Sabrina drove the boat’.”

After being pulled from the capsized boat, the three survivors were taken to Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena where she went through decontamination. When her mother, Jessica Galloway, got to her bedside, all Sabrina wanted was answers about her father.

The following day the search for her father was suspended, but her grandfather, Ronald Galloway, Sr. – a shrimper for more than four decades – used his own vessel to search for his missing son. The 64-year-old found his son’s body inside the pilothouse of the capsized boat later that day.

Texas Shrimping Testimony

The accident occurred on a Monday, on Wednesday Galloway and her father were scheduled to deliver speeches to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting asking for a re-examination of outdated laws hurting the livelihood of Texas shrimpers.

“My dad and I were scheduled to give two reports on the current state of Texas shrimping,” said the fourth generation shrimper. “They were filled with a lot of data my dad and I collected and put into a nice presentation. At first he was going to go up there and just lay it out, but I convinced him to put into a polished report.”

The report outlined the “then” and “now” of Texas Gulf shrimping, filled with information on outdated regulations the commission had failed to revisit over the years.

“It basically outlined why the commission needed to look at some very outdated regulations that no longer apply to modern day shrimpers,” she said. “It had a lot of information that the state hadn’t looked at or thought about going into for years. You have to understand these are Texas regulations under the jurisdiction of Texas Parks and Wildlife.”

One of the main regulations that Sabrina and her father wanted the commission to examine was a 200 lbs. daily harvest limit.

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Galloway says that Texas shrimpers are lucky to clear a profit because of regulations that have not changed since the early 1980’s. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“Currently we can only fish from sunrise to 2 p.m. in Galveston Bay with a maximum catch limit of 200 lbs. The problem is that the math doesn’t work for shrimpers to make a decent living, even with the current high shrimp prices,” said the outspoken young woman who has worked opening shrimp seasons since she was 15.

Galloway says that Texas shrimpers are lucky to clear a profit because of regulations that have not changed since the early 1980’s. “We were specifically asking for a change in the 200 lbs. day season. We’re lucky to cover the cost of fuel. It’s almost hardly worth the effort,” she explained.

According to the Galveston Bay native, she sees the restrictive limits as one of the biggest problems for fisherman. Having a family of six to support, for her dad shrimping “wasn’t going anywhere” to support the family. To make ends meet he worked as a mechanic at a local engineering firm after shrimping in the morning.

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Ronnie Galloway was a shrimper who sold his catch to bait camps lining Galveston Bay. His son Cody and he built the “live box” on the boat and painted the shrimp on the side. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“The only time dad made a profit was during the three month fall harvest season known as the Texas ‘Big Net’. We could fish from dawn to dark and catch as many shrimp as we wanted, as long as it over a 50/60 count,” she said. “That was the only time we caught a lot of shrimp and made some real money. It is what we held onto the rest of the year.”

The young shrimper said her dad was excited about the prospect of presenting the collected data to the commission. “We worked hours and hours preparing. We had really thought the whole thing out. While out shrimping with him I would write what he was saying, and do research on my computer connected with Wi-Fi from my phone,” she said.

The injured teenager wanted to be at the commission hearing, but had just gotten out of the hospital. With her printed report in hand, a good friend of her dad’s read the speech. “I know dad would have wanted me there, he would have wanted to keep going,” she said.

The speech had the desired effect on the assembled commissioners. Afterwards they announced current data would be revisited and studied with a promise to update regulations upon completion.

Future of “Mr. Anthony”

For Galloway it is difficult to discuss the future of her family shrimp boat. “That is our family, that’s our legacy right there. On Father’s day, on his birthday, that is what we did. We went shrimping, that was our family thing,” she explained.

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For Galloway it is difficult to discuss the future of her family shrimp boat the “Mr. Anthony”. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

With some of the out-rigging still lying on deck, the stripped boat sits next to her grandfather’s shrimper at the family dock with signs of its eight days in the water still visible even after cleaning. “The plan is to try to refurbish the boat,” she said. “Mom and I had a carpenter come to look at redoing the inside of the cabin. We have ordered new windows to replace those that were broken when search crews looked for the body of my dad.”

Windows, pilot wheels and wenches can easily be replaced, but not the memory of her dad. “I can’t think of the boat or the water without my dad. Now that he is not here it is really hard,” said the girl who still has shrimping in her blood.

“My dad always said that shrimpers were a dying breed, and I tend to agree,” said the young Galloway. “It really makes me sad, but I just really don’t see it thriving in the future.”

Programs Needed for Future Shrimpers

Galloway believes there needs to be a new programs developed to generate an enthusiasm to get the younger generation interested in the shrimping profession. Job programs such as academic internships on shrimp boats are desperately needed.

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“I was in Academic Decathlon for two years during high school. We had to memorize and give a four-minute presentation, both years my presentations were on my dad, shrimping and the water. Those judges got an earful about my dad, the water and shrimp,” Sabrina Galloway explained. Photo: Sabrina Galloway

“Marine life is an important part of shrimping; you never know what is going to come up in that net. We have caught all sorts of crazy looking fish, including a purple sea snake,” she said. “Those things are so cool to me, and I bet they would be for others my age who are especially interested in marine biology.”

Media induced interests is a big part of how the younger generation gets their information. According to her, friends have asked to come out on the boat after watching the TV show The Deadliest Catch. They would question her, “Is it like that?” and she would answer, “It is not the Bering Sea”.

“I was in Academic Decathlon for two years during high school. We had to memorize and give a four-minute presentation, both years my presentations were on my dad, shrimping and the water. Those judges got an earful about my dad, the water and shrimp,” she explained.

Her entrance exam into the University of Houston was entitled, “What I Learned Working on a Shrimp Boat”. The essay got her a scholarship at the university.

Four months after the accident, the 19-year-old that was often the only girl on the dock, returns regularly to the boat just to sit and eat lunch alone with the memories of her dad.

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Four months after the accident, the 19-year-old that was often the only girl on the dock, returns regularly to the boat just to sit and eat lunch alone with the memories of her dad. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

When asked whether she would ever go back out on a shrimp boat, she answers in one word – “Absolutely”, but quietly admits it will be a little difficult. “I have never been on a shrimp boat without my dad,” she said with a little choke in her voice.

The girl that wanted to make sure that Galveston Bay-area shrimpers had a voice at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s annual public hearing recently returned to the waters of Galveston Bay for the first time since the accident with the man who saved her from the oil drenched water.

“It was rough, but it was needed,” she confided to Gulf Seafood News. “I cried and I am not ashamed of it, but they were happy tears. I am not going to leave the water; it’s still a big part of me. Dad loved the water, and that made me love the water. I know that he would want me to stay involved with shrimping and the water he loved so dearly.”


A fund for the Galloway family has been set up on GoFundMe.com. It has raised more than $20,000. If you would like to contribute to Sabrina Galloway’s family…http://www.gofundme.com/d88y64.

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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  1. Heather Caudle says:

    Wow great article! Sabrina you are one of the strongest and sweetest people I have ever met! Lots of love from Austin :)

  2. Dana Caudle-Byal says:

    Great article! Follow your passion for shrimping, I know it will lead to a great future where you will touch many lives and bring a voice and understanding to shrimping careers.

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