Don’t Lose Your Photos!

Twice now I have lost all my photos from a cruising season, or part of a cruising season.   And the scary thing is, I thought I had them backed up adequately both times.    But no.   I’m looking for what others do with their photos because while I think my system should be OK, obviously it’s not!    So if you have a good idea on backing up photos, please leave a comment in the comment box below — if you’re reading this post on commuterCRUISER’s home page, there’s only a tiny text link at the end of the post, but it will still take you to the comment box.

Anchored Behind Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize

Anchored Behind Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize

The first time I lost all the photos from our first cruising season … the year we left the USA to go cruising.  As everyone knows, the first of anything is always special and the photos to commemorate it were some of my all time favorites.  Luckily, I started the website and had posted several of the photos online … in very small versions, but those are the only surviving photos.    I thought I was being very careful, I bought a external hard drive back up and backed up all my files and photos.  Unfortunately, the external hard drive died and all the computer geniuses in the world couldn’t restore those photos.  🙁

After that I started backing up photos two ways – one with the external hard drive and second with CD/DVD and later a USB stick.

The 2nd year we were cruising, we added some inland adventures to our cruise.  We visited Tikal and Flores in the far upper reaches of Guatemala.  The scenery and photos were fabulous – with such dramatic Mayan ruins literally still engulfed in the jungle with it’s amazing bio-diversity, how could they not be?   Shortly after that we left the Rio Dulce to go to the Bay Islands for our winter’s cruising season.  I hadn’t backed up the photos yet in all the excitement.  Sure enough, that was the year, anchored in Utila that we were robbed and my laptop was gone. Read the story in the post “Robbed in Utila“.   All the photos of Tikal, along with the best closeup exotic butterfly photo I’d ever taken … gone.

These days I have 2 external hard drives, one on the boat and one at the house.  I back up with Apple’s Time Machine, which not only backs up files and photos but also my entire hard drive.  In addition, I back up all my photos to USB sticks so that there are two copies of every photo somewhere other than on my laptop.  When we leave for the winter, we put the external hard drive from the house in our safety deposit box.

School of Blue Tangs ... somewhere in Belize

School of Blue Tangs ... somewhere in Belize

I think the double system should be adequate, but I have visions of the USB sticks failing or another external hard drive failing.  What good is an external hard drive anyway if it’s going to fail?????   And that was the one at the house, not subjected to humid, tropical salt air at all!  GGGggggrrrrr!!!!

If you have a system you think is more secure, PLEASE leave a comment and share!    THX!   Jan


  1. I used an online backup service (Carbonite) in addition to CDs and an external hard drive. While I’d back up ALL my photos on the CDs and external drive, I set Carbonite to only backup certain folders — that I put my best photos in — so that they would backup in a reasonable amount of time when I was at an internet cafe or had wifi in a particular anchorage. Then when we returned to a marina with better internet that I could leave on overnight, I’d have Carbonite back everything up.

    After having several friends lose photos due to a variety of disasters, I became convinced that one method of backup had to be in a physically different location than the computer — regardless of whether it’s on the boat or ashore.


  2. I agree with Carolyn in backing up photos and others docs with a secure online service when you can get a good internet signal. Downloading photos to your laptop regularly and backing them up right away may save heartaches later. Memory sticks hold a lot of data now too. I have all of my art teaching materials on 2 memory sticks (one as a backup) as well as online. Better safe than sorry. Great tips Jan!

  3. This is what I do, based on the somewhat unavailable nature of wifi and not wanting to spend my days waiting for files to transfer.

    1) Every day (or so), I transfer the pictures to my laptop. Pop the camera’s memory card in and *copy* them.

    2) I scan through all the photos and resize/save any ones that I want to use for blogging or otherwise. That’s maybe 5%-10% of the shots if I’m lucky.

    3) I *copy* all of the data to a usb stick that lives in a pelican case and serves no other purpose.

    4) Once all of that is done and I’m sure the photos are on the computer and on the usb stick, I wipe the camera’s memory card.

    Other things going on for me:

    – When I get somewhere to write a blog post with my laptop, the images are already resized and ready to go. I don’t need to go through a week’s worth of photos.

    – If I have great Internet access somewhere, I upload everything from the computer to Picasa which offers free storage for images up to 2048 resolution. Any more than that and you start having to pay.

    – Even with no Internet access, I have the files on a usb memory stick and on the laptop. The odds of both dying are remote. When possible the whole mess gets uploaded to Picasa, and the memory sticks get tossed into a safe deposit box. It’s a system but it’s pretty basic and what I like the most is the flexibility. You’re not trying to get 10gb of data transferred while at an Internet cafe with 500kb/s speeds.

  4. I use an app called smart sync pro to copy to a variety of locations, so as I add pics it does copy all of them on new ones or ones that have been modified.

  5. Nancy Wargo Kahlden via Facebook says:

    I have a Dell computer and pay $59 a year to back up my computer on their server. I had to wait until I got to Colombia from the San Blas to back those pictures since there was very little wifi in the Kuna Yalas.

  6. I am new to the site, but I am enjoying it very much. Great info and source of reference here.

    I am sorry to hear about the photos (I had the same in the past, bu from the “paper” era 🙁

    There is no definitive solution, but what I do today is to back up in two computers while on the go (if I have two available, if not, I have a collection of pendrives – they are getting cheaper and cheaper), backup to an external hard drive and backup in the “cloud” (if posible do it while on the go).

    Good winds,


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