Boating offers a lure like no other
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” -Jacques Cousteau
Clearly, renowned aquatic expert and conservationist Jacques Cousteau understood the lure of the water. But he is certainly not the only one to experience its magnetic-like pull. Thousands of Lowcountry residents, including hundreds on Daniel Island, are drawn to local tidal creeks, rivers, Charleston Harbor, and the ocean beyond each and every day.
Barfield Park resident Chip Hill is happy to be among them. A lifetime boater, Hill has no trouble explaining what got him hooked on cruising Lowcountry waterways.
“The number one thing is the freedom,” said Hill, who grew up boating and fishing in a small tidal creek off Ellis Creek on James Island. “When you step off the dock onto a boat, it’s like you’re entering another world…a world of beauty and serenity that’s hard to explain.”
Yes, he admits, there are storms and other situations that can get in the way, but those experiences have only deepened his love for his favorite hobby.
“Those things are part of nature’s moods,” added Hill, who was part of team that sailed to Bermuda in 2011 as part of the Charleston to Bermuda (C2B) Race. “That’s all a part of nature’s gig…During fishing season, there’s a thing that happens where you start to pay attention to the tides, to the moon and the weather and you become in touch with nature in a way that somebody who’s not an outdoors person doesn’t…You start paying attention to nature and you get in sync. It’s a good feeling…like there’s this little rhythm thing going on. I love it.”
And so do countless others, like the Thomson family of Daniel Island, who recently took the plunge and bought a boat after downsizing their home.
“Mother’s Day was the first day all of us have been on it,” said Lisa Thomson. “…It was fantastic!”
Lisa and her husband, John, purchased a 21 foot Sea Hunt boat with an outboard motor and center console last February. Both have boating backgrounds.
“John is from Mount Pleasant,” she said. “He grew up here…He grew up being on a boat all the time. It’s in his blood. I grew up in Lexington on a lake and we had a boat for a little while and I enjoyed it.”
Seeking more quality time as a family, they decided getting a boat of their own was the right course of action.
“The main reason we got the boat was to be able to go out and just be with each other,” said Thomson. “That’s why we sold the house (and decided to downsize). There’s no mortgage, there’s no boat payment, and no yard work! We don’t have to feel guilty for taking the boat out…We’re not house poor or vehicle poor…it’s a freeing, liberating feeling!”
For Hill, who learned much of what he knows about boating and fishing from his father and his uncle, time on the water equals time well spent, particularly when it comes to his son, Doscher.
“I try to pass it down it to my son,” he said. “I try to share that love, and it gives him a chance to be quiet, to be away from screens, away from the world really…and time to think.”
Daniel Island resident Ron Silverman has been boating for 65 years. He just downsized from a boat he’s had for many years to a new Key West 1520, a 15-foot well-appointed center console vessel that fits in his garage - a feature Silverman describes as its “greatest virtue.”
“Being on the water is an escape from the mundane of modern life into the beauty of nature,” he said. “You can go up some creeks on the Wando River and see open marsh vistas just like the Indians saw without seeing anything built by man. Seeing dolphins and various marine life is an added plus. Being on the water is a stress reliever and can simply make you thankful for being alive.”
Boating 101: What to know before taking the plunge
Life on the water is certainly enticing, but before you set sail on making your dream a reality, there a few things to consider. First, do you want to purchase a new or used boat, or do you want to join a boat club? Both options will get you out enjoying all things aquatic, but it’s good to understand the differences between them when weighing your decision.
Daniel Island resident Chris Meredith is co-owner of Longshore Boats on Clements Ferry Road. If you’re interested in boat ownership, he suggests first determining what type of boat will best meet your needs. There are vessels ideal for fishing, cruising, water sports, deep sea travels, and more.
“There is no perfect boat that will do everything,” he said. “What we suggest is that people look at how they see themselves using the boat the majority of the time. So, if most of the time they will be fishing, they may want to look at a center console or dual console…A lot of the boats nowadays are designed to do multiple things, but none are perfect for everything.”
Also consider how many people you will typically be taking out on the boat. But size, said Meredith, isn’t as critical as finding the right boat for your needs. Typically, many only hold one boat for about five years before getting something different, he said.
“It’s not a decision that you have to live with for your entire life. That sometimes bogs people down. There are different boats for different seasons in life…For some people, if they’re not sure whether they will love boating or not, it might make sense to buy something that’s a year or two old. Maybe some of the depreciation is already gone, but it’s still a relatively good boat - and they’re not going to take that big of a hit if they have to get out of it.”
At Longshore, family boats are the top sellers, added Meredith, who enjoys taking his own family out on the water whenever he can.
“I somewhat have a captive audience,” he said. “Fortunately, my kids love boating and it’s one way that we get to spend time together as a family and there aren’t too many activities as my kids get older that they are willing to do with me!…We just have a lot of memories that we get to make.”
The average cost of a boat is around $40,000 to $45,000, according to Meredith. If financed for 15 years, that amounts to about $350 a month. Prices for used boats, depending on size, can run in the $20,000 to $30,000 range and up. The Longshore website reports that about 70 percent of buyers end up doing some form of financing. But there are other costs to consider on top of the purchase price - start-up accessories, training/classes (this is included with a purchase from Longshore), boat lift, slip or storage fees, insurance, maintenance, cleaning, and registrations/license fees.
How you want to store your boat is a key factor, added Meredith.
“For me, the best option is dry storage,” he said. “However, not everyone can factor that into their decision. But you tend to use the boat at least twice as much if you have it on a trailer…especially if that boat is in a storage lot. The easier you’re gonna make it, the more you’re gonna use it. If you’ve got a dock, that’s even better. But if you give an hour’s notice at a dry storage, they will have it fueled up and ready to go. You just step on and take off.”
Easy access is just one of the reasons many find boat clubs appealing. Care Free Boat Club has two locations in Charleston, including one at the Daniel Island Marina off Clements Ferry Road. To join, members pay an initiation fee (currently $3000) and then monthly dues of about $369. For that they receive access to a fleet of boats of varying types, sizes, and styles - plus it is ready to hit the water when they arrive and is cleaned and stored upon their return. Members check boat availability online and sign up for slots.
“We have 15 different boats (available between our two locations),” explained Care Free Boat Club Membership Director Bruce Jarrad. “There are sailboats, fishing boats, tubing boats…The whole idea is if you want to go fishing, we’ve got that type of boat. If you want to go sailing, we’ve got boats for that. If you want to do a sunset cruise or go out with a bottle of wine, or do some wake-boarding, we can accommodate you.”
According to Jarrad, club fees are about one third of the cost of purchasing a boat.
“There’s an old saying that the two best days of a boater’s life are the day you buy it and the day you sell it,” he said. “If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t be in business. We do all the maintenance and cleaning, everything that makes boat owners not want to own a boat.”
So whether you want to own a boat that suits your own personal style, or join a club, there are plenty of ways to get on board in the Charleston area. Both Jarrad and Meredith agree there’s never been a better time to jump in to the hobby.
“You can find a different place to go every weekend,” said Meredith. “And electronics make it so much easier now and give you so much more confidence knowing exactly where you are, and the depth you are in. It gives you a lot more peace of mind. And engines are so much more reliable these days. They are more fuel efficient and there are a lot of advances that make it more enjoyable.”
“If you want to go see plantations, it’s a very short boat ride,” added Jarrad. “You can go off shore and just have quiet. Or you can go for the party aspect and visit Morris Island or Shem Creek. The variety in Charleston is the best part. You never have to see the same thing twice.”
For additional tips on boating, or making a boat purchase, visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/boating.html.