South Carolina: Island Time

While work is not a big topic around here, it isn’t because I don’t have a fun, fulfilling job with smart, quirky, supportive people. Because I do! And perhaps my favorite thing about my job is the ‘work hard, play hard’ spirit. We live it. A few weeks ago, I was able to join my team in a fun-filled episode of ‘play hard’ — on a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina to celebrate a really fantastic year.

For me, this meant a trip to a new state. That’s right — first time in South Carolina! (I consider this a bit of a Life List bonus since it wasn’t really planned and the destination for the trip wasn’t up to me — but unplanned fun is often the best fun.) And what a way to experience South Carolina!

We had a smooth flight to Charleston and an even smoother drive out to Hilton Head where we had just enough time to drop our bags at the hotel and meet the rest of our group at the Harbour Town Lighthouse for our first adventure. (We = me plus my coworker Sarah. We were travel buddies for the week.)

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Photo courtesy of Melissa Sands.

There we are with a handful of the girls just before we boarded boats taking us to Daufuskie Island — a tiny island between Hilton Head and Savannah, Georgia. Daufuskie is only about 8 square miles and can only be reached by boat. We felt like we’d been dropped in an episode of Lost — and we were about to be trusted with a handful of golf carts and a map. Go!

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Sarah and I braved the back seat while these two — our driver, Brian, and navigator, Danny — braved the “roads” of Daufuskie Island. It was a wild ride not terribly well-marked or user-friendly, but we had a fantastic time.

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Blurry, golf cart selfie! I risked my life by taking this photo instead of holding on!

The group navigated the map well enough to make it to this beautiful beach called Bloody Point. We shed our shoes and played a while.

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With coworkers at Bloody Point, Daufuskie Island.

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We were getting hungry and had a dinner date waiting for us on the other end of the island, so back to the golf carts we went. And as it started to get dark we found Marshside Mama’s Cafe.

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The restaurant is surrounded by a handful of beach bungalows and in the center of the whole setup is a bar that is straight out of the Jamaica scenes in Cocktail. Seriously. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting a 20-something Tom Cruise to come strolling by.

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That is the last photo I took before it got too dark. And then, by the light of tiki torches and candles, we enjoyed a traditional Carolina Low Country boil with crab legs, corn on the cob, sausage, and the sweetest cornbread I’ve ever tasted. I think we were all relieved we could barely see in the dark as there really isn’t a graceful way to eat crab legs AND corn on the cob without making a huge, juicy mess. We had A BALL. There was live music, plenty of mosquitoes to swat, and the unique culture of the island to sit back and enjoy. By the time we found our way back to the dock that night — still via maps and golf carts — we were a sticky, tired mess. Most of us had been up since 4am to make early morning flights and a day of traveling plus our evening on the island had drained every last ounce of energy. We spent the boat ride back to Hilton Head staring up at the stars and already enjoying retelling stories of our island excursion.

The next morning we took our sweet time getting up and around — and ready for adventure #2. Shark fishing! During planning of the trip we were all told Thursday was flexible — golfing, spa, day trip to Savannah, free time at the beach, whatever you wanted. Sarah and I chose shark fishing without a second thought!

Four others in our group chose fishing, too, so the six of us joined Captain Steve and Mate Chris aboard the Gullah Gal for what promised to be a fun afternoon.

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I had talked for a few days about catching sharks but didn’t actually have any idea what a realistic expectation was of our time on the water. If we caught ANYTHING I was going to be impressed considering I have no idea how to fish. Captain Steve was awesome — explained everything and prepared us for how the afternoon would unfold. Meanwhile, Chris did this…

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And we enjoyed some of this…

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{Warning: I’m about to talk about fishing, but I don’t know anything about fishing. I will use the wrong terminology and sound like a fishing-ignorant city girl, but you’ll just have to deal. I went shark fishing and it was AWESOME.}

Captain Steve and Chris did the dirty work of baiting the lines, and we got to relax on the boat and wait for the action. We determined a “batting order” so we wouldn’t all jump at once when there was a bite, and Sheri was up first.

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Sheri was first in the “batting order” and caught the first fish. That’s her in the yellow shirt.

Again, I had no expectations. So when Sheri reeled in an almost 3-foot Bonnethead Shark we were all floored! Woo hoo! Shark fishing! And then we all joked nervously about Sheri setting the bar awfully high with that catch, and wondering if the rest of our trip might be downhill from there.

Not so.

We kept catching sharks. Even these tiny ones Captain Steve called “hot dog sharks”. He said these were only a few weeks old. (Admit it, you have the shark song in your head – don’t you? Baby Shark, doo doo doo-doo-duh-doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo-doo-duh-doo. Click this link, I dare you. WHO. WRITES. THESE. SONGS.)

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I totally want a hot dog shark. In a bowl on my desk at work. ADORABLE.

But then it got REALLY exciting. It was my turn.

Believe it or not, I’m not as prissy as I might look. I was determined to overcome my fishing-ignorant, city girl first impression and show Captain Steve I came to play.

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I reeled that sucker in all by myself with some excellent coaching from Captain Steve. He was right over my shoulder helping me know when to “reel down” and when to “let him run”. The whole scene seemed to last for-e-ver and I had no frame of reference for how big this thing might be, but I was giddy. I reeled and pulled and reeled and pulled — and my arms weren’t loving it.

When I got him close enough to the surface Captain Steve came over with the gaff, ready to get him into the boat.

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You can see my shark in this one! He was HUGE!

Shark Fishing | Hilton Head, SC from Sarah Hood on Vimeo.

CLICK HERE if you don’t see a video.

 

Y’all. I CAUGHT. A SHARK.

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And then, despite Mate Chris offering to let me “hold his tail”, I insisted on holding all 5 feet, 70 pounds of living, breathing, tooth-ed shark BY THE HEAD. I don’t know how well you can tell by the photo, but I’ve got my hands all up in his gills, holding him by the skull. I could feel him breathing. This ended up being the largest shark we caught all afternoon — a 5-ft Finetooth.

I think I held my breath the whole time.

As Captain Steve had oriented us to the trip a few hours earlier, I half-jokingly asked if I could eat whatever I caught. (When I put “#59. Cook and eat a fish that I caught” on my Life List I never dreamed it might be a SHARK.) He told me no, that our trip was a catch-and-release deal — which was a little bit of a bummer, but I’m not entirely sure I was ready to sign myself up for both shark fishing and shark EATING so I’m okay with it.

A few more catches for Sarah and the guys in our group and we were ready to head back to the marina.

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Our whole group – with Captain Steve and Mate Chris – aboard the Gullah Gal at Shelter Cove Marina.

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With Captain Steve.

SUCH a good time. I desperately wished my boys could have been there — both Jeff and Colt would have loved it.

We got back to civilization in time to wash the “shark” off our hands, get cleaned up and head back out for a sunset dinner cruise aboard the Pau Hana sailing catamaran. It was nearly dark by the time I thought to take photos so I don’t have any of the boat or the people or the glorious shrimp and stuffed flounder dinner we enjoyed. You’ll have to settle for this beyond-gorgeous sunset.

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I absolutely collapsed into my bed that night. Exhausted from a packed few days of the best of Hilton Head. We dragged ourselves out of bed the next day and back to Charleston for the flight home. And this ‘welcome home’ sign from my little guy brought tears to my eyes.

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I know I only saw a fraction of South Carolina on this trip, but my goodness I had a good time. I’m a lucky girl to ‘work hard, play hard’ with such a team.

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