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Glorious Spring

In the South, more than just food is made in the kitchen. Family and friends come together, relationships are strengthened, longstanding traditions are passed down and new traditions begin.

As the warm spring breezes give way to the dawning of summer, families gather to celebrate their mothers, grandmothers and happily, in some cases their great grandmothers. This special day is always the second Sunday in May. It dates back to 1908 when Anna Jarvis created the day by holding a memorial for her mother at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Later in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mothers Day an official US holiday. The Church in Grafton holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

Vincent Chaplin

Story by Andrew Branning (Publisher)

In Memory of a Hero (1969-2017)

Sometimes people come into our lives for only a season. Whether it is a professor, co-worker or an oysterman. God has a way of using these people to slap us in the face and allow us to realize the amazing world around us. That person came along with total surprise and opened my eyes to an amazing world of the “Whiteboot Brotherhood.” His name was Vince. Vince was a part of an exclusive brotherhood made up of hard- working fisherman who have a passion for the sea.

Hard work and love of the sea encapsulate this Whiteboot Hero. Having only the pleasure of knowing Vince for a few short years, he made a major impact in my life and work.

Vince was a gentle soul whom you could not help but love. Whether it was his inspiring work ethic on the oyster banks or his willingness to help others, he was just a good guy.

I would like to take a moment to share the first time I met Vince.

Back in 2014, I got a call from Craig Reaves (owner of Sea Eagle Market) telling me he is heading out to the oyster banks. He asked me to join him. Not knowing what to expect I said sure! We hop into his boat at the Broad River landing and off we go. Standing on the bow of the boat with my telephoto lens we approach the oyster banks. In the distance, I see a man covered in mud surrounded by oysters that had the appearance of flowers in the soft light of the evening. Bent over his basket, I simply watched Vince work with a tidal-like rhythm.

Eventually we pulled up closer and I introduced myself as he flung a 50 pound bag of oysters over his back. He simply said hello and looked at me with such joy as if he knew the secret to happiness. Indeed he did.

As I reflect on my adventures with Craig and Vince, I feel incredibly humbled that I was able to help the world see this amazing individual. Portraits of Vince now hang proudly in the finest homes in Palmetto Bluff, Sea Pines and beyond. And his image pulling up crab pots became the cover for our book on Southern blue crab.

I will continue to honor the life of Vince and the passion he gave me for the sea. There is much work to do as we preserve and protect the seafood culture of the South. Rest easy my friend, may God grant you a following sea into the gates of heaven.

The culture of the oysterman is being lost because the knowledge is not being passed down. Oyster harvesting is an art form that requires experience and skill to harvest efficiently. 

The Changing Tides of the Charleston Art Scene

Artist Nancy Ricker Rhett’s Remembrances

Growing up here in post-war Lowcountry, we saw crabbers of all types constantly working the creeks in small wooden boats. The men would set out trot lines baited with potent smelling meat. The lines were marked with floats on which their particular license number was painted. Heaven forbid anyone was caught poaching! Wars were started over this for men’s livelihoods were at stake.

The man at the stem motor had to be quite skilled at working the tide and the current, allowing the person in the bow to follow the trot line to the next bait line. With great expertise, he’d pull the line, then used his wire dip net to scoop up the crab, or crabs, if he was lucky. He’d flip them into a fifty-five gallon drum which, when filled, was taken to Blue Channel, the crab processing plant in Port Royal or to the Miss Mary, the company’s pick-up boat. In the winter, they’d have a fire in a steel drum on board the boat to keep them warm.

It was a big industry and our local crabmeat was shipped worldwide. Because of the Lowcountry’s extreme tides and rich, saline water, our crabs are already very flavorful and tasty. Ours are different altogether from those north of here in the Chesapeake Bay where water is diluted by many freshwater rivers emptying into it.

Crabbing in our creeks has changed from the thriving, big business that it was. Nowadays, the professional crabbers are fewer and the method has become mechanized. Wire crab traps, or pots, have replaced the trot lines. Winches are used to pull the haul. And Fiberglas has replaced homemade cypress and pine boats.

To see crabbers pulling their pots is a treat, and a bit of nostalgia.

Artist Michael B. Karas

It’s tempting when viewing a Michael B. Karas painting to insert yourself into the frame — so adept is he at nailing a moment, a mood and what a landscape feels like. Those of us who feel transfixed or more likely transported by Karas’ creations have plenty of company. His works have been exhibited in museums across the country, and nearly 3000 of his paintings are included in private and corporate collections worldwide.

The paintings of Michael B. Karas transcend both time and place with a sincerity of execution that lock the images into our minds forever. His southern works have catapulted him into the ranks of the most renowned artists of the Lowcountry and beyond.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Michael at his studio. “I don’t try to paint a ‘portrait’ of a scene,” he said, “it’s the essence of the scene I’m after.” Rather than to simply represent the outward appearance of the landscape, his paintings evoke a certain emotion revealing a deeper inward significance.

This region, perhaps as much as his native New England, has unleashed a creative force within him that has led to the creation of many highly acclaimed landscape paintings expressing his passion for nature and the natural world around him. He loves the low light of early morning and late afternoon for painting the serpentine creeks that wind through endless Lowcountry marshes. He is drawn to dramatic cloud formations, the sea and the majesty of our sunrises and sunsets across the water.

When I asked him, “Who are your heroes?” he quickly replied “Frederick J. Waugh”, the great marine painter and the acclaimed master painter, John Singer Sargent.” He was inspired by their works early on. Karas grew up on Boston’s North Shore, a few miles south of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, which consists of the historic seaport city of Gloucester and the nearby town of Rockport. Both of these have thriving artist colonies, where artists run their own galleries. There he learned he could make a living selling art and has done so successfully since high school.

Michael’s routine includes working in his home studio on Callawassie Island, a private sea island in coastal South Carolina. Here the sweeping expanses of marsh, winding estuaries, vast pristine tidal waters and the abundance of bird and wildlife provide the creative heartbeat of his Lowcountry paintings.

When not at work, Michael enjoys inshore saltwater fly fishing. Why fly fishing? “There is a pleasing aesthetic in the way the rod and line move through the air when making a cast, which propels the nearly weightless fly to silently land near it’s quarry. Then, when a fish is hooked, the long rod bends in the most graceful arch.”

Michael adds, “The places where I fish are also the places I paint. Time spent fishing gives me the perfect opportunity to observe my subject.”

And whenever time allows, he and his wife Fern, both Disney enthusiasts, love going to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Beyond the rides, they enjoy the amazing environment of outstanding design, creativity and attention to detail. They delight in just strolling around the parks or sitting on a bench, soaking in the magic.