Public Landings:Everyman’s Gateway to the Sea
Author: Paul deVere
It is sunrise Saturday morning at All Joy public boat landing in Bluffton. Located at the end of All Joy Road in Bluffton is one of the most heavily used public landings in southern Beaufort County. The 20 or so parking spaces will fill up quickly. Scott Rushing, from Columbia, and a couple of his buddies are about to launch Rushing’s boat into the May River. They’re going fishing, hoping for something other than shark.
“My grandfather was a hell of a fisherman,” Rushing says, smiling.
“You sure wish he’d passed it down,” one of his friends jokes as he climbs aboard.
Rushing accepts the gibe with a laugh. “He was an All, J.C. All,’’ Rushing explains, “as in ‘All Joy.’ That was the name of the hotel my great grandmother started right here, All Joy Hotel*,” he says, indicating the landing and the adjacent Brighton Beach area. “She had Grandfather go out on his boat to get fish for the guests. My grandmother still lives here.” The landing is one of the oldest in Southern Beaufort County. Descendants of the families who built homes along the May River in the 1920s and ’30s still own homes there.
On the flip side, Ronald Madsen moved to Hilton Head Island a little over three years ago from Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 lakes.” With a laugh, Madsen said, “I divorced my snow blower.” Due to his variable work schedule, he and his son Christian were able to get in some fishing on a weekday, avoiding the crowds. “We’re learning how to salt water fish,” Roland Madsen says as he and son Chris secure their boat to a trailer. The fishing, getting out on the water off Hilton Head, “Maybe we’re starting a tradition,” he said.
The Madsens use the C.C. Haig Jr. Boat Landing just off U.S. 278 on Pinckney Island because it is located just two miles from their home on Hilton Head. With access to both MacKay and Skull Creeks, and even with 90 parking spaces and two launch lanes, weekends at C.C. Haig can get very busy. Yet Roland Madsens thinks even then, when boaters follow the “first come, first served” practice when launching, it all seems to work.
Being out on the water, especially in the summer months, has always been a part of Lowcountry life. Along All Joy Road, from the landing to Boundary Street in Old Town Bluffton, there doesn’t seem to be one yard without at least one boat in it, with the occasional Jet Ski and kayak. While not as obvious on Hilton Head Island, on a ride down virtually any residential street in non-gated communities, more often than not, boats share part of the yard or driveway.
And all of them need a place to launch.
Beaufort County has 25 public landings, more than any other coastal county in South Carolina. All are managed by the Beaufort County Public Works Department. There are eight landings either in or close to Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. “Anybody is welcome to use them,” said Jimmie Stanley, superintendent of Roads & Drainage South. He is charged with maintaining all the landings, from replacing cleats to repairing the large floating docks.
Step 1: back boat slowly into the water.
Step 2: detach boat from vehicle smoothly.
Step 3: move boat away from ramp
Step 4: enjoy your day on the water with friends.
But Stanley says some boaters take advantage of that welcome. “People come down on vacation and just leave their trailer at the landing for two or three weeks,” he said. “The law says they can leave them unattended for 48 hours. They just have to practice common courtesy.”
Public landings are everyman’s gateway to the sea. No marina fees. No docking fees. No fees, period. Everyone with a boat trailer or a kayak on the top of a car is equal. But SCDNR’s Henderson has some advice: “Learning how to navigate the extensive waterways of Beaufort County can be a challenge. I recommend boaters start with small areas and expand from there. Learning to read navigational aids or getting a GPS with marine charts will also greatly enable the unfamiliar boater.”
A frequent and long-time user of public landings definitely agrees with Stanley, especially when it comes to common courtesy. Collins Doughtie, fishing columnist and angler (not in that order) lives across the road from the All Joy landing in Bluffton.
“People just don’t think,” Doughtie said. As an example, some boaters get in the launch lane, “then stop and run back to get something they forgot. It just holds up everybody.” Then there is the trash left at the landing after a day on the water and people leaving boat trailers in other people’s front yard. “People simply need to be a lot more courteous,” Doughtie said. He also cautions new boaters about the waters around Hilton Head and Bluffton. “Safety is paramount. If you’re not sure [about boating regulations or your boat’s operation], just ask.”
Beaufort County and SCDNR both offer guides to public boat landings in Beaufort County. Find your gateway to the sea on the following websites: bcgov.net/departments/Engineering-and-Infrastructure/public-works/Boat-Landings.php or dnr.sc.gov. Click on Search by County. Search Jasper County for interesting alternatives.
Two Big SCDNR Tips
Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement personnel do an extraordinary job of, among other things, keeping boaters safe and fishermen honest, while protecting the waters and land so precious to Lowcountry residents. Following are two tips from SCDNR’s Adam Henderson to keep you safe and happy on Lowcountry waterways.
1) Maintain your safety gear.
The most common problems encountered with boaters are probably inadequate or missing safety gear. This can be easily be fixed prior to getting underway by doing a quick vessel inspection, making sure existing safety equipment (e.g. life jackets, fire extinguisher, navigation lights, etc.) is present, in proper supply and in working order.
2) Designate a sober driver.
While all aspects of boater safety are important, impaired boat operators are probably the biggest concern. While it is not illegal to drink alcohol while boating, the South Carolina legal limit for operating a boat is .08 BAC, just as with driving an automobile. Alcohol impairment slows reaction time and inhibits the attention needed to be a safe boat operator. SCDNR will be looking for signs of impairment, so if a person plans on drinking, get a designated driver who is capable of operating the boat.