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all about the water

March 2017

Dr. Joe Richardson Out and About One Hundred Miles

Have a safe & happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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I n the T ides




05 Editor’s Note - Spring Fever 06 Community Updates 08 Ebb & Flow - Topwater Mayhem 09 Taste of the Tides - Crab Soup


10 Around the Reef 11 Did You Know? Burrfish vs. Puffer fish 12

Out & About - Wildlife Viewing


Boat Show Advertorial

16 A Walk on the Wild Side - Dr. Joe 19

One Hundred Miles


Youth Art Contests

22 The Bitter End - Tools of the Mariner


Top: A bluebird, photographed in the author’s back yard. Out & About, page 12. Photo by John Holden Center: A Tybee high-five. A Walk on the Wild Side, page 16. Photo by Dr. Joe Richardson Bottom: 2016 State-fish art winner in category 10-12 grades, Iris Liu, with a Northern Pike. Youth Art Contests, page 21.

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A red fox kit playing with a stick, like any pup would do! Photo by John Holden March 2017


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Staff Publisher/Editor – Amy Thurman The Bitter End Columnist - Captain J. Gary “Gator” Hill Around the Reef Columnist - Michelle Riley

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Ebb & Flow Columnist - Trey Leggett Taste of the Tides Chef - Forrest Westendorf Contributing Writer - Cohen Carpenter Contributing Writer - Dory Ingram

Contributing Writer - Ryan Holden Writing & Photography Contributors - John & Lisa Holden Copyright © 2015-2017 All content herein is copyright protected and may not be reproduced in whole or part without express written permission.

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Southern Tides is a free magazine published monthly and can be found at multiple locations from St. Marys, GA, to Beaufort, SC. PO Box 30724 Wilmington Island, GA 31410 (912) 484-3611 Visit us on Facebook at Follow us on Instagram at southerntides_mag Follow us on Twitter at Tides_Magazine Southern Tides Magazine is printed by Walton Press, Monroe, GA

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E ditor’s N ote Spring Fever


ave you ever noticed that marsh grass doesn’t start to green up until after the last frost? I don’t know that there’s any scientific evidence to support my theory, but that’s my indication each year that spring has truly arrived. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re close. I can feel it. It happens every year. As soon as we start having more warm days than cold ones, my annual bout of spring fever kicks in and I’m out of control. My mind runs in high gear 18 hours a day and my sleep is restless because even my subconscious wants to be outside grabbing every moment of my favorite season in my favorite place on Earth. Days are starting to get longer (set your clocks forward March 12!), the time for wearing suffocating winter layers is almost behind us, flowers are blooming, water temps are heating up (64° at print time), and it’s time to get outside. No, springtime in the South isn’t for the faint of heart. Between the pollen, the gnats and the humidity, you have to be tough to still enjoy being outdoors, but the rewards are worth it. So what’s there to do? Get on the water! If you have a boat, get it serviced and get it launched. Get out there and fish, explore new creeks and rivers, or take a day trip and try out a dockside restaurant you’ve never been to before – like Zachry’s Riverhouse, opening at Jekyll Harbor Marina this month. Don’t have a boat? There are several places to rent one, including Hogans’ Marina, on Wilmington Island, or North Star Bait and Tackle at Crooked River State Park. For a more up-close experience at eye level, put a kayak in the water. There are great guided tours, such as Moon River Kayak near Skidaway Island, Sea Kayak Georgia, on Tybee Island, and Southeast Adventure Outfitters on St. Simons Island, to name a few. These companies also offer rentals. However you prefer to get out there, just do it. There’s nothing more relaxing and no better way to bring you back in touch with nature, than being out on the water. Take a nature hike! March and April are the best months for wildlife, from birds returning to the area to sea creatures coming ashore to mate or nest, and more. Explore Little Tybee, walk a beach at low tide, or visit a wildlife management area, as John and Lisa suggest in their article on page 12. Sign up for one of Dr. Joe’s beach walks (page 16), or wander among driftwood and tidal pools on Driftwood Beach. Explore! There are countless places to visit and explore within a couple hour drive. Any of the Revolutionary or Civil War forts (most are near water), any of the lighthouses along our stretch of coast, hike Cumberland Island and see the March 2017

Azaleas in bloom. Photo by Amy Thurman

marsh ponies roaming free, wander the shops in one of the pretty and historic downtown areas, such as Beaufort or St. Marys, or pick a random island, pack a lunch and make a day of it. Attend an event! St. Marys is now holding a First Friday event downtown each month, all of the Riverkeeper organizations have frequent paddle trips, and the spring festival season will be starting soon. Check the Southern Tides Facebook page for upcoming events and go have some fun! Get your hands dirty! That’s right, plant something. Whether you find a sunny patch of yard and put some tomato plants in the ground (do it before Easter for best results!), or put some pretty flowers in pots, it just feels good to plant something and watch it grow! No matter how busy your life is, it’s important to make time for things you enjoy and new experiences. So get out there, enjoy the warm weather, and experience everything our stretch of coast has to offer. Life’s too short to sit inside.

Amy Thurman

Editor-In-Chief 5

Community Updates

Right Whale Returns to Feeding Grounds

The North Atlantic right whale freed from commercial fishing gear off Cumberland Island in January was recently spotted in Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay, a hopeful sign for the whale and the endangered species. The Center for Coastal Studies spotted Eg3530, nicknamed Ruffian, in the bay during an aerial survey February 19. Concentrations of microscopic zooplankton, on which right whales feed, make Cape Cod Bay a whale hot spot in late-winter and spring. “We were very excited he made it back to the feeding grounds,” said Clay George, DNR’s lead marine mammal biologist. “Severe entanglements sap a whale’s energy reserves.” Ruffian was dragging about 450 feet of rope and a 135-pound trap/ pot nearly six feet in diameter, similar to ones used for catching crabs in cold ocean waters. If so, this means Ruffian may have dragged the gear 1,000 miles or more from Canada or New England. The DNR Nongame Conservation Section, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, NOAA Fisheries, and Sea to Shore Alliance disentangled the 42-foot-long male on January 5 and 6. Scientists estimate there are as few as 440 North Atlantic right whales left. Entanglement in commercial fishing gear, with line catching on flukes, flippers or baleen in the whale’s mouth, is a leading threat. More than 80 percent of right whales bear scars from entanglement, according to the New England Aquarium. A Georgia DNR biologist uses a knife mounted on a carbon fiber pole to disentangle Ruffian from heavy fishing rope, offshore of Cumberland Island. Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, taken under NOAA research permit #18786

Satilla Riverkeeper Hosts Spring Paddle

In early April while north Georgia is just emerging from the winter doldrums, the Satilla River in far southeast Georgia will be brimming with life (and in early April, not yet brimming with the eternal heat of summer!). You’re invited to participate in the Paddle Georgia Spring on the Satilla paddle event, March 31 – April 2. For two nights you’ll tent-camp atop Long Bluff at the rustic Satilla Lodge overlooking the river, and over the course of two days, paddle nearly 28 miles of this blackwater gem. Educational programs, catered meals, campfires, and camaraderie round out a weekend of leisurely paddling and first-rate camping. For more information and to register, please visit /paddle_georgia/ springonthesatilla.html

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Manatees Rescued in Savannah River

Two manatees were rescued from the Savannah River at Port Wentworth in January, after falling temperatures and a temporary mill closure threatened to leave the endangered mammals out in the cold. Manatees usually migrate south to Florida in fall, but warm water from the mill and unseasonably warm temperatures apparently disrupted that migratory behavior. A cold front in January left the adult females trapped at the mill outfall. Crews including DNR, SeaWorld Orlando, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Georgia Sea Turtle Center caught and moved them. Both are being monitored at SeaWorld, which plans to release them with tracking transmitters.

A crew captures one of two manatees relocated from Port Wentworth on the Savannah River. Photo by Johanna Anderson/Georgia DNR

Welcome Ryan and Cohen!

Southern Tides Magazine is pleased to welcome two new contributors, Cohen Carpenter and Ryan Holden. Both wrote articles for last month’s issue and will be joining us regularly going forward. Ryan, whose parents, John and Lisa Holden, are also regular contributors, wrote a piece for us last month about her family’s adventure at the Savannah Wildlife Refuge. Her writing style is light, upbeat, and entertaining to read – which is a perfect fit for Southern Tides. At print time, Ryan is in the process of returning home to the lowcountry to pursue her passion for writing, after living and attending school in California for eight years, where she received a Bachelors in language and linguistics. When asked about her interests, Ryan said, “I love camping, hiking, reading, writing, trying new things that I am inevitably terrible at [though her editor finds that hard to believe], watching movies and reviewing them like I have any actual scope on what does and does not make a good film, drinking maybe one beer too many, and getting sleep whenever I can.” According to her father, she will be seeking gainful employment and her resume is available on request. Cohen grew up in Perry, Georgia, studied biology at Georgia Southern, and has recently earned his masters from University of North Florida. He studied shark nurseries in coastal Georgia and started a blog about his research (, where, he says, “I’ve been discovering my voice as a writer and photographer. I’m really passionate about this, especially as it pertains to environmental and wildlife topics.” He’s a self-proclaimed “bird nerd” and loves bird photography. He also enjoys training his two German shepherds, running, and carpentry. In addition to his research and writing for Southern Tides, he also guides kayak eco-tours and is interviewing for positions with the hope of finding a job that will allow him to continue to explore the natural world. He lives on St. Simons Island and is getting married to his fiancé, Lexi, this month. We look forward to more from these two great young writers in the coming months. Please feel free to reach out to them, or any of our contributors. We all love hearing from our readers!

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Ebb & F low Topwater Mayhem By Trey Leggett Above: A topwater lure in action. Photo by Butch Newel Below: Caden Lloyd with a red caught on a topwater lure. Photo by Jennifer Lloyd


’ve done a lot of fishing over the years and caught fish in many different ways and in many different places, but nothing comes close to the excitement of topwater fishing. Topwater fishing is like a cult following, attracting members for the sheer excitement and rush of watching a fish annihilate bait at the surface. I’ve had fish blow up at the bait without getting hooked; they stalk the bait as you work it, and eventually, sensing a kill strike, they inhale it or launch it from the water. It’s just awesome to watch! There are many different topwater baits on the market, including: hard bait ‘walk-the-dog’ lures, popping lures, segmented, buzz baits, one knockers, high pitch/low pitch, pencil poppers, frogs, etc. Each have their own application for various species, waters and conditions. Many anglers have their favorites and will often nickname them because of their value to the angler’s fishing experience. Working the Lure The typical topwater lure is retrieved in a ‘walk-the-dog’ motion, to make the lure dart from side to side simulating a disoriented or injured bait fish. These lures either have no rattling chamber, a rattling chamber with one ball, or a chamber with several balls. The rattling chambers hold varying-sized ball bearings that create a lowor high-pitched knocking sound when the bait is twitched. Southern food with The popping-type topwater lures have a concave front that induces a pop, or thud sound when twitched, while creating some water Caribbean flair disturbance. This action alerts nearby predators to the the possibility of an easy meal. prepared with There’s much debate on the best way to retrieve top water lures - steady, or to pause periodically. I usually start off with a steady retrieve, then vary my retrieve to incorporate fresh local ingredients some pauses, and hopefully induce strikes. My pauses are sometimes frequent and may last for several seconds. My son’s personal best topwater speckled trout was caught utilizing a paused retrieve, after several casts using a steady retrieve. Some fish may be a bit wary or lethargic and will follow the bait; varying your retrieve may induce a strike. Typical hard bait comes packaged with two or more treble hooks attached. Having the treble hooks will assist in hook-ups during violent strikes. There are a couple ways to enhance your experience and help protect the fish. Smash the barbs on your treble hooks or replace the treble hooks with single hooks. These techniques enhance the fish’s survivability and create an angling challenge for you. It will also help in removal when (not if) you get the bait hooks embedded in your hand, finger, leg, foot, or face. The lure industry puts out many different colors and patterns of lures nowadays in an effort to give the angler a choice that best suits their fishing habitats and weather conditions. While some of the patterns, in my opinion, are outlandish and have little to no bearing on whether you’ll catch fish or not, they do have a place in our tackle boxes. I prefer bone, speckled, flash, or dark colors for my fishing in inshore waters. I’ll choose which baits to use based on water clarity, sun light (or lack of), and species sought. Some of us prefer a lure pattern, based merely on the fact that we’ve caught fish on it successfully and have confidence in it. Try a few and see what works for you. Join the top water fishing mayhem! You’ll have a blast! (912) 201-3630 Tight lines and stay safe.

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Trey fishes for Hobie Kayak Fishing, Hobie Polarized Sunglasses, SouthEast Adventure Outfitters, and Coastal Georgia Kayak Fishing. Email: 8 March 2017

Taste of the Tides

Crab Soup By Forrest Westendorf Kitchen Supervisor

Blue crabs are plentiful this year and provide a great flavor to this hearty soup. If you don’t have time to pick your own crabmeat, you can purchase it at your local seafood market. INGREDIENTS 1 pint milk 1 quart Half-and-half 2 pints heavy whipping cream 1 lb blue crab meat 1 tbsp parsley, chopped 3 tsp Old Bay Seasoning ¼ cup butter ½ tsp salt 1/8 tsp pepper Cornstarch (as needed) *gluten free Sherry - to taste

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• Bring milk, Half-and-half and heavy whipping cream to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. • Add crab meat, fresh parsley, Old Bay Seasoning, butter, salt, and pepper. • Make a paste of cornstarch and water to thicken soup. • When the soup begins to boil, slowly whisk in a little of the cornstarch slurry until you have the desired consistency. It shouldn’t take much. • Serve with sherry on the side, add to your serving to taste.

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March 2017


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A round the Reef

Reef Fish Spotlight By Skye Mills

Communications Intern Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation


ray’s Reef offers an amazing abundance and diversity of fish, many of which live at the reef year-round. Scientists have identified more than 200 fish species to date. This month, we’ll highlight a few types of fish that anglers like to catch in the top two-thirds of the Gray’s Reef sanctuary. As most area fishermen know, fishing and diving are prohibited in the bottom one-third of the sanctuary – about 8 square miles – which is a designated research area. Sea bass and grouper are often observed at Gray’s Reef. One of the most popular of this type is the black sea bass, which can grow to 15 inches in length. Black sea bass are effective hunters and are the most common predatory fish to inhabit Georgia’s waters. Another common large fish is the gag grouper. This graycolored fish can reach a length of nearly 30 inches. Often swimming in groups, gag grouper move from reef to reef in search of food. Similar to the gag grouper is the scamp grouper, which is a bit smaller, has a sharper shaped snout and typically swims alone rather than in groups. There are no shortage of jacks and mackerels in the sanctuary. One of the prized jacks that hang around the reef looking for unsuspecting prey is the greater amberjack. These fish can be up to 36 inches in length, are two-toned dark and silver and have a beautiful amber stripe reaching from the eye to the middle of the body. Chief of the mackerels is the king mackerel, also called the kingfish. Over four feet long, divers easily see kingfish as they swim atop the reef. Their long silvery-beige bodies are

characterized by a curved lateral line. Juvenile king mackerels have yellow spots, often causing fishermen to confuse them with the Spanish mackerel, a slightly smaller fish with a silvery iridescent blue-green body. The largest kingfish ever caught in Georgia was caught at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. In June 2004, Statesboro fisherman Joe Bell caught a massive king mackerel that weighed in at 75 pounds, 12 oounces. Coastal Georgia’s abundant waters are sure to land you a great catch, but as always, seasonal and locational state and federal fishing regulations apply. Fishermen are welcome to keep fish they catch in the sanctuary, as long as they meet regulations. Anglers are asked to use descending devices to release required species back down to the reef and are encouraged to remember that anchoring and spearfishing are not allowed in the sanctuary. Most anglers find the rod and reel method works like a charm at Gray’s Reef! Visit the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at to learn more about the best times to catch the delicious fish our coastal area has to offer.

Email: Black sea bass hunting in the sanctuary. Photo by Greg McFall, NOAA

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D id Y ou Know? Although often lumped together as “puffer fish,” striped burrfish (Chilomycterus schoepfi) and Northern puffer fish (Sphoeroides maculates), are two distinctly different families of fish.

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• Both burrfish and puffer fish will take in water and air, inflating their bodies to several times their normal size when threatened. Puffer fish have smooth skin until inflated, when it becomes rough to the touch. Burrfish are covered in small, upright spines that extend taller when inflated.

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• Both are carnivorous and feed on barnacles, snails, crabs and other small shellfish, and occasionally on small finfish.

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• Burrfish reach 10 to 11 inches in length, while puffer fish can be slightly smaller at eight to 10 inches. • Burrfish are not usually found in water deeper than 30 feet, but puffer fish have been observed in waters up to 650 feet, though they are more commonly found in shallower water. • Though the skin and entrails of both puffer fish and burrfish are deadly to humans, the meat of both fish is considered to be tasty if prepared properly. Puffer fish were used as a food fish during the food shortage after World War II. At the height of the fishery in 1969, two million pounds of puffer fish were distributed to restaurants up and down the east coast, though consumption had mostly declined by the mid1970s. Burrfish, on the other hand, have mostly been sold commercially only in the aquarium trade. Data compiled by Amy Thurman. Sources include:, , IUCN Redlist, and Smithsonian Marine Station.

The Waterline Up crew would like to thank all of our loyal customers for your business! Left: A small inflated burrfish; after being released it will return to its normal size. Photo by Dr. Joe Richardson Above: Watercolor image of a stripped burrfish at rest. Image by Duane Raver, provided by GA DNR

Left: A northern puffer fish hauled up in a trawl net. A beak-like jaw and smooth skin make it easy to identify. Photo by Amy Thurman Above: Watercolor of image of a Northern puffer at rest. Image by Duane Raver, provided by GA DNR

March 2017


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Birds of a feather dine together! A great blue heron and a great egret (above) photographed at a rookery near the author’s home, and two great egrets (below), at SWR. Top left: Driftwood sculpture. Middle: Sibling bonding. Bottom left: Osprey coming in for a landing.

Out and About Enjoying Wildlife and Nature

By John and Lisa Holden

Photography by John Holden


any years ago, I learned that there’s no such thing as a bad day on the water. Think about that in relation to where we all live and you’ll have to admit, it’s true. Throughout the lowcountry and coastal empire we’re fortunate beyond belief to have the access and opportunities our waterways offer. I think we’d all agree that when our day afloat concludes there’s a common expression on our faces: smiles. Lots of smiles. Then there’s reality. Getting on the water as much as we desire is, at times, just plain hard to do, especially if you don’t own a boat. But if you take quick look around you’ll see that there are plenty of other venues and opportunities for happy-puppy smiles and an abundant appreciation for where we live. And most are, if not immediately adjacent to the water, pretty darn close to it.

What we’re alluding to are the numerous national, state and local wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, local rookeries, and even our own back yards. In short, you don’t always have to be afloat. Instead, consider going afoot to enjoy visiting and viewing our wonderful lowcounty and coastal empire wildlife and nature. As we live north of the Savannah River we’ll focus on areas we routinely visit (especially this time of year). Our bucket list includes visits south of the river – we just haven’t made it that far yet. So, here’s a quick look at near-by opportunities north of the Savannah River, working our way south to north: Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Wow, what a place! And just minutes from downtown. Of note is the genesis of the refuge – why it’s laid out the way it is and looks the way it does. It started out as a rice plantation, built mainly by hand with slave and migrant labor. Rice farming eventually succumbed to mother nature and from there, man saw opportunity to manage the properties to support wildlife migration, refuge, and yes, hunting. Many former rice plantations from our area are managed in this manner today. If you’re a first-timer to the refuge, we highly recommend you begin at the visitor center. It’s one of the best around in our opinion. As you enter there’s usually a large whiteboard where those enjoying the sights and sounds of the refuge have listed what they saw. It’s a fairly comprehensive list, but keep in mind that’s just a sampling and there’s plenty more to see. The Savannah refuge includes a four-mile road that you can drive, bike, or even walk. If you do drive there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy a particular view, explore a short trail or enjoy a picnic. There are longer trails for walking or cycling only; it all depends on what you’re in the mood for. All the particulars can be found at the visitor center. We’ve captured some wonderful photographs at the Savannah refuge. Our favorite, however, is not of critters, but of our children walking together, side by side ahead of us, chatting just loud enough so only they could hear each other (just like they did 25 years ago when we’d get out and about). Not only were we out as a family but we thoroughly enjoyed all the refuge offered, namely serenity. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge Nestled against the northwest edge of Hilton Head Island, this refuge is pure lowcountry with very little evidence of its early life as a plantation. We really enjoy Pinckney and its 14 or so miles of nature trails. There are plenty of birds (perhaps the biggest and busiest rookery around) and other critters, not to mention the biggest alligator we’ve ever seen. What makes Pinckney unique is no cars are allowed on the trails, just foot traffic and bicycles.

Alligator buddies getting cozy on Valentines Day at Donnelly Wildlife Management Area.

We all have our favorite critters that we’ll go out of our way to see, photograph or just simply enjoy. For us, digitally capturing a bird in flight is a highlight, but I’m also quite partial to the female northern cardinal (pictured at left). I just think she’s a beautiful bird. Part of the allure I’m certain is the challenge of capturing the perfect image – cardinals don’t sit still long when visitors are nearby. I captured a few just last week at the Savannah refuge. I’ve failed in my own back yard but struck gold at the refuge … so it goes.

“It’s pretty impressive what the boys will do to get the girl’s attention!” Below: White pelicans at Bear Island.

That said, understanding that walking and bicycles are not for everyone, an organization called “Friends of the Savannah Coastal Wildlife Refuges” offers electric cart tours of Pinckney Island. This organization is funded through donations; tours are free but reservations are required. Those interested need only Google the “Friends” website and navigate to the Pinckney Island page. Donnelley Wildlife Management Area Located just off Highway 17, just short of the Ashepoo River, Donnelley is a favorite spot of ours. The area is well marked for vehicle traffic, full of great hiking trails and usually has an array of wildlife that you feel like you can reach out and touch (some right by the lodge). We spent Valentine’s Day at Donnelley and noticed the local gators were pretty friendly with each other. Bear Island Game/Wildlife Management Area Just a few miles from Donnelley, south along Bennetts Point Road. Bear Island reminds me of the Savannahs Wildlife Refuge with drivable routes and opportunities to hike out on dikes and be even closer to nature. Like other former plantations, water levels are controlled to assist with bird migration and to provide a food source for migrating and local birds. With spring migration beginning soon, this is a great time of year to think about heading out and about. The major hunts are over, most all of the areas are available for outdoor adventures, and pesky bugs won’t be out in force. Yet. You’ll see beautiful plumage on many birds and with the plumage comes some unique mating rituals. It’s pretty impressive what the boys will do to get the girl’s attention! 14

These are just a few places you’ll find in the South Carolina lowcountry, but there are more options, such as local rookeries. Many of us run across these places routinely and one day the place is full of birds, the next day they’re gone, only to return two days later. And don’t forget our own backyards. Hang a couple of bird feeders with the right kind of bird feed and you’ll be amazed at what you can enjoy watching from the comforts of your home. One of the primary themes that resonate on the pages of this magazine are the great fortune we enjoy living in this part of our country. If you haven’t already, please consider getting to know the magnificence of our unique environment. It’s literally moments

away. What do we need to enjoy these venues? In order of priority: - Patience (don’t rush, take your time, let nature get used to you being there) - Bug spray, sunscreen, water, sunglasses - Animal / bird ID tri-folds Additional items you may wish to consider: backup patience, backup bug spray, binoculars and camera, snack items (for you, not the animals). Most important, put your devices on mute and/or pack them away in the glove box under lock and key. March 2017

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Save the Date! April 21 – 23 Southeast U.S. Boat Show and Oyster Jam There’s no better way to spend a spring weekend than looking at boats and eating oysters, and you can do both in Jacksonville at the 21st Annual Southeast U.S. Boat Show and Oyster Jam. Consider it two shows for the price of one: browse hundreds of boats from dealers across the region and more than 150 vendors offering products and services that appeal to the coastal lifestyle, then top off the day with the great food, hospitality and entertainment of the Oyster Jam. On Saturday and Sunday, running concurrently with the boat show, the Oyster Jam includes live music, adult beverages, a cornhole tournament, a shucking contest, an oyster cookoff, a kid’s zone, and plenty of community oyster shucking tables. “It’s a very social event,” said Jimmy Hill, of Current Productions, the show’s organizer. “Oysters are part of our coastal cultural history and our coastal ecology. They’re making a comeback and being harvested here again. Everyone loves standing around a table eating oysters and making new friends, and this could be your last chance to get your oyster fix for the season!” Running Friday through Sunday in Metropolitan Park, the boat show will have boats on display on the grounds and in the water. The show will also feature Jet Fest – a jet pack competition, multiple fishing seminars, boater safety and education seminars, kid’s programs, the annual bikini contest, daily happy hours, and a food court. Foodie Alert: the food court consists of food trucks with an eclectic mix of offerings prepared by the area’s best chefs, affordably priced and a wide variety of tastes. For more information, visit www.

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Clockwise from right: Jet pack competition; boats; oyster roast; more boats! Come join the fun!

A Walk on the Wild Side Beach Walks with Dr. Joe Above: A flat-clawed hermit crab occupying what’s left of a whelk shell. Photo by Dr. Joe Richardson Below: A future marine biologist in training. Photo by Captain Gary “Gator” Hill

By Captain J. Gary “Gator” Hill


hen I think of a walk on the beach it usually isn’t with another guy, but when I had a chance to do so with Dr. Joe Richardson I jumped at it. Dr. Joe is a retired Professor Emeritus from Savannah State University’s marine biology department, though on most any pretty day, the word retired would not be the first to come to mind. At low tide, you’ll find him walking Tybee’s beaches with a group of young and old alike, much like a mama duck with ducklings in tow. I asked Joe, who has a biology degree from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD in Marine Sciences from University of North Carolina, what led to his choice of career. “Well,” he said, “Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, seemed pretty removed from the ocean. However, the family had a beach house at Morehead City in North Carolina. So, every summer we would spend the month of August there enjoying coastal life. Days were spent fishing and playing in the tidal pools and on the beach, catching all manner of sea creatures.” His original plan was to be a charter boat captain, not realizing that marine biology was an option, until he did a book report on a book in which the main character was a marine biologist. This piqued his interest. Fast forward to the late 70’s. Joe was on the verge of finishing grad school and learned that Savannah State College (now Savannah State University) was setting up a marine biology department. He wanted to teach and be near the ocean, not landlocked in Tennessee, so he interviewed for a position. He (and his wife, Jackie) moved to Savannah where he spent over 30 years teaching future generations. 16

In 2010, after retirement from SSU, Joe began offering beach walks to various small groups and it grew into a small business. “It really sort of evolved as more and more teachers and Girl Scout groups asked if I would help them with their field trips. Before long, vacation rental companies and motels on Tybee (and some in Savannah) asked me if I would consider doing trips for families also. It just grew from there. I really had no plans to do these trips when I retired from SSU. I was just planning to continue with research and consulting work (which I still do also). But I really enjoy getting out on the beach and seeing what we can find, and I enjoy teaching about our coastal biology and ecology, so it has turned into something that I really like doing.” From toddlers to those in their golden years, we made our way that morning along Tybee’s North Beach. A brief introduction March 2017

Right: A group of Dr. Joe’s beack walk guests dig for specimens. Photo by Captain Gary “Gator” Hill Bottom right: Dr. Joe shows guests a mushroom jellyfish. Bottom left: A spider crab. Bottom images provided by Dr. Joe Richardson

with a general game plan was given then Joe turned the folks loose to see what they could find. During low, or ebb tide, more beach is available, as are tidal pools and more opportunities to find things left on the beach by the outgoing tide. Almost immediately, cannonball and mushroom jellyfish were discovered and Dr. Joe explained that these two varieties of jellies do not sting. Although many might lump all jellyfish into the stinging category, cannonball and mushroom jellyfish aren’t like their cousins the Medusa or wasp jellies. Other guests asked about the holes found in a couple of the jellyfish specimens. Dr. Joe explained that little spider crabs often hitchhike inside the jellyfish when stranded on the beach. Gulls and other birds have learned to explore inside for the delectable spider crab morsels. Dr. Joe next armed his band of would-be scientists with potting shovels and dip nets. They spread out, some finding worm holes that they dug down into to see what sea beastie might be living there. Others moved on to the tidal pools where they discovered anemones and hermit crabs and various shells – both empty and occupants. As his guests made discoveries, they took them to Joe for explanation and to ask questions.

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During one of our conversations I asked Joe about his view on the benefits marine biology, commercially and to the community at large. “One of the first things is how it impacts at the local level,” he said. “Constant research on things like black gill and oyster rake replacement are huge in the lives of our fishermen and in our water quality.” “Then there’s the eco-tourism aspect, so many people visit the lowcountry and go on the various dolphin trips, fossil hunting, as well as beach walks, like what I do.” “And that’s not to mention the medical breakthroughs in the biomedical field. Take for example, the blood being harvested from horseshoe crabs, and jellyfish extracts for things like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.” I also had the opportunity to get Joe’s take on the impact hurricane Matthew had our beaches, short and long tem. “The barrier islands performed admirably well, just as they were supposed to. These ecosystems are very resilient in that they recover very quickly. Sadly, some areas were impacted to a much worse degree than we were, but they will recover and be as robust as they were prior to the hurricane.” As we wrapped up our adventure, I asked Joe what we, as inhabitants of this big blue marble, should be more sensitive to or concerned about. He looked at me with a smile and told me he felt that as whole, our society was moving in the right direction. “The beaches are being left in an increasingly better state. Those visiting the marshes, hammocks and coastal forests seem to want to leave them in a state of wellbeing, they take their trash, and are becoming good stewards. Sure, there is room to improve and we need to always stay diligent, but we’ve moved to a much better place than where we were a few years ago.” This beach walk with Dr. Joe was an incredible experience. If you’d like to contact Dr. Joe Richardson join him on Facebook at

18 March 2017

One Hundred Miles To Love and Protect Georgia’s Coast S

ince 2013, a dedicated team of advocates has been working to protect and preserve Georgia’s 100-mile coast. One Hundred Miles (OHM), a non-profit organization named for the landscape it works to conserve, is headquartered in Brunswick. This spring, the team is excited to open a new office in Savannah. Though only 100 miles in length, Georgia’s coast is home to Savannah, one of the country’s most vibrant and historic cities, as well as a string of remote, culturally-significant barrier islands. Only four of Georgia’s 14 major barrier islands are developed and accessible by car - Tybee in Chatham County, and St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea Islands in Glynn County. While coastal Georgia’s population has grown at a slower pace than neighboring states, growth in coastal communities across the country is typically most rapid in places where beaches are easily accessible. This makes the current local and state choices about development, including preparations and adaptations to sea level rise, critical to preserving our unique coastland. Since its initial opening, One Hundred Miles staff have been hard at work to turn some of our coast’s most pressing threats into opportunities for balancing growth and conservation. Now, after only three years, the organization is excited to establish a second office in Savannah’s Starland

One Hundred Miles Staff Judi Fergus, Kelly Patton, and Paulita BennettMartin meet with Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge Park Ranger, Russ Webb for a day connecting locals to their barrier islands. Photo provided by One Hundred Miles

District at 2424 Drayton Street. To prepare for the opening of the new Savannah location, One Hundred Miles staff have spent the last six months engaging with residents and businesses in the north coast, learning about the most critical issues and challenges facing Chatham County. Paulita Bennett-Martin joined the team in July 2016 as the Chief of Coastal Advocacy to expand OHM’s presence on the north coast. Since settling in Savannah, Bennett-Martin explains, “It’s been incredible to explore this place and get to know the beautiful, endless nature, diverse array of culture, and dense history of Savannah and Chatham County. It’s easy to want to protect it all.” To date, One Hundred Miles has focused much of its work on community-driven projects, like the Tybee Island Reusable Bag Pledge to reduce plastic pollution in our ocean, marshes, and neighborhoods. In December 2016, Bennett-

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One Hundred Miles Chief of Coastal Advocacy addresses The Mayor of Thunderbolt to proclaim North Atlantic Right Whale Day. Photo provided by One Hundred Miles

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Martin worked with the City of Savannah, City of Tybee, and Town of Thunderbolt to recognize the value of our state marine mammal and proclaim “North Atlantic Right Whale Day.” Looking forward, OHM plans to take on projects that protect our coastal rivers, aquifers, and marshlands for residents, visitors, and future generations. April is a great time to get to know the One Hundred Miles team. They will host a We Love the Georgia Coast art opening during Art March in the Starland District on April 8th. They are also working with other local organizations, like Savannah Riverkeeper, to organize the Savannah March for Science on April 22nd. The staff are always willing to share information and speak to groups to promote Georgia’s coastal identity and celebrate this special place. Preserving, protecting, and enhancing Georgia’s coast is a team effort. The women at One Hundred Miles have demonstrated their commitment to our coast and their interest in building strong partnerships with friends and residents across the state. “We are so excited about putting down roots in our new Savannah office,” says Bennett-Martin. “The future looks bright with so many opportunities to work with Savannahians who love our 100 miles.”

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Left: Chief of Coastal Advocacy Paulita Bennett-Martin Right: Vice President of Coastal Conservation Alice Keys

20 March 2017

Youth Art Contests

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Young artists are invited to enter the 18th annual Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art contest. This contest is open to kids in Grades K-12 but the deadline for entries is March 31st – so, don’t wait too long! Students across the United States and internationally have 2016 winner in the Grades 4-6 category: the opportunity to win Largemouth bass, by Olivia Cai prizes and recognition while learning about state fish species, behaviors, aquatic habitats, and conservation. Using art, the State-Fish Art Contest ignites children’s imagination while teaching them about fish and fishing. To enter, young artists create an original illustration of their chosen fish from their state’s fish list. Grades 4-12 must also submit a one-page written essay, story or poem based on the fish’s behavior, habitat and/or conservation needs. Winning contestants from each state, plus Ontario, Canada and international entries, will be honored in four grade categories, K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. All contestants must complete their state-specific entry form, which must be postmarked by March 31, 2017. Find your state’s fish and entry forms at

Teachers and students across Georgia are invited to celebrate Georgia’s wildlife and students’ artistic interests by participating in the 27th annual Give Wildlife a Chance Poster Contest. The competition, open to grades K-5, is aimed at generating a greater knowledge and appreciation of Georgia’s diverse and increasingly threatened nongame wildlife and their habitats. Nongame species (those not legally hunted or fished for) vary from rare animals and plants such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the hooded pitcherplant to common 2016 1st Place in Division 3: Every species such as the northern Species Matters by Shekinah cardinal and flowering dogwood. Ledgister, Age 9, 3rd grade, This popular art contest Jackson Elementary “School of is sponsored by the Georgia the Arts” in Jonesboro, GA. Department of Natural Resources, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and The Environmental Resources Network (TERN), friends group of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section. The theme for the 2016-17 school year is “Keep Georgia WILD!” The topic highlights the need to be aware of how Georgians’ everyday actions can impact wildlife and their habitats, as well as the quality of the lives of people. After creating artwork based on this year’s theme and according to contest rules, participants enter their drawings and paintings at the local school level. The deadline for schools to submit statelevel entries is April 14, 2017. For contest rules, awards, entry forms and other information, visit

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Tools of the Modern Mariner By Captain J. Gary “Gator” Hill


n any profession, having the right tools for the job makes everything turn out oh-so-much better. Whether you’re a professional mariner or the boating version of a weekend warrior, there are a few tools to have in your arsenal. In days of old, such tools were the compass, sextant, a good set of charts, and a sounding lead. In today’s world, these have been replaced, to some degree by, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), depth sounders and VHF Radios. We also have phone apps available to us now – some are free and others are available for a small fee. Charts are one tool you should always have aboard. Electronic, paper, or even better, both. Your GPS start-up screen warns you that having a good, current chart, in the advent of failure, is critical. But we get complacent; we either lose a chart and fail to put a new one back in the boat bag, or we boat only in areas we know. So, I am going to start with a great product you can have in your pocket called Navionics. It’s an app for either android or iPhone, though there is a fee for it. It uses a standard chart layout and GPS to show where you are on said chart. Some of the more robust features allow you to set a route, gives your track lines and shows depths. I’ve had times when my regular Garmin GPS failed, and I’ve navigated at night and in fog using it. It’s surprisingly accurate. Just go to your app store and select what fits your budget or need – there are several out there. But remember, these are subject to fail too, due to your phone going dead or being dropped, and still isn’t a replacement for having current paper charts onboard. For those operating near shore, off shore, or on major shipping routes, consider an app that detects Automatic Identification System (AIS) – a signal that larger commercial and pleasure craft use. Just search “boat/ship finders.” Once again, these apps come in several flavors and vary from the free to paid. I started out using free versions of ship finder and marine traffic. Both worked very well, though there was a small delay in the refresh rate. Since I work in the marine business, I don’t mind paying for an app if it makes my job safer or easier. I’ve recently started using Boat Beacon. It’s also a paid app but gives me collision alarms, as well as letting me broadcast my AIS signal so I can be seen. I’m in shipping channels two hundred-plus days a year and I love being able to see where the big guys are, especially if I have a river channel crossing in adverse weather or at night. Those of us who grew up here or have lived here for years sometimes take the tide change as a given. However, boaters new to the area should be aware that our coast has a huge tidal range. Average high tides run six to eight feet and big tides (during a new or full moon, or when we have strong winds) can run more than 10 feet. The other side of the coin is low tide, which, as I write, is -1.1 feet. A tide chart is one tool you don’t want to be without; you can pick them up at most any marina or boating supply store. I also rely on an app called GPS Real Tide, made by FlytoMap. 22

Screenshots of two apps Gator uses Navionics (top) and Boat Beacon (bottom).. Images provided by Captain J. Gary Hill With several features, such as touch GPS to locate what the tides will be at your location, you can also check locations for that day along your planned route. Remember, the tides can vary by as much as 45 minutes or more from the oceans edge to further inland. A special pet peeve of mine is some boater’s knot tying abilities. There’s a saying I’ve repeated for years, “If you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot.” Knot tying goes back to some of the most basic boating skills one should have mastered early on, though sadly knot so much. Once again, hit your app store to find a knot tying app that works for you. My favorite is Knots3D – it’s animated and will show you how to properly tie a variety of useful knots. It also allows you to adjust the display speed so you can follow along at your own pace. From weather apps to route planners and even simple things like a notes app on your phone to create a pre-departure checklist, can make your trip easier and safer. Be properly armed for your next boating adventure. Remember that for the price of a couple cases of adult beverages you can make boating safer for you and your family and friends, and these investments keep giving back every trip – unlike those beverages! With the tools available today, the modern mariner is better prepared to set sail than ever before. See ya’ll on the water!

Email: March 2017

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Southern Tides March 2017  
Southern Tides March 2017