Mount Pleasant South Carolina
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Mt. Pleasant Anecdote
“Shrimp Trawler Fleet” - Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
The town of
Mount Pleasant retains the charm of an old seacoast
village in many respects, particularly in the picturesque fleet of
shrimp boats along wharves on popular Shem Creek. Shem is an old
Indian name that refers to a place where the waters are harvested, and
since colonial times, this creek that flows into Charleston harbor
has featured seafood in abundance.
The most effective and timeless technique has been trawling –
dragging weighted nets along the sea floor behind boats to scoop up
shrimp, crabs and fish. Most of the current Shem Creek fleet is
little changed in concept since the turn of the 20th century –
flat-bottomed hulls with high gunwales, carrying a superstructure of
outriggers that are winched down to lee and starboard, dragging
heavy fiber nets as diesel engines chug slowly back and forth just
off the coast.
To keep the nets open wide during the trawl, wooden “doors” are
lowered into the nets, flat side forward, to spread the force of
water. Weights attached to an extra-heavy bottom seam keep the lower
part of the net bouncing along the ocean floor, kicking sea life up
into the trapping mesh. A typical single trawl may take more than an
hour, during which time nets can fill with tons of catch. To
measure progress and assure time is not wasted with the burden of
winching in the huge, heavy net, a considerably-smaller “try” net is
dragged briefly overboard to sample the catch.
Winching in the big nets is a mammoth task made easier by
machine, but the mountain of marine life still has to be sorted by
hand when dumped on deck. This can be particularly interesting when
the catch includes varieties of shark, small enough to get trapped,
but feisty and toothy enough to take off a finger.
The singular outline of outriggers spread wide offshore or arching
high over dripping nets as the fleet returns down the narrow creek
is a memorable one, and from restaurants, shops and boats, onlookers
marvel at the steadfast crews that come back from long days at sea
with decks piled high.
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