First Day of Summer … Shrimping in South Carolina

It’s the first day of summer, when summer solstice shows up on the calendar although, unofficially, we all know summer began with Memorial Day. Schools are out, pools are open, hot summer days are here, and vacations are in full swing.

As I looked at today’s date on this beautiful Shenandoah Valley morning, my mind drifted back to another first day of summer when my husband and I, along with our 16-month-old son, drove to Charleston, S.C., to visit Virginia friends who were living there at the time.

On that first day of summer we started our day early, piling into our friends’ boat to explore Charleston Harbor and visit historical Fort Sumter on a small piece of land in the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the morning walking its pathways, exploring fortifications, and satisfying my inner history nerd by taking in the stories of the past.

Keeping an eye on the time, we left Fort Sumter and pointed the boat toward the South Carolina coastline, making our way into one of the delta inlets for some shrimping, a great pastime for our friends, and something that was about to become a new experience for us. It was time for the tide to go out so we needed to be in place.

We found a nice spot with no one around and anchored the boat to wait in the summer heat and humidity as the sun baked down while the tide ebbed. The next few hours were spent slathering on suntan lotion to fend off the sun’s rays, picnicking on deck, swimming with our little boy in his life jacket, and waiting for the water to recede as the time for low tide approached.

The age-old delta flats have canals tunneling through them, channels where the water rushes out with low tide … and that is where we turned our attention. Jumping overboard with nets in hand, we stretched them across those channels to block escape and catch the shrimp that were being dragged out to sea by the tide.

Shrimp were plentiful and it didn’t take long to quickly load our nets, empty them into five-gallon buckets on deck, and repeat as we eventually hauled in enough shrimp to fill all the buckets. With the boat’s bottom resting on the muddy flat, we had plenty of time to wait until the tide slowly returned to once again float the boat. During that time, under the broiling sun, we removed shrimp heads before icing them down for the ride back to dock.

The experience made an impression on me because we commented several times throughout the day that it was the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, and it was very hot on the salt water — mid 90s with no breeze. Thank goodness for all that water to cool off in with frequent dips overboard.

It was a memorable event that I recalled yet again today on our first day of summer in western Virginia where the forecast is calling for sunny skies and temps in the upper 70s.

Both memories, today and the day shrimping years ago in Charleston, are keepers. Happy summer!