The Osprey underway during a typical cruising tour
The Osprey moors in historic Shem Creek
The 61-foot woodenBlue Heron II was launched in from the renowned Gilliken yard on Harker’s Island, N.C., in 1960 and fished commercially from the Carolinas to Florida until 1996 when new Coast Guard regulations made it obsolete. It was sold for use as a shrimp boat, but when the nets were deployed the rudder was found to be lacking in size and reliability. Semi-retired, the boat eventually was moored and used as a floating bar at a waterfront restaurant. The culinary businessman was not a boater, and the vessel fell into disrepair from lack of maintenance.
After an ebay auction in 2007, Capt. Lucas Smith took ownership and re-christened her The Osprey. He spent two years refurbishing the boat while continuing to run a dry-cleaning business. A couple of years after realizing his vision of chartering the boat, however, Capt. Glover and his employee Carly Donohue were killed in a tragic but unrelated accident on the water in 2011. The Osprey was again rudderless in the ebb of time.
Blue Heron II in 1961
A year later, Smith's estate agreed to sell The Osprey to four of his friends – Capt. Brian Berrigan, Mark Welker of Salt Works Catering, Mike Atkins and Capt. Donnie Buhrmaster – who sought to keep Smith’s dream alive.
The first charters for this quartet of multi-tasking owners came during December 2012, with the Christmas Parade of Boats and a New Year’s Eve cruise. So far in 2013 bookings are better than expected for The Osprey with indications of a profitable summer ahead.
Blue Heron II in 1962
An awning for the foredeck provides shade during Charleston’s long summer season, and the railing offers panoramic views of the Lowcountry for all, just as the Blue Heron II provided ample space for bottom fishing anglers during its head boat days.
The living history that The Osprey represents is a salute to wooden boats and the men who built them, and all those who have stood on her deck. With each voyage, The Osprey adds a thread to the maritime fabric of the Lowcountry lifestyle.
Historic photos courtesey of Michael Daniewicz of "Mike's Maritime Memorabilia"
To view my feature article on The Osprey click on All At Sea.
To view past blog entries on wooden ships click here.