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Monday, 28 March 2016

The End of the Cookie Cutter Tour- a "Tailer May'd " Adventure

    My sister-in- law Mary Lou said it best.  "At my age I've had enough travel experience that I don't want to be treated like a tourist on some sort of cookie cutter tour." And you know, she's right. By the time you've done a little travelling and have a sense of what a good guide can provide, you don't want to waste your time or money on poor guiding services that operate like they are having you hang onto the group rope like a preschooler as you get dragged along and read to from laid on script.
  Mark Mole, the Captain of TAILER MAY'D CHARTERS, has an approach that is both simple and refreshing. He usually just asks you, "So what do you want to do?", but he is also happy to offer some suggestions to get your adventure appetite in motion. Compare this with the usual "take it or leave it" set itinerary and you immediately get the feeling that the day is going to be what you want it to be.

  In our case, although we were enjoying our 9th vacation in the Hilton Head area, we had never explored the May River so that seemed like a reasonable day's trip. The only problem was that at the time a storm called Joaquin was pounding South Carolina and Mark was going to have to stick handle around it and keep us safe. On our part we had to agree to be entirely flexible about the day.
  At the Bluffton boat launch we got to step foot on Mark's new Mowdy.  It is a custom 26 footer crafted in Texas. It sports a Suzuki 250 four stroke and has a 10" draft and will float in 6'' of water.

  From a customer's point of view this meant that it was super stable and roomy even with a total of 7 people aboard. It was a smooth ride and at no point - even when we were powering out - and it can really move - did we get splashed by water coming over the side.  It is also flat bottomed enough that you can ease into some very shallow areas.  Pretty darn remarkable.
   We toured around some small islands in the May river and
got caught up on some of the history of the area and some of its notable waterside houses. When we asked him how he got to know all of this stuff he said, "When I grew up this was my backyard." We stopped in Bluffton to get some good photos of the beautiful  Church of the Cross and then as the storm was tracking differently Mark suggested a visit to Daufuskie Island.
   Although our group had not previously been there, I can now say that a trip to  Daufuskie Island should be a top priority on any trip to the greater Hilton Head area.
  On the way over we saw enough dolphins that this could have been a separate tour in itself. It also gave me a chance to peek at the location and weather tracking apps that Mark was using. Impressive stuff not only if you are geek minded but also if you are curious about exactly where you are in the world and where the heck that  big old storm got to.
  We managed to get docked, have a little look around and grab a drink at the outdoor bar before Joaquin decided to lash us with its tail.
No matter; we had a front row seat to the storm from inside the Old Daufuskie Crab Company Restaurant so we waited it out over shrimp po' boys and fried shrimp baskets. It also gave us time to poke around its many historical displays.

  By the time lunch was finished the storm had abated and Mark had already secured golf carts for the crew and off we went on a guided tour. There is enough to see and do on the island that you can plan on going back there several times.  Although we did stop for brief looks at a number of highlights our quest was to meet two people who were passionate about their art and craft.

 The first was Tony Chase, a man who turned some of his skills as a pharmacist into a hand crafted rum distillery business. The Daufuskie Island Rum Company sits in a beautiful pond side location.  Having had its official opening 7/4/15, it is quite new. It is also clean, bright, and high tech. Tony gave the interesting and not too long tour which led into the tasting.
We sampled both the Silver and Gold editions of the white rum plus a Spiced rum made from secret natural ingredients.
Between the individual batch and bottle numbered rums and the gift shop we managed to get a fair bit of shopping done.

  The second was metal sculpture Chase Allan, winner of Martha Stewart's American Made Contest in 2014, and owner of the Iron Fish Gallery & Studio.

 There he handcrafts coastal sculptures which feature hand hammered vintage finished fish, mermaids, stingrays, blue crabs and lobsters. His work is both captivating and extremely popular. Mark himself has several pieces and a desire for more.

   There is enough to see on the island that we plan to go back a few more times, but by the end of the day we felt that we had had a very unique day provided to us by a knowledgeable captain. We also knew that while he always was relaxed,  he had to be constantly on his toes to keep us both entertained and safe.

  A week later the waters had cleared enough to give us a chance to fish.
The lads of our crew have fished with Mark many times but never on his new boat. What a treat it is! You really appreciate that room and stability when you have three guys working one side of the boat and the bite is on. On this morning Mark had to work hard to find that bite but then again he knows ALL the spots.

By the time the bite was beginning to slow we had a number of dinner sized reds and trout plus had a few of the big boys who showed up for a tussle. What really made the trip different from the normal outing was his offer to take us to look for ancient pottery shards and fossilized oyster shells.
We had a blast mucking about like kids looking for buried pirate treasure.

 I like Mark's approach. To quote him, "It's whatever you want to do. I just want to make you happy." In our opinion: Job done, Mark. Job done!
Photos by Author, and Sam Axford