Three ways to get on the water this summer in Savannah.
A Crab Claw And A Legacy
Ask Bill Eswine why he founded the Savannah Country Day School’s Coastal Ecology Camp, and with a wry smile he’ll tell you this: it was 1982, and he needed a summer job.
However, spend more than three minutes with this rugged outdoorsman and you’ll discover the truth. Eswine is a passionate educator driven to connect his students to nature—something he sees as a fragile ecosystem that relies upon good stewards to protect it.
Populating his outdoor classrooms at Savannah Country Day, where Eswine has been teaching in the lower school since 1972, you’ll find vegetable and butterfly gardens, a chicken coop, a bee apiary, a greenhouse, and a fountain stocked with fish and turtles, all of which are cared for by students in his classes. “I want to convince students they have a stake in something outside themselves,” he explains. “I want them to see how we’re all connected.”
Inside, Eswine’s large science room is filled with specimens native to the region, some looking downright otherworldly to the unfamiliar eye: cleaner shrimp, spider crab, mouthbrooding fish. Caring for these creatures, Eswine believes, brings students closer to nature and inspires comfort with the unfamiliar.
To that end, in 1982 Eswine expanded his classroom further still to include the marshes and beaches of coastal Georgia. Here, during weekly summer sessions open to all kindergarten through 7th-grade students, campers shuffle through the sandy river bottom to avoid getting bitten by stingrays, singing “Shuffle, shuffle, stingray shuffle!” They learn to distinguish between edible and poisonous plants and about beach erosion at Tybee. They visit Sapelo Island and study at the Marine Institute. They crab, fish, get covered in grit and sand and mud, and, no doubt, they have a blast doing it all.
Each camper leaves Coastal Ecology Camp with a crab-claw necklace as a totem of their time there, but the true bonding experience stays with them long after they’ve moved into new halls and classrooms and summer fades into autumn. Eswine hopes to instill in his students a sense of responsibility, empowerment, and confidence. But most of all, he wants to share his love of nature and to teach students that every choice we make has an impact.
Bringing a Passion for Fly Fishing Home
Life has a funny way of coming full circle—just ask Chad DuBose. When DuBose moved out west to Washington in 2008, he never thought he’d return to live in his native Savannah, despite his deep family roots in the Lowcountry. Instead, he sought new experiences, adventure and a sporting life.
First, he settled near Mt. Rainier National Park, where he picked up skiing and ice climbing. There, he bought his first fly rod and quickly fell in love with the sport. In 2010, DuBose moved to Montana, and a year later he became a fly fishing guide, the perfect fit for a good ol’ Southern boy with a call to the water and cotillion-inspired manners that instantly put his passengers at ease. For the fly fisherman and his trusty sidekick, a golden retriever named Georgia Mae who could often be found at the bow of the skiff alongside him, life was good.
Then in 2015 came an offer DuBose couldn’t refuse—the chance to manage Rivers & Glen Trading Co. in his hometown. Most days, you can find DuBose and Georgia Mae manning the shop, teaching casting lessons, or helping clients plan fishing excursions from the Savannah River all the way to the Bahamas.
DuBose arrived back in town buoyed by his experience as a well-travelled fly angler and guide, which spurred energy and ideas for the shop—namely “Suds and Bugs,” a monthly happy-hour gathering where customers are invited to tie flies and chat about fishing. When he left Savannah a decade ago, DuBose noted there wasn’t a huge fly fishing community, but he senses a shift in the making due long-time fly fishing advocates like Scott Wagner of Savannah Fly. “Savannah’s big on tradition, but it’s also big on change,” DuBose explains.
On September 29th, Rivers & Glen will host the inaugural Savannah Fly Invitational, the first local event of its kind. The tournament rules state a 20-boat maximum and two anglers per boat, and winners will be crowned based on the highest aggregate length of their two largest caught redfish.
The tournament is meant to both recognize current Rivers & Glen customers and to generate enthusiasm for a new generation of would-be anglers, and profits from the tournament will go toward a kids’ fishing school through the Ossabaw Foundation.
“Savannah supports people who want to do good things here,” he says with a gleam in his eye.
Women on the Water
Some might say it’s a responsibility for residents of coastal Georgia to know how to operate a boat, but if the term “sparkling water” conjures Pellegrino on a restaurant table rather than the Skidaway River shimmering beneath the setting sun, there’s still hope. Imagine holding your next ladies’ night on a 20-foot bowrider, with none other than you at the helm. Here’s how to make it happen.
This July, BoatUS Foundation, in partnership with Freedom Boat Club of Savannah, will host Women Making Waves, a three-hour training course that covers basics like anchoring, docking, navigation, and water safety. BoatUS first launched the program in 2016 after recognizing a dearth of on-water training programs—and that women in particular often lacked opportunities to get out on the water. When BoatUS hosted the inaugural “Women Making Waves” in Charleston last summer, the class filled quickly. The message was clear: women wanted a chance to stand at the helm.
“Our goal is to take away barriers and introduce people to boating in a hands-on environment—people who may not otherwise have had access to the water,” says John Bratten of BoatUS.
“Women Making Waves is a statement of where we are culturally,” explains Lisa Almeida, owner of Freedom Boat Club in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and a nationally recognized advocate for women boaters everywhere. While Almeida has always felt at home on the water, she recognizes that many women haven’t been raised to see themselves as boaters.
Women Making Waves is intended to empower, fostering familiarity with boating and basic navigation—and the confidence that inevitably follows, Almeida says, “impacts their lives even when they’re back on land.” After all, a ship in the harbor may be safe, as the old saying goes, but that’s not what ships are built for.
Women Making Waves will be offered July 19 and 20, with both morning and afternoon sessions. For more information and to register for the course, visit boatus.org/savannah.