Water Is Our Common Bond: The Lowcountry Maritime Society

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The bodies of water that run through the Lowcountry sometimes feel like old friends. We become familiar with their ebb and flow, twists and turns and rocky oyster beds. For many, these streams, creeks, inlets and harbors provide a livelihood. The Lowcountry Maritime Society is an organization built on the belief that access to the water, and the many traditions that coincide with coastal living, should be reachable to all. Through summer camps and school programs, they bring the joy of life at sea to others, one boat-building venture at a time.

“I’ve enjoyed working with local schools. They are such an important and inspiring part of our community,” said Prentice Brower, executive director of the Lowcountry Maritime Society. “I am very passionate about this area, the water and everything that comes with it, and I love being able to share and celebrate that with others.”

The Lowcountry Maritime Society works with kids that often have little exposure to life on the water. Through their innovative boat building program, children are able to complete a project, start to finish, with the end result being a cool vessel all their own. While the process of sketching out plans and measuring allows them to utilize their science, math and engineering skills, the real fun starts when they get to actually take their creations for a row.

“I love witnessing the transformation and engagement of our students’ progress from day one to the day we launch the boats they build,” said Brower. “That moment, when students, and often their parents, get out on the water on the boats they have built – that’s a pretty amazing scene.”

Teachers of students enrolled in the programs have praised the Lowcountry Maritime Society with not only helping their pupils grasp educational concepts but with with allowing them to find a sense of peace. Problems or stress they may be dealing with in their lives seem to vanish once they are out on the water.

“We want to help connect our community, engage our children and preserve our region’s identity. Education is at the core of our mission,” said Brower. “We believe that education through hands-on, tangible and relatable experiences is key to engaging students. It ignites passions and builds self-awareness.”

While during the school year the Lowcountry Maritime Society offers boat-building programs, come summertime they expand into even greater territory. In late July, campers will not only draw and construct boats but also explore the Port Royal Sound. Through naturalist activities, ecology, arts and boat safety courses, campers gain a greater understanding and confidence around the water. Rowing out on the Chechessee River, they begin to truly see all their hard work pay off.

“The response has been incredible,” said Brower. “We started this program with a few guys taking time to go to Sanders Clyde Elementary each afternoon to teach boat building. We had never done it before, we weren’t sure how it would go.”

Brower was basically born and bred for his job. His childhood was one splashed in saltwater and epic views. From teaching sailing at the age of 15 to being a crewmember of Charleston’s own Carolina Girl yacht, his experience in boating runs deep. 

“My father took us kids cruising in the Northeast. We sailed from Bermuda back to the states and all over,” said Brower. “We also had a little 13-foot Boston Whaler when I was young.”

When he wasn’t on dry land, Brower could be found exploring the waterways rich with wildlife and taking in postcard-worthy sunsets. He feels fortunate to be able to offer similar experiences to children who otherwise would never have the chance.

“We’re able to provide a unique opportunity both for ourselves and our students. The process isn’t short,” said Brower. “As the boat begins to come together, the students get a fresh wave of excitement. Then we prime, then we get to paint, then names go on. As we get closer to launching, we start talking about the water more and students get more excited.”

Brower and his team would like to start implementing these types of programs throughout the Southeast. Seeing the positive impact it has had on local children has inspired him to take additional steps to reach more kids in need of quality time spent on the water.

“We believe the water is our common bond; it’s what makes our region unique. It is our identity,” said Brower. “I’d like to see communities from Georgetown to Savannah celebrating our common culture and heritage. Eventually we’d like to see our programs throughout the region.”

For more information on The Lowcountry Maritime Society, log on to

www.lowcountrymaritime.org.

By: Kalene McCort

 

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