Seafood steeped in tradition

Local shrimpers partake in the annual blessing of the fleet



Lowcountry shrimpers decorate their boats in preparation for the blessing of the fleet.

Rocky Magwood’s Sunday morning started off differently than others. He got to the dock early to decorate his boat the Magwood’s Pride, by hanging gold streamers on the outriggers of the boat.

Magwood’s Pride joined the line up of other local shrimp boats in front of Waterfront Park. The Blessing Of the Fleet marks the beginning of the shrimping season here in Charleston and makes long ocean journeys feel more safe.

“That morning we come down to the boats and make sure everything is clean and we start getting everything ready by putting flags up and just trying to decorate and let the people know and stuff like that,” Magwood said.

The name Magwood’s pride holds familial significance. As the third generation of shrimpers in his family, when naming his boat, Magwood wanted to honor past generations and ones to come.

“My uncle that’s passed away now and I talked to another uncle that’s passed away and I said ‘how can I come up with a name to honor our family’… my grandfather named all the boats after his family. The skipper lane was one of my grandfather’s boats named after his mom and dad. I said that there’s nobody that ever named one the Magwood’s Pride. That’s how I can honor all of them,” said Magwood.

Dozens of guests, family and friends piled into the Magwood’s Pride carrying plates of food ready to worship and welcome in this year’s shrimping season.

“They get a nice boat ride… and everybody gets to see how beautiful the harbor is. It is a very beautiful place and a lot of people forget about it when you just live the rat race and ride around,” Magwood said.

“The boat can’t go to church so the church comes to the boat that day. It’s one day that’s very special for us to get the boats blessed. We respect God and [the blessing] honors us and the boat to know that hopefully we will be safe.”

Before Mt. Pleasant was a busy suburb, it was a small town based around local industries like seafood. Magwood has worked most of his life providing fresh seafood to people in the lowcountry.

“I’ve been on a boat since I was 6 weeks old… I started running a boat in Shem creek. I guess I started getting paid pickin’ up shrimp whenever I was at Moultrie Middle School. I was working off the back of my dad’s boat. And then I started running a boat when I was 15. I was running my dad’s boat when I was a freshman at Wando High School in the summertime. It’s been a long time. I’m 47 now,” said Magwood.

After the start of the shrimping season, Magwood and many other shrimpers’ days will now revolve around early mornings and long day trips out to the ocean catching up to 1,000 lbs of fresh shrimp to bring to markets everyday.

“One of my favorite things is how I get up in the mornings and get to see the beautiful sky every morning. Some mornings it’s not as pretty as others but I get to see things [differently] every day,” Magwood said.

“But it’s hard to leave home and leave my family. To get up at that time in the morning. I don’t always get to see my son get up and go to school in the mornings. I miss that part of life. I try to be home to go get him out of school. I do get to go to the ocean and see a beautiful thing that God has made.”

Former Wando student Taylor DiCenzo rode out to the blessing of the fleet on Magwood’s boat. This was her second time at the festival.

“I really like when they put out the gold streamers on the boat. I think it looks really pretty,” DiCenzo said.

In addition to getting to participate in exciting traditions, going to the Blessing Of the Fleet allows DiCenzo and her friends to support local shrimpers.

“I think it’s a good way to show the shrimpers going out and wish them good luck in their safety for their season that they’re about to have,” DiCenzo said.