The shrimp were plump, pink. A side of crunchy, creamy coleslaw rounded out this perfect Southern meal served earlier this month at a local fundraising event down the road from my house. It was a great opportunity to help one of the Lowcountry’s beloved shrimpers and the crowds turned out on that warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of well wishers from across the Charleston area came out in support.
Captain Donnie Brown is no stranger to tough times. As a longtime shrimp boat captain at Shem Creek, he and his family have had to ride out the storms that come along with his line of work. The latest storm to strike—a fire on board shrimping vessel, the Miss Karen—destroyed his trawler. His source of livelihood was gone and another shrimp boat lost to the area.
Even on the best of days, American shrimpers have a hard time making ends meet. A flood of farm-raised, flavorless (in my opinion) imported shrimp sold on the cheap has undercut the local market. But the shrimpers have hung on. So imagine the toll it takes on a shrimper’s family when your business literally goes up in smoke.
This is a fire that affects more than just one local family. It affects the shrimping community, which dwindles each year as folks look for land jobs that promise a steady paycheck. It affects me, my neighbors, our local restaurants and the U.S. industry.
So as I filled my tummy with shrimp on that particular Sunday, my heart was filled as well to see hundreds of people enjoying the shrimp boil at Goldbug Island, right next to Sullivan’s Island. Great food, good drinks, toe-tapping music and a lot of smiling faces. No smile seemed to shine quite as bright though as those of Captain Donnie Brown and his wife, Karen, for whom the lost boat was named.
My hope is this flood of community support is exactly what Captain Brown needs to make sure the Miss Karen is a common sight along the Atlantic Coast horizon when the shrimping season begins this spring. See you at the Blessing of the Fleet at Shem Creek on April …..