Some days, Charlie Doughtie commuted via sailboat from the family’s home in Sea Pines to work at their Island Shop at the oceanfront William Hilton Inn.

Hello, hello all you Sun readers! I reckon the best way to approach this new column is to introduce myself.

My name is Collins Doughtie and, if that name somehow rings a bell, I wrote a weekly column called “Cast & Blast” for another local newspaper for nearly 10 years.

But I figured a bit of sun was in order, especially after such a dark 2020. I don’t know about you, but I feel I lost one entire year of my life and just as soon as things begin to turn around, I have a lot of making up to do for all that lost time.

Believe it or not, I am about as native a Hilton Head islander as you’ll find. I am the youngest of five children. My parents pulled a Jed Clampett in 1961 by piling all us young’uns in a Ford Galaxy station wagon and headed to a little-known island called Hilton Head, just off the South Carolina coast.

For my dad to give up an extremely lucrative career as an advertising guru on New York’s Madison Avenue, while in his early 40s, was one brave move.

Other than a relatively small local population, the island was pretty much dirt roads, lots and lots of gators, deer, wild hogs, rattlesnakes and such. For a 6-year-old kid, it was as if I had stepped onto the pages of Swiss Family Robinson, and from the get-go I loved every second of every day.

Our home was one of the first dozen or so homes in Sea Pines. The swing bridge to the island had just been completed. Starting at the bridge and driving the entire length of the island, you would be lucky to encounter another car.

Hwy. 278 was two lanes, and for most of its length it resembled a tunnel because of massive oaks loaded down with Spanish moss lining both sides of the road, meeting in the middle. It was incredible.

As for school, from the second grade through fifth grade, I attended Bluffton High, that is until it burned down over Christmas break. The following year Bluffton United Methodist Church on Calhoun Street was our classroom.

After that point, I joined my siblings along with other founding families, like the Hacks and Fraser kids, commuting to school in Savannah. Talk about long days! We were up way before dawn and rarely got home before dark. 

My parents opened the first shop on Hilton Head, appropriately called the Island Shop, located at the William Hilton Inn. They offered anything and everything that might usually require a trip to the mainland – toys, gourmet foods, unusual gifts from the world over, a rental library, surf boards … even motor bikes.

Thankfully, my dad was an avid angler and passed that love of the nature and the ocean to all us kids. For whatever reason, his passion for fishing stuck to me like Velcro moreso than to my brothers and sisters.

Whenever he could get away from the Island Shop, you could bet your bottom dollar he was fishing.

To further illustrate the lengths he would go to be on or near the ocean, during warmer months he commuted to work on his Sunfish sailboat. How cool is that!

With a degree in graphic design and advertising after college, I could have accepted job offers in New York, Atlanta and other metropolitan areas. But instead of financial wealth, I decided to remain here for another kind of wealth that only nature can provide.

Fishing, hunting or simply marveling at the scope of this incredibly diverse ecosystem was the smartest decision I ever made. Where else could I go and catch a limit of trout or call in a big gobbler and still be at work on time?

With two children of my own, daughter Camden and son Logan, my life here has been a true blessing. Both are smart adults and, should I pass away tomorrow, I have no regrets – or, more honestly, almost no regrets – for the life decisions I have made. So much has changed in the past 60-odd years but even with so much growth, the Lowcountry is in my blood and in my soul.

I will do my best to entertain you all with tales from both the sea and the land, and with tips for angler newbies looking to be more successful in our waters.

Lastly, if you have followed my past columns at all, you know I often inject humor that appears to come out of a totally strange, yet harmless mind.

I’m excited to be in the Sun and hope you follow Nature’s Way!         

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.