Captains Ed Johnson and Herb Rennard have both been with Palmetto Bluff for about five years, coincidentally starting in the same week. Although they didn’t know each other prior to their employment at the Bluff, they knew they would be fast friends when, after their first day of work, they walked to their pick-up trucks and noticed that they not only both had a green Coleman cooler in the bed (without the hinges on it), but both coolers were packed with Bud Lights ready to be cracked open. And thus began their friendship.
It was a sunny day in May when I sat down with Ed, a Hilton Head native and retired fireman of 30 years, and Herb, a Charlestonian and former commercial fisherman, to chat about their adventures as boat captains at Palmetto Bluff. We met at the Bluff’s Wilson Landing, and when I asked where they wanted to do the interview, they simultaneously replied, “On the Grace.” Grace is Palmetto Bluff’s 103-year-old antique motor yacht, and also Herb and Ed’s pride and joy as her captains.
As they walked onto the community dock that Grace calls home, Herb said, “Welcome to our office.” We checked out her impressive top deck first before settling into the air-conditioned cabin for the interview. It wasn’t long before the jokes were flowing and I realized that these two fellows were definitely in their element, both on the water and in each other’s company. And midst their stories and banter, it was also evident that each captain conducted his own due diligence with their vast knowledge of the land and sea as well.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness? (After a few second pause, Herb chimes in – “what floats ya boat, Eddie?”) I have six grandkids and four daughters. Having my family around makes me truly happy.
- What goes through your mind as you drive to work each morning? I always look to the left at Headwaters to see what the tide’s doing. I think about my schedule, and I also love the way the sun filters through the trees. It’s a calm ride and sets my frame of mind for the day.
- And on the way home? I try to reflect on the day and critique myself. Always thankful for good days and examine what to do differently if it wasn’t such a good day.
- What is your greatest extravagance? Probably something pretty simple. My daughters always say ‘He’s just a simple man!’ But, I’d say an extra large bowl of vanilla caramel ice-cream. (“That’s what I was going to say!” Herb added.)
- Movie that you would recommend? Woodlawn
- If there was a movie about your life, what would it be called & which actor would play you? Life on the River May and I’d be played by Robert Redford.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement? The day I saved a man’s life. (Writer’s note: Ed humbly told me a captivating and amazing story in which he used his EMT and firefighter training expertise to free a man from a car that had plunged into a lake in 2006. It’s a story worth hearing if you see him around the Bluff.)
- What is your most marked characteristic? My faith.
- What is the last book you read? The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy.
- If you could have one “super power” what would it be? How would you use it at work? I am trying to envision a Marvel superhero – Aquaman.
- When you’re not here, what are you doing? I’m kind of a homebody with my wife and family. My wife works for UPS. I love spending time with her and being Mr. Mom.
- What word do you use most? “Yes!” As in “Yes, I’ll come in…” or “Yes, I’ll do that…”
- What makes you laugh?
- Top five artists/musicians? Robert Cray Band, Johnny Cash, The Eagles, Al Green, Sidewalk Prophets.
- Favorite spot on The Bluff? Right here on The Grace.
- Best Palmetto Bluff moment? To date, I’d have to say the day we came back from Beaufort on The Grace and there were 250 people cheering for her return.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness? A fish on the end of my pole.
- What goes through your mind as you drive to work each morning? I’m always wondering what folks before our time were doing on a beautiful morning like this.
- And on the way home? Same thing.
- What is your greatest extravagance? Ice cream. I get it every day. (“Unless there’s banana pudding available!” Ed chimed in.)
- Movie that you would recommend? In the Heart of the Sea
- If there was a movie about your life, what would it be called & which actor would play you? Well, there already was a movie about my life called “The Perfect Storm” and George Clooney played me. Joke!
- What do you consider your greatest achievement? My daughter. She’s an historian in Charleston.
- What is your most marked characteristic? I always speak my mind. Sometimes I sugar coat it, sometimes not.
- What is the last book you read? Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter by Theodore Rosengarten.
- If you could have one “super power” what would it be? How would you use it at work? I would want to see through water to point out dolphin to guests and catch fish on my line.
- When you’re not here, what are you doing?
- What word do you use most?
- What makes you laugh? People catching a fish makes me happy.
- Top five artists/musicians? Taj Mahal, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Brown Band, Willie Nelson, Bob Marley
- Favorite spot on The Bluff? The Grace.
- Best Palmetto Bluff moment? I’d have to second Ed. Coming back from Beaufort and pulling back up to the dock being escorted by all the property owners with their private boats. Amazing.
Written by Amanda Baran Cutrer
Photography by Rob Kaufman