Like his father before him, Captain Edwin “Wayne” Magwood pursued one of the world’s most precarious and perilous professions. Rising well before dawn throughout the season, he piloted his 68-foot commercial shrimp boat through the heaviest swells and fiercest weather to a “secret place” where the most succulent catch could be brought to the surface in heavy nets. He was no stranger to danger and disaster aboard his vessel, Winds of Fortune.
Yet he lost his life at age 67 in a most literally pedestrian manner — struck by a passing propane truck while crossing Coleman Boulevard at Mill Street, not far from his beloved Shem Creek. He was on his way to the docks his family built 50 years ago. The driver of the truck told police he hadn’t even realized he’d hit anyone.
In the local shrimping industry’s heyday, Winds of Fortune was one of seventy-odd commercial fishing boats headquartered at Shem Creek, pulling in as much as 10,000 pounds of shrimp in a day. Today, only a handful of boats weigh anchor and brave the turbulent seas, returning with a meager 500-pound average catch.
Farm-grown and foreign shrimp have cut into the market. Government regulations have become more stringent. Fuel costs have skyrocketed. As a result, most of the Captain’s recent catches had been selling through social media, on his Team Magwood Facebook page. Still, despite such a gloomy and financially bereft picture, Wayne Magwood remained at the helm of Winds of Fortune each day, throughout every nine month shrimp season. Shrimping was in his blood.
And, whether teaching prospective skippers about his art and craft on the rolling decks of his ship or instructing curious landlubbers back on dry land, Wayne Magwood made many long-lasting friends.
Tarvin Seafood at Shem Creek posted the Captain’s photo after his passing, adding the message, “Goodnight, sweet friend. We all love and miss you already.”
Nicole Harvey, special events manager for the town of Mount Pleasant commented, “We will forever miss your heart-warming smile, gentlemanly manner and kind and generous spirit. I pray you knew how much you were loved by all who were blessed to know you…you were truly an icon of Mount Pleasant and Shem Creek.”
Even more impressive was the outpouring of messages reflecting sorrow and love from literally hundreds of men and women in the Lowcountry, whose lives were all touched in important ways by the seaman.
Bev Parsley Harris said simply, “My deepest sympathy to his family and friends. God Bless him!” Kenneth Ezell added, “Really gonna miss that guy…Wayne will always be with us.”
Even the light at the iconic Morris Island lighthouse was lit to honor the life of one individual, and the environmental conservation organization Carolina Strands offered this tribute: “May you eternally rest under red skies with the wind at your back. You are now part of the stars guiding those left behind, and for this we are grateful.”
Noting the recent death of Southern author Winston Groom, upon whose novel the Oscar-winning, shrimp-extolling film “Forrest Gump” was based, Grace S. Edwards said, “How ironic. [He] will be in heaven with the man who highlighted shrimpers’ lives.”
Hollywood memorialized the Captain and his vocation in another way as well. Mike Rowe, creator and star of the “Dirty Jobs” series, put in his time as a deckhand on Winds of Fortune for one memorable episode of the show. In his lengthy and touching farewell, Rowe wrote, “Wayne understood what publicity could do, not just for Winds of Fortune, but for the industry he loved. The hospitality he extended us that day was a terrific mix of impatience, tolerance and grace.” He added, “I know that Wayne knew the impact he had on his own industry. He was a shrimping legend. I just hope he knew the impact he had on mine.”
Gin Lock suggested to everyone who knew the Captain that, “We should all get together and share some shots and tears…and just remember the greatest legend of Shem Creek.”
“Some goodbyes are harder than others,” said Elizabeth Baker. “RIP to the man who taught me how to shrimp, told the best stories and gave me the rare opportunity to fulfill the dream of a day in the life of a shrimper.”
“Truly a sad loss of an icon for the fishing community and the entire Lowcountry,” Gary Harwyn remarked. “They should name the bridge after him.”
Admitting that her “heart hurts,” Shirley Larsen McLeod noted, “Wayne Magwood isn’t dead at all…he’s completely happy in the beauty of heaven. What a blessing Wayne was!”
Dick Pierce took many trips aboard Winds of Fortune. He commented that, “Wayne was a passionate, caring person. I will miss him dearly. Great memories. Rest in peace, Captain.”
“What you have done for this community, from teaching everyone who ever asked to shrimp to speaking in Washington, D.C. for turtle conservation to dancing the shag everywhere you could,” Lynda Martin Hodge observed. “The Lowcountry lost a legend.”
Todd Scofield reflected reverently, “I pray that I may shrimp until my dying day, and when it comes to my last drag, I then must humbly pray, when in the Lord’s great shrimping net and peacefully asleep, that in His mercy I be judged big enough to keep.” He added, “You are certainly a keeper, Captain Wayne Magwood. Will miss you, buddy.”
Along with their recollections, reflections and personal memories of Captain Magwood, his many friends interspersed their messages with musical references — from classic sea shanties to popular songs extolling life on the sea — as well as poems with a nautical theme and a tsunami of photos and videos of themselves, experiencing shrimping life under his rough yet gentle guidance.
How could a simple fisherman aboard an aging ship, shrimping diligently in the roughest seas – despite a drastically diminished market – touch the hearts of so many different people from so many different walks of life?
If you ever met Captain Wayne Magwood, you’d likely not have to ask that question.