Waterways // 8 min Read

Behind the Bluff with Marina Captain: Thomas Shanahan

Written by Palmetto Bluff

wilson landing

Meet Captain Tom of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing 

In the tranquil embrace of Bluffton’s Lowcountry, where rivers wind their way through nature’s masterpiece, an extraordinary tale unfolds at Wilson Landing of Palmetto Bluff. The story belongs to Captain Thomas Shanahan — a man who shares a love for the water, the community it creates, and the legacy of Palmetto Bluff.

Continue reading to go behind the Bluff with Captain Tom and learn more about his story, Wilson Landing, and exciting events for the future.

A Lifelong Journey to the Bluff 

Raised in the charter fishing industry, Captain Tom’s connection to the water was woven into his very being. From a young age, he would accompany his father on fishing excursions, and by the age of eight, he could be found on the docks, eagerly awaiting the return of charter boats. This youthful fascination with the maritime world laid the foundation for a future as a captain.

Captain Tom’s father served as the commercial superintendent during the early 2000s, overseeing the construction of Wilson Landing. This familial connection to the marina became the cornerstone of his journey. However, he started as a charter captain after earning his captain’s license in 2012 and operated charter vessels until 2016. Later, Captain Tom’s journey led him to the United States Coast Guard, where he spent six and a half years safeguarding the coastal borders.

Traversing the entire US Coast, he discovered breathtaking vistas and found Palmetto Bluff’s pristine beauty unparalleled. The currents of destiny guided him back to Hilton Head and, subsequently, to Palmetto Bluff. Captain Tom’s voyage led him through various chapters, each marked by a more profound passion for the Lowcountry waters. He ultimately knew Palmetto Bluff was the place he was supposed to be. Starting as a marina attendant in 2021, he took on the role of docking boats, but ultimately, he set his sights on reviving the captain program, breathing new life into Wilson Landing. Initially, his mission was clear — setting Palmetto Bluff’s premier status as a sportsperson’s paradise.

Wilson Landing Update

Over time, his dedication bore fruit. The captain program blossomed from a mere one or two activities to a flourishing array of about ten weekly expeditions, training, and outings under the guidance of Captain Andrew Yeatman and himself. Also guiding exciting endeavors and “Hidden Happy Hours” is Captain Bob, a seasoned member of Palmetto Bluff who spearheads an array of captivating destination excursions for the members of the Marina, adding to the world-class experiences provided by the Wilson Landing Team. 

This expansion reaches beyond the horizon, introducing tubing, leisure cruises, fishing, oystering, shrimping, water taxi services, excursions, and illuminating seminars provided by Professional Guides. However, the core promise remains unwavering — to place the members’ needs and experiences at the forefront.

wilson landing

The winds of change have swept through Wilson Landing, ushering in exciting updates designed to elevate maritime experiences. The recent addition of three new twenty-one-foot Scout dual-console Dorados and two twenty-one-foot center console vessels update the modern fleet but still keep Palmetto Bluff’s timeless charm.

Related: Behind the Bluff with Marina Director: Stephan Szymanski 

A Deeper Look into a Day in the Life

A day in Captain Tom’s life is a mesmerizing tapestry of activities celebrating the waters he loves. His repertoire includes guiding Shark Tooth Island trips — an enchanting quest for megalodon and fossilized shark teeth dating back 8 to 250 million years. From wahoo fishing to snapper and grouper adventures, fishing in the creeks targeting redfish or trout,  pursuing bass and catfish in the inland system, or even tubing or a sunset leisure cruise — each day is a new adventure. His role also extends to training the boat club fleet, conducting fishing seminars, and orchestrating PBGO (Palmetto Bluff Growing Outdoors) activities that connect Palmetto Bluff children with the beauty of the Lowcountry.

The Inshore Fishing Tournament

October is widely recognized as the prime month for fishing, marking the ideal time for the Annual Inshore Fishing Tournament from October 1 to 25! This event, open exclusively to all Palmetto Bluff members and their immediate families, transforms the serene waters into a vibrant hub of angling excitement.

wilson landing

Set against the captivating panorama of Palmetto Bluff’s meandering waterways, the tournament is dedicated to pursuing three highly prized species: redfish, trout, and flounder. A distinguishing feature of this competition is the utilization of the TourneyX app, allowing enthusiastic competitors to submit photographs of their catch for the judging process. More than just a fishing contest, this tournament presents an unparalleled occasion to delve into the spirited competitive facet of the Lowcountry lifestyle, pitting individual angling expertise against the unpredictable forces of untamed waters. You’re also contributing to conservation if you choose to keep your catch. The fish carcasses find new life in the hands of the Waddell Mariculture Center, aiding scientific research and ensuring the future health of these waters. Additionally, fish are donated to Family Promise of Beaufort County — a local homeless shelter. Last year, 60 pounds of fish were given, which can feed up to over 200 people!

Embracing Community and Conservation

But this isn’t just about the thrill of the catch; it’s about embracing a larger purpose. Captain Tom wishes to entice the community with exciting activities that get members outdoors and involved. Even more so, you’re contributing to the philanthropic heart of the Bluff. 

wilson landing

Captain Tom’s connection with the waters extends beyond simple fun — it’s a commitment to community and conservation. With conservation at the heart of the Bluff, Captain Tom hopes that one day, his children and future generations will be able to experience the Bluff the way he did when he was young.

A Voyage of Discovery

Captain Tom’s story is a testament to the power of the water’s embrace and the allure of Palmetto Bluff’s waters. As he guides members through the currents and tides, you’re invited to set sail on your journey.

Captain Tom’s excursions embody the spirit of member-first experiences, creating cherished memories for all who set sail with him and the Wilson Landing Club. Each adventure, whether casting lines or partaking in leisurely boating, is meticulously tailored to provide an intimate Lowcountry encounter. However you choose to spend time out on the water, the Bluff invites you to embark on a voyage of discovery.

Meet Captain Tom Behind the Bluff 

Captain Tom not only guides boats; he steers a ship of memories, experiences, and connections. The legacy he forges is woven into each adventure, each laugh shared, and each experience crafted.

To delve deeper into the wonders of Palmetto Bluff, discover more about the Inshore Fishing Tournament, or learn more about the Wilson Land Club, connect with us today.

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