Waterways // 7 min Read

Behind the Bluff with Marina Director: Stephan Szymanski

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Feb 14, 2023

An Inside Look at the Wilson Landing Marina at Palmetto Bluff

The Wilson Landing marina serves as a gateway to the rolling streams that engulf Palmetto Bluff. Originally constructed as a dry storage facility in 2004, this remarkable amenity has significantly increased its offerings. Today, Palmetto Bluff members can explore the Wilson Landing marina, led by Marina Director Stephan Szymanski.

With a culture promoting education, community, and a love for time spent on the water, Stephan has cultivated a sense of belonging amongst the Wilson Landing Dry Storage and Boat Club members. During an interview with Stephan, we dive deeper into his background, the journey that led him to the Bluff, and what he has planned for the future of the Wilson Landing marina.

Getting His Feet Wet

Szymanski grew up in South Florida, where he developed an affinity for the ocean and its inhabitants. As he grew up, so did his passion for marine life, which is why years later, Stephan attended Florida Atlantic University to study marine biology. Through learning more about marine life and searching for a particular niche, Stephan discovered his love for studying coastal reef ecology, pollution, invasive algal species and their effects on the coastal environment.

In the years following graduation, his love for education led him to work at a marine science camp in the Florida Keys (where he met his wife)! Stephan’s leadership position focused on coastal education, where he taught children ages 10 through college about marine life through snorkeling while helping them achieve their scuba licenses.

Additionally, Stephan operated boats continuously while teaching, which naturally led to a lifelong interest in boating. Stephan always “loved tinkering with how things worked,” which is why he found mechanical work and boating operations fascinating. After Stephan’s time teaching coastal education, he decided to look for work that would foster his newfound boating passion.

Following his move to South Carolina, Stephan assumed the role of dockmaster in Columbia at the Lake Murray Boat Club for a couple of years. Through his position at the boat club, he could dip his toe in the water of the boating world and use his leadership learned as a Science & SCUBA instructor to further his success. As his tasks became more business-oriented, he developed a passion for repairing and maintaining boats. Stephan’s wife became a teacher at the neighboring May River High School, which led him to start working at Palmetto Bluff as a mechanic.

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Stephan’s initial role at Palmetto Bluff primarily involved repairing and beautifying the marina facilities and boat clubfleet. Through restoration and determination, Stephan fully renovated boats to be used for their service and purpose: exploring the welcoming waterways of Palmetto Bluff. When a leadership role became available, Stephan harked on the opportunity and became Marina Director in May of 2021. By applying his experience and passion for life on the water, Stephan has made the Wilson Landing marina a highly desirable and integral part of the Bluff.

Membership at the Wilson Landing Marina

Stephan interacts with anyone interested in getting out on the May River and exploring all that it has to offer. Wilson Landing offers saltwater and freshwater boats available for rent to all Palmetto Bluff members, private Kayak and Paddleboard storage options, Dry Storage for your private vessel, and the most popular option, various tier of a Boat Club membership. Whether you are storing a kayak, paddleboard, private vessel or a part of the boat club, you are considered a Wilson Landing marina member.

Through being a member of the Wilson Landing Marina there are endless opportunities to experience the perfect mix of fun boating excursions as well as engaging happy hours, educational hands-on experiences, and private captain tours & fishing courses. For example, Wilson Landing USCG Captain’s guide members through hours of education while familiarizing them with the basics of boating equipment and other safety skills, so they can confidently operate boats.

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Stephan genuinely loves educating members on how to operate vessels safely. He expresses that members like to “get themselves into trouble” by traveling to exciting destinations such as Skull Creek, Harbor Town, Daufuskie Island, and Beaufort.

Our most popular programming events are our oyster picking and roasting classes, fishing seminars, and destination oriented boating excursions. Our excursions are made possible by by Robert Newbert, otherwise known as Mr. Palmetto Bluff. As the oldest member of the Wilson Landing Boat Club, Mr. Palmetto Bluff jumpstarted the excursion program and leads our destination explorations from March through October.

Stephan says they’ve traveled as far south as Ossabaw Island (just two islands off Tybee) as far north as Edisto Island, and as far west to the Auldbrass Plantion, home designed by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright!

Prepare to Be Blown Out of the Water

While the Wilson Landing marina is a place for learning to navigate the waters of the Lowcountry, it is also a social hub for members. Through monthly themed happy hours, seasonal parties, and other events, there is always a reason to gather at Wilson Landing.

To kick off the boating season, which takes place from May to October, Stephan and his team host The Start of Season Party! Members celebrate with food and drinks while enjoying live entertainment and the showcase of new vessels in an exciting boat show. A bass fishing tournament is in April, and winners are announced at the following monthly happy hour! Following the bass fishing tournament, Wilson Landing Captain’s hosts a seminar on inshore fishing to prepare participants for the nearshore fishing competition in October. During the End of Season Party, winners of the nearshore competition are recognized along with other celebrations!

Additionally, for 2023, Mr. Newbert & Stephan have planned a day trip to Edisto Island for Wilson Landing marina members to practice further navigation of various routes of the Lowcountry waterways.

If you’re still on the fence about becoming a Wilson Landing marina member, you’ll want to be one when you hear their plans for 2024. That’s right; Wilson Landing is going to Belize! Learn more about this educational and enjoyable trip to the coast of Central America by seeing the team at Wilson Landing.

Meet the Man Behind the Marina

As a member at Palmetto Bluff, you may utilize boating rentals to explore the rolling rivers of the Bluff. However, the Wilson Landing Dry storage and Boat Club membership is far more enriching as educational programs, exclusive waterway excursions, private boating lessons, and many exciting social events are offered.

Our hope is that through Stephan Szymanski’s journey of coming home to Palmetto Bluff’s waterways, you too will also discover the exciting allure of the May River. If you wish to learn more about our storage options, or becoming a boat club member and joining a community with strong camaraderie and shared passion, click the button below to contact us with any questions!

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