"How we got here"
Periodically, we choose a Haig Point Member to share their story of how they got to Daufuskie Island
Caroline and Marc White
What a strange whirlwind of an adventure it was for us to arrive at Haig Point last February. The whole story starts about about five years ago, in 2014. After more than 25 years of running our sports camp business and raising our family in New England, suddenly our three children (Rachel, Meghan & Taylor) were now out of the house, onto college or recently graduated, and we realized we really no longer were tied to long, dark, cold winters. Though I have lived in some of the coldest climates around (Ohio, Sweden,Connecticut) I have never pretended to enjoy winter, and Caroline only pretended for a short while because she thought snow was “cute,” after never seeing it during her childhood in Ireland.
Having taken golf trips to Hilton Head with friends in the past, I decided we would rent a house during the winter of 2015 in Shipyard Plantation. We spent a wonderful three months there and went back to New England in late March…expecting spring. I vividly recall waking up about 40 days later in late April to snow flurries and vowing to stay in Hilton Head the next winter until it was at least 60 degrees in New England. We went back the next winter and enjoyed it once again - so much so that we called a realtor and started looking towards buying a home in Hilton Head.
Around that same time we received an interesting call from a Spanish entrepreneur living in Panama who was interested in bringing the children’s sports camp concept to Latin America. He came to visit our camp that July, after which he invited us to visit his resort contacts in Latin America. We were totally flabbergasted! The resorts were gorgeous, with housing, dining and sports facilities far superior to our “rustic” American camp sites. In 2008 we had moved our business to the Berkshire Mountains, property maintenance and regulations had presented many challenges ever since. The prospect of running our business without the site hassles was very attractive to us, so when offers to buy our business came in at the same time we decided the time was right to make the jump.
No longer being attached to New England, we found the almost perfect (bit of a fixer-upper) house in Hilton Head and made an offer. The realtor called back the next day and said we had just missed getting it, but a “flipper” had purchased it and was going to do the repairs and resell it in a year. Knowing we would need to travel to Panama quite a bit, we settled for a beautiful house near the Atlanta airport and moved there in August of 2016, packing up years of life in Connecticut and making the long drive down, dogs and all. We loved the house but were not really feeling the traffic of Atlanta, so when our realtor called that October telling us the flipper had put that house back on the market we made the trip back to Hilton Head and put in an offer that was accepted, with the contingency that we would need to sell our house in Atlanta before closing. The seller asked “What kind of house do you have in Atlanta?”and requested we send him pictures. We did, and within two hours we had a deal to basically trade houses. Back to the moving vans we went! We moved to Hilton Head shortly after Hurricane Matthew and after all the lifting, arranging and moving we firmly stated “We are NEVER moving again!”
Settled nicely into Hilton Head, we worked from home during most of the year and traveled down to Panama 3 or 4 times a year for camp sessions. On Saturdays I would rouse Caroline out of bed early (around 10:30 am) and would surprise her with an adventure to somewhere- Savannah, Charleston, wineries, boat trips, etc… I would do the research and she would never know where we were headed, but we would always have a good time. I had seen Daufuskie advertised when researching these trips but in the first year it never materialized because I only saw options for a 10 am ferry over (a bit too early for Caroline) and a 5 pm ferry back, which I had been told was too long a day for the golf cart cruise around the island.
Some long-time friends of ours from Connecticut had asked us to explore Hilton Head houses for their retirement in a few years. We had been looking at a few things but hadn’t found anything to their liking, but when searching one of the sites I came upon a well-priced house that I thought they would love on Daufuskie Island. I called to ask about it and the realtor told me he could show it to us along with some other similar properties, and informed me that he would get us a pass on the ferry that actually ran every hour. I was pleasantly surprised and we made arrangements for the next weekend.
When we got on the boat to come over we quickly realized that this “commute” was very similar to the “excursion” that we had each paid $40 for the previous month. There was an immediate sense of relaxation just getting on the boat and my previous judgement on the “hassle” of making the trip quickly disappeared. The scenery, the atmosphere, the dolphins (the cups of wine?) are things that we enjoyed immediately that day and continue to enjoy every time we get on the ferry. However, the most impressive impact on both of us occurred when we stepped off of the boat and onto Haig Point. We’ve spoken to many people about this, both those that have experienced it and those that never will, but the sensation was equally an incredible presence and an indelible absence. Special, immediately, for both of us, though not communicated at that time.
We went into the Mansion and began discussing the specifics of Haig Point, Melrose and Bloody Point. The fact that we now knew the ferry ran every hour opened up considerations that were not there prior to that day, so our interest in learning about everything was keen that morning, though still directed towards our friends from Connecticut. We hopped on a golf cart and went to look at six very nice properties in Melrose and Haig Point. As we were leaving the last one, Caroline glanced to her left and asked our realtor “What is the deal with THAT house?” He told us it was an abandoned fixer-upper owned by the bank and took us in to take an unplanned look. This turned out to be step two in a still unspoken yet understood feeling between Caroline and myself that day.
We thanked the realtor, told him we would send the info to our friends, and left to go home on the 3:40 pm ferry. We made a few comments on the way back about how surprised and impressed we were by the island, but both of us were quiet during the trip back, mostly deep in thought and only commenting on the dolphins and the sights. That night we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and over spinach and artichoke dip I made a comment to Caroline… “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but...” She jumped right in with “Yes! I could do it, too!”
The island, the house, the situation, had spoken to both of us in the same way. We started talking practically and (almost) sensibly about it over dinner. We could buy the house as an investment, fix it up and see which property we preferred in the end. We actually called the realtor from the restaurant that night, only hours after visiting Daufuskie, and made an offer on the house. The next day he called back and said the bank accepted the offer. Off we were onto our next adventure!
We began renovations on the property in March of 2018, making numerous trips back and forth, but it wasn’t even May before we decided we were selling our HHI home and moving to Haig Point permanently. The feelings we had initially that day just continued to grow, coupled with the newly discovered atmosphere that comes from the people who live here- most genuinely happy and just “getting it” in a wink and nod sort of way. We are now 75% finished with our renovations but 100% convinced that this is the place for us (and this time we really are NEVER moving again).
In September we brought over a dozen of our New England friends for a long weekend. 10 1/2 of them “got it” and we are hoping a few of those couples will be joining us within the next few years. It is something best felt rather than described, and we are looking forward to seeing many similar reactions over the coming years.
- Marc White