A pirate's life for me: On deck with Hilton Head's preeminent privateersAndy Carpenter remembers visiting the island as a kid with his family and being faced with two options with which to busy himself: play some golf, or go to the beach. “A vacation that does not actually make,” says Carpenter, now a copy editor and page designer at The Island Packet.

Hilton Head has always been big on passive summertime activities, happily bypassing the tacky approach to tourist amusement embraced by, say, Myrtle Beach’s cheesy theme parks and ugly water slides.

Before the pirate tours came along, the legacy of pirates in the Lowcountry had been reduced to caricatures on mini-golf courses and restaurant menus. But were there ever real pirates in the Lowcountry?

The area is full of vibrant lore, the most well-known of which is the legend of Gorez Goz. A bloodthirsty Spanish plunderer, Goz chased a local Indian maiden into a tree but got stuck, with his beard hopelessly ensnared in the tree branches. After he died, his grey beard continued to grow and spread, creating what we now call Spanish Moss.

History points to some real-world tales of piracy too. But, with traditional Lowcountry hospitality, the pirates were embraced at first, according to Beaufort County Public Library documents. For a quarter century after Charleston was founded in 1690, the city mingled eagerly with its pirate visitors, allowing them to booze and spend freely while at port as locals purchased stolen goods from the boats at low prices. Charlestonians saw the trade as good for the economy, but the royal government eventually began a crackdown.

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Orchid Paulmeier has a familiar face to anyone who has been around the Hilton Head Island restaurant scene: Her One Hot Mama’s has been a staple since it opened in Bluffton in 2003, and became even more prominent when it moved to the island’s Triangle in 2007.

But soon, Orchid’s face could be familiar all over the country, as she’ll be one of 15 finalists on this season of “The Next Food Network Star,” the show that skyrocketed Guy Fieri to fame, when it airs June 5 through Aug. 14.

Paulmeier wasn’t allowed to disclose details of the show, of course, but she could tell us what it’s like to go from girl with a dream and an ice cream scoop to Food Network celebrity.

Nothing Short of MiraculousFor Ava Davis, fulfilling a dream led to helping someone else out of a nightmare. In her new book “Nothing Short of Miraculous,” the retired English teacher, who moved to Hilton Head Island from Ohio four years ago, wrote about her experience trying to save the life of an abused heiress she met while on a golfing trip to Pebble Beach. Co-author and friend Lori Queen, also a Hilton Head Islander, recalled the fear of finding out what her friend was up to on all those mysterious trips to the West Coast.

“I knew for months that Ava was going back out to Pebble Beach to visit ‘friends,’ but she never added much detail. When I finally understood the entire situation and began to comprehend how involved she had become, I was terrified for her safety and my husband was absolutely furious with her. There was nothing else we could do but help her,” says Queen, who wrote about her part of the story in the book, published by Barringer Publishing in April.

This Mother’s Day, Mother (still) knows bestWhen Amanda Walton was pregnant with her daughter, Walton’s father offered a bit of advice that has proved true time and again. “He said, ‘They don’t come with a manual, but there are two things that are a close second: (The book) ‘What To Expect: The Toddler Years,’ and your mom.”

This proves two points in rapid succession: that fathers offer wise and loving counsel to their children, and that mothers are even better at it.

Walton, 28, says she has turned to her father for advice on things like buying cars and leasing apartments, life decisions that call for a cool head and a bit of business savvy. “But when it comes to matters of the heart, I think moms know best,” says the mother of a 3-year-old. “And there’s nothing closer to your heart than your child.”

Sgt. Frank J. Carson with Wexford resident Nancy OechsnerThis year, a platoon of Wexford residents is extending some Southern hospitality to returning men and women of the US Army by hand-delivering 93 individually packaged “welcome-home bags” for returning and redeploying soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga. The project is part of a volunteer effort called “Operation Welcome Home,” which primarily argets single soldiers and is connected with Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS).

The group is planning its third trip to Fort Stewart in July.

Reality winner Patrick House on starting his new life in the LowcountryReality winner Patrick House on starting his new life in the Lowcountry

Even before the confetti fell on Patrick House’s victory celebration on “The Biggest Loser,” he already knew his new life would start in the Lowcountry. The Mississippi native won the 10th season of the NBC reality show in December by losing 181 pounds — 45 percent of the body weight from his original 400-pound frame.

But the show was about more than that: Its theme was “pay it forward,” and House is doing so at the MindStream Academy in Bluffton, where he serves as fitness coach. “We are making uge differences in kids’ lives,” says House, who has already settled with his family in Bluffton. House says he was quick to fall in love with the Lowcountry lifestyle. “My wife, family and I have been really blessed with the hospitality we have been shown,” he says. And thanks to his newly trim frame, he’s looking forward to trying out such iconic Lowcountry activities as wave runners and offshore fishing. “Now that I am at a healthy weight, I can actually do those things with my wife,” he says.

Phyllis MauneyPhyllis Mauney: retired Marine, career musician and, most likely, the Lowcountry resident who has played harp for the higher number of presidents.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps E-9 gunnery sergeant Phyllis Mauney has never fired a weapon, but she wields a mean harp.

The 57-year-old Bluffton resident, who moved to the area in 2005, joined the Corps in 1978 after auditioning for “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. After years with the Marines and performing with symphonies, she’s now a freelance harpist. But she doesn’t carry her harp around in a hip holster; it’s a 75-pound, 46-string load that she delivers and sets up by her diminutive self. “It fits nicely into my van, but sometimes I call on a friend to help,” she says.

Jodi BassaniFor the past 10 years — four of them at the Quarterdeck — Jodi Bassani has worked directly in the heart of the Heritage. Bassani isn’t much of a golf fan herself, but she’s probably served some of the game’s most famous players — although it’s hard to know for sure, since she rarely has a free second to look up long enough to see who she’s serving. This year the Quarterdeck will be staffed as usual: four bartenders at the main bar and two at outside bar, with portable bars on the patio and a handful of servers walking around to handle demand. Bassani talked about what it’s like trying to hold down the fort amid patrons hopped up on golf buzz, and how crazy the scene could be if people think this year will be the Heritage’s last.

Q. What’s the busiest night of the Heritage?
A. Friday and Saturday. It’s just insane down there — the patio is full, the entire inside bar is full and there are people everywhere.