Sock Burnin’ and Pig Pickin’

In the mid-1980s, Capt. Bob Turner, who managed a boatyard in Annapolis, Maryland, worked on other people’s boats. All through the long winter months, his socks collected sawdust, bottom paint, caulk, and other boatyard leavings. One year, on the first day of spring, he was so fed up with winter that he put his socks in a paint tray, doused them with lighter fluid, and set them on fire. Then he drank a beer to celebrate. 

And so, the tradition began of ceremoniously stripping off socks and burning them because once boating season starts, nobody wears socks. There are now sock burnings in coastal communities across the country, including Georgetown, SC, where Turner participates in the ceremony.

“Them Georgetown boys got an odd tradition
When the sun sinks to its Equinox position,” reads a poem Turner wrote about the tradition.
“They build a little fire down along the docks,
They doff their shoes, and they burn their winter socks.”

The South Carolina Maritime Museum invites you to usher in the coming of spring and the arrival of boating season at its 9th annual Burning of the Socks on Saturday, March 21, from 6 to 8 pm. There will be a Pig Pickin’ with all the fixin’s, as well as beer, wine, liquor, and live music by John Lammonds and Robert Steuer. 

In addition to the sock burning festivities, the museum will celebrate its Grand Re-opening after replacing the tide-damaged floor, The museum was closed recently after sustaining serious floor damage from Dorian, and other hurricanes and high tides over the last few year, plus the book launch of “Mac” McAlister’s new memoir, “Pawleys Island: An Old Man’s Love Story,” which is $15, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the museum.

“After being closed to rebuild the first floor, we are excited about our reopening to share our brand-new space with the public,” said Johnny Weaver, president of the Maritime Museum’s board of directors. “We also have used this hiatus to brainstorm ideas to attract more people.”

There will be a family-fun “Water is Georgetown” day in May to kick off the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, titled “WaterWays,” to be featured at the museum between Sept. 28 and Nov. 8, 2020. 

“Our museum is a great place to learn about South Carolina’s vibrant maritime history, and as always, (museum) admission is free,” Weaver said.

Inside the museum, visitors can see the Georgetown Lighthouse’s original 1867 Fresnel lens. This special lens guided mariners in Winyah Bay for more than 100 years before the lighthouse was automated in 1986. The two-foot high, 250-pound lens eventually found a home in the museum in 2014, thanks to its loan from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Justin McIntyre, museum curator, explained, “As a priceless artifact, we are grateful to have help from volunteers and our local Coast Guardsmen. They safely relocated the lens upstairs during the floor replacement.” 

The museum also features ship models, marine artifacts, and everything from shipwrecks and hurricanes to a Civil War submarine and megalodon shark teeth.

The museum is operated by the Harbor Historical Association of Georgetown, a non-profit that began in 1996. HHA’s mission is to preserve and promote the rich maritime history of Georgetown County and South Carolina.  Tickets for the 29th annual Burning of the Socks event are $30 for museum members and $35 for non-members. Call Hope at 843-520-0111 or purchase tickets online at