Life of legendary Lowcountry waterman comes to sudden halt

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJuly 8, 2014 

Capt. Stratty Pollitzer aboard the Hero in the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, where he ran charter fishing boats for 40 years.

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Flags at every marina on Hilton Head Island have flown at half-staff at some point since the death of charter boat captain Stratty Pollitzer.

William Stratton Pollitzer, born in Beaufort 66 years ago, had not been sick for a minute when his heart suddenly quit beating Saturday at his home in Buckingham Landing near Bluffton.

Stratty ran the Hero charter fishing boat out of Harbour Town for 40 years. Everybody in the business on Hilton Head called him "Dad."

He was a bigger-than-life character from his childhood, when Beaufort kids lived in the river and always had a boat. He became a boatman's boatman. He was in the Coast Guard. He worked shrimp boats, snapper boats, tug boats and charter boats. He towed boats. He was a dockmaster. He ran fishing programs. He had a great eye for boats, buying and selling at least 60 of them. Any trip up the Atlantic Coast will turn up a boat Stratty owned.

At one point, he was working on a slow, flat barge seeding oyster beds when he saw his lifelong friend Capt. Billy North glide by in a charter fishing boat with two girls in bikinis aboard. According to North, that's when Stratty got into the charter business. He flourished, in part because he was a good showman and in part because he was a good businessman.

"This business is really probably about 90 percent entertainment and 10 percent fishing," said industry veteran Capt. Fuzzy Davis. "He was the king of entertainment."

People sat next to the marine radio just to hear Stratty's nonsense on the air.

A Facebook page created this week called "Things Stratty Would Say" has more than 100 friends.

Stratty stories are legion. Capt. North said Stratty once introduced himself to a woman in New Orleans as "Meau d'Leonne." She asked what that meant, and Stratty said, "It means mow the lawn, baby."

"I started calling him 'Capt. Mow.' Everybody else called him 'Lawn,' " North said.

Stratty and his two siblings got their can-do, frugal spunk from their mother, Madeleine Paula vonBernuth Pollitzer. She was a single mom who taught style and grace to countless Beaufort kids through the arts of dancing and horsemanship. She was an elegant caterer whose clients included the Lowcountry's wealthiest hunt-club owners.

Perhaps that's why retired fisherman Capt. Woody Collins said the man he grew up with was ultimately more than a waterman. He said Stratty was a beloved friend to many. His door was always open, the conversation always outstanding, and big laughs a guarantee.

Friends say Stratty could cry with the best of them. He always said he was broke. But they noticed that he poured what little he claimed to be making into assets, buying land, building homes, buying more land.

The last time I talked to Stratty, it was mostly about 28 acres he bought in Jasper County. He was building it up as a family retreat. He called it "Big Oak." He said it had seven deer stands and no traffic.

Stratty's family is devastated. He was about to step back on solid ground and reap some benefits of life on a harsh sea. But he did live to see his son, Christiaan Pollitzer, and his nephew Richard Pollitzer operate their own charter fishing boats on Hilton Head.

"His message was 'Turn the shaft.' Just keep going. Keep the boat running," said Richard, who will deliver a eulogy Thursday.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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