Monthly Archives: May 2017

Off to the Races


Off to the RacesLocal sailors can enhance their summer fun each week with a little friendly competition 

Augusta Sailing Club is full of traditions, and an annual summertime favorite is the Wednesday Night Fun Race. This year the informal races will be held May 31 – July 26, with the exception of July 5.

“It’s low key. We don’t even keep score. People just show up and put their boat in the water and join in,” says Martinez resident Dick Mayne, who has been sailing since 1958 and is a longtime member of the club. 

Participating sailboats range from 14-foot Sunfishes and 16-foot MCs to 20-foot Seaboats and 28-foot E scows. The 400-yard races get underway about 6:30 p.m., and depending on the wind, the Sailing Club will run three or four races. Dictated by the weather, the number of boats typically range from four or five to 10 to 15.

“There’s no limit on the number of boats that can race at once,” says Mayne. “If we have a lot of boats, we just move the starting line to make the race longer.”

Off to the RacesPeople do not have to belong to the Sailing Club, which was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1953 to promote sailing, to participate in the races. However, Mayne recommends that nonmembers contact the club in advance if they would like to join the fun. “Otherwise, the gate is locked, and they won’t be able to get in,” he says. 

Volunteers serve dinner after the races. The cost of the dinners, which could include hot dogs, hamburgers or lasagna, generally range from $5 – $7.

“We just want everyone to come out and enjoy sailing and have a good time,” Mayne says.

Visitors can contact the facility at (706) 305-7357 or For more information, visit

Little River Water Trail

Water Trail

Georgia’s Little River Water Trail is a wildlife sanctuary for bald eagle nests, river otters, turtles and other animals, and its history includes gold mines as well as Quaker and Native American Indian settlements. (Mark Rodgers photo)

Happy Trail
Georgia’s Little River Water Trail will make a big splash in the area recreational, environmental and tourism community. The development of Georgia’s Little River into a water trail has been underway for several months, and the effort continues to build momentum.

Similar to a hiking trail, a water trail has safe public access points, information kiosks and signage, and family friendly amenities such as picnic areas and facilities along the route.

The trail flows 20 miles through Wilkes, Warren and McDuffie counties within the 15,000-acre Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area, and it includes four public access locations – Highway 80, Highway 78, Holliday Park and Raysvillle Campground. The water trail is a wildlife sanctuary for bald eagle nests, river otters, turtles and other animals, and its history includes gold mines as well as Quaker and Native American Indian settlements.

The Little River Water Trail is being developed by various community stakeholders including McDuffie, Wilkes and Warren counties; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Department of Natural Resources; landowners; local business owners; Boy Scout troop leaders and local paddlers. Gwyneth Moody, the Georgia River Network director of programs and outreach, is helping as well.

“Georgia River Network’s water trails technical assistance program helps communities form comprehensive water trail stakeholder partnerships as well as providing them with guidance and resources to begin developing a sustainable water trail,” Moody says. “It’s a win-win for everyone – and most importantly our rivers as water trails are also an effective way to introduce people to river issues and to engage them in the protection of their local waterways.” 

Developments include the passage of the Georgia’s Little River Water Trail Resolutions of Support by McDuffie and Wilkes counties, social media updates and the design of marketing materials. Trail head kiosks have been put up at some access points, and kayak rentals are available at Raysville Campground. Georgia River Network also held a two-day paddle and campout on Little River in May.

“Ultimately, Georgia River Network hopes to see Georgia’s Little River Water Trail join the statewide Georgia Water Trails Network consisting of the 15 water trails that have successfully fulfilled the six criteria required to become an officially established water trail. 

Under the criteria, the water trail must:

  • Be sponsored, maintained and promoted by a local entity or partnership;
  • Have publicly accessible areas that paddlers can legally access and safely unload boats and park vehicles;
  • Have river access sites that are appropriately spaced apart on the river so that they may be reasonable paddled in a few hours or a full day;
  • Have water access to public overnight camping sites, depending on the length of the trail;
  • Provide information about the water trail to paddlers through a website and illustrative maps created by the sponsoring entity;
  • Place signage or kiosks that include river etiquette information, paddling safety information and a map of the water trail at all access points.

The water trail will be divided into three sections – Highway 80/Wrightsboro Road Bridge in McDuffie County to Highway 78 (7.63 miles), Highway 78 to Holliday Park in Wilkes County (7.86 miles) and Holliday Park to Raysville Campground in McDuffie County (4.53 miles).

“This is a great opportunity for McDuffie County to take advantage of our close proximity to Clarks Hill Lake, and it will open up a whole new world of outdoor recreation, family fun and business opportunities for our community,” says Elizabeth Vance, the Thomson-McDuffie County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director and Little River Water Trail coordinator.

A ribbon cutting is slated for later this summer once the six water trail criteria have been met.

Hang Time

Hang Time

Fonta Flora brewmaster Todd Boera is one of the founders of the State of Origin craft beer festival. (John Payne photo)

From locally sourced brews at a boutique craft beer bar and festival to an instructional tandem hang gliding experience, it’s easy to have a nice flight – or two – in western North Carolina.

On North Carolina license plates, “First in Flight” is stamped across the top. These words, of course, refer to the Wright brothers first successful airplane flight in Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks. On the other side of the state, however, travelers have license to enjoy flights figuratively and literally in the Appalachian Mountains foothills.

Hang Time

The State of Origin Craft Brew Festival, which is held each June, focuses on boutique breweries that embrace distinctive flora and fauna in the creation of craft beer. Every brewery must bring craft beer that uses ingredients grown in its “state of origin.”

Brewing Up Fun
To sip flights of beer, craft brew connoisseurs can hop to Morganton (about 60 miles east of Asheville) to visit Fonta Flora, a brewery that uses local, seasonal ingredients to make award-winning, artisan beer. The brewery earned back-to-back gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014 and 2015.

While their peers clearly share an appreciation for their artistry, the brewers are happy to showcase the talents of other craft beer breweries as well. Four years ago the Fonta Flora owners created the State of Origin Craft Brew Festival, which is held each June. People must be age 21 or older to attend. The festival focuses on boutique breweries that embrace distinctive flora and fauna in the creation of craft beer. Every brewery must bring craft beer that uses ingredients grown in its “state of origin.”

“The entire event is a celebration of local ingredients,” says David Bennett, Fonta Flora co-founder. “One of our main focuses at our brewery is local culture and local agriculture. We practice what we preach every single day, and the festival is a natural extension of that.”


Hang Time

More than 20 breweries will be on hand for the festival including North Carolina-based Free Range Brewing, Lenny Boy Brewing Company, Salud Beer Shop, Wicked Weed Brewing, Newgrass Brewing Co. and Catawba Brewing Co.

More than 20 breweries will be on hand including North Carolina-based Free Range Brewing, Lenny Boy Brewing Company and Salud Beer Shop in Charlotte; Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville and Newgrass Brewing Co. in Shelby. Another Morganton brewery, Catawba Brewing Co., will be at the festival as well. To enjoy more flights of craft beer, festival-goers also can stop by the local downtown bar. In 2010, Catawba Brewing became one of the first breweries in western North Carolina to can its beer.

“The can is like a small keg. The beer is completely sealed, so it stays fresher and oxygenation is low,” says co-owner Scott Pyatt. “Cans are light, safe and portable. They can go anywhere, and they are environmentally friendly.”

While most of State of Origin’s participating breweries are in North Carolina, “ambassador” breweries from other states also will be represented. Out-of-state breweries include Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert, Arizona; Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas; Scratch Brewing Company in Ava, Illinois; Carolina Bauerhaus Ales in Anderson, South Carolina; and Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in Athens, Georgia.

Food vendors will offer barbecue, Mexican dishes, sandwiches, coffee and ice cream. Brave Baby, a pop-influenced indie rock band based in Charleston, South Carolina, will provide musical entertainment.


Hang Time

Certified hang gliding pilot Craig Pearson, owner of7hermal Valley Hang Gliding, puts his passengers at ease with his running commentary, hang gliding instructions and the occa­sional Tarzan yell. Flights last 12-20 minutes, depending on the passenger’s weight and height.

Top Flight
For those who prefer literal flights to liquid flights, adventure awaits at Thermal Valley Hang Gliding ( Flights are available by appointment only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from April through October. Hang gliders must be at least 18 years old, no taller than 6’3” and weigh 90 to 235 pounds.

To get to Thermal Valley, thrill seekers must travel along serpentine roads that twist and turn to Foothills Regional Airport near Morganton. The path takes one last turn onto a bumpy dirt road that ends in an open field, making the trip feel like a trek to a clandestine initiation. Secret handshakes are optional. Before and after the flights, however, hugs for pilot Craig Pearson, who owns the hang gliding business with his wife Laura, are mandatory.

Laura runs the ground game, offering a 15-minute, pre-flight hang gliding lesson. Once the basic instructions have been covered, it’s on to the flight. Each student gets strapped securely into a harness above Craig, a certified glider pilot and 26-year hang gliding veteran. But not until that compulsory hug between pilot and passenger has been exchanged.

As Craig hums the theme from Rocky, a dragonfly plane tows the tandem hang glider off the ground and into the air to heights ranging from 1,500 feet to 5,000 feet. Flights last 12-20 minutes, depending on the person’s weight and height. The hang glider is tethered to the light sport aircraft half the time and soaring in free flight the other half. It travels at 30 mph behind the plane and 25-30 mph on its own.

“Our situation is ideal because we get a tow and fly the hang gliders in a lot of different weather patterns, whereas mountain pilots always have to have a prevailing wind coming at them,” says Laura. “Behind the tow plane, we have a lot more days we can fly.”

With a bird’s eye view of the meandering Catawba River and the majestic South, Grandfather, Table Rock and Hawk’s Bill mountains, the scenery is spectacular. And once a slight jolt frees the hang glider from the tow plane, the peacefulness and calm of the airborne experience is palpable.

Craig quickly becomes his passengers’ new best friend, chatting them up with amiable conversation and hang gliding instructions. He punctuates the running commentary with the occasional scream or Tarzan yell – just for fun – and implores his passengers to chime in with bird noises and screams of their own. Questions are welcome, too.

No, Craig has never landed in the trees. No, he certainly has no intention of ever landing in the trees. Yes, he is happy to simulate a roller coaster ride for willing passengers.

Thermals, rising air currents produced by heat from the underlying surface, lift the glider up in the air, and the hang glider is controlled by weight shift. A peek over the shoulder is all it takes to steer. Look left to go left; look right to go right.

Once the hang glider touches back on terra firma – where the legs may or may not feel a little wobbly – Craig accepts another hug from his grateful, exhilarated passenger.

The most popular package is the basic 1,500-foot flight, which lasts 12-14 minutes and costs $159. The next most popular package is the 2,000-foot, 15-minute flight for $199. Mile-high flights are $365. Students also can increase elevation in 500-foot increments for an additional $40 per altitude upgrade. For lasting memories – and to prove to their friends that they really did it – hang gliders can purchase HD videos of their flights for $40 or a USB 4GB disk for $5.

The Pearsons enjoy sharing their love of hang gliding and hope to re-ignite interest in a sport that was popular in the 1970s, when pet rocks, streaking, eight-track tapes and disco music were all the rage. However, Laura says hang gliding “has become more scientific and safer than those days in the 1970s.”

The couple also realizes that many customers are tourists in search of a one-time experience.

“If a person just wants to experience it and see the scenery, that is totally OK. They’re not required to do anything strenuous or hard,” says Laura. “It’s a way that families can share a memorable experience and walk away with a positive feeling for hang gliding.”

Hang TimeKindred Spirits
Those who enjoy craft spirits can tour Blue Ridge Distilling Co., parent company of Defiant Whisky (, in nearby Rutherford County. Tours are available 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and weekends by appointment.

Defiant Whisky has won multiple awards including the silver medal at the 2015 Craft Spirits Competition and bronze at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Tim Ferris, who founded the distillery after launching a successful underwater salvage company, also has showcased his whiskey at national events including the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.

Ferris started the distillery in 2010 when he was constructing a building to store his diving equipment. He soon realized the company didn’t need the space, so he had to figure out something else to do with the partially constructed building. Naturally, he decided to build a distillery. After all, the remains of numerous illicit moonshine stills had been found on the family-owned property through the years.


Hang Time

Tim Ferris (above) founder of Blue Ridge Distilling Co., parent company of Defiant Whisky. “A lot of people think the barrels are the magic for whiskey. They’re not ” he says. “Air is the magic for whiskey.”

Unencumbered by barrels or recipes or tradition, Ferris relies on Mother Nature and intuition to distill his single-malt Defiant Whisky. (He dropped the “e” in “whiskey” in homage to the scotches that inspired him.). He uses only four ingredients – premium toasted American white oak spirals, specially cultured yeast, two-row premium brewer’s barley and on-site water from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The water comes out of the ground into the facility. It doesn’t pass through a single filter,” he says.

After being distilled in a custom, handmade still from Germany, the spirit is transferred to 1,000-liter stainless steel holding tanks (not oak barrels) for 60 days. Oak spirals, which have a higher surface-area-to-liquid ratio, are added to the tanks.

“We look at oak as an ingredient rather than a vessel. Water and oak are probably the two most important ingredients, followed by barley as a close third. Then yeast,” says Ferris. “Barrels were made for shipping and storing, not aging. A lot of people think the barrels are the magic for whiskey. They’re not. Air is the magic for whiskey.”

From milling the grain to hand-labeling and corking the square bottles, Defiant does everything in-house. The entire process takes 120 days. Ferris wouldn’t have it any other way. “You’ve got one chance to get people to take a second sip,” he says.

Hang Time

Burke and Rutherford counties in western North Carolina are known for their variety of locally owned restaurants, including Root & Vine (above), JD’s Smokehouse, Judge’s Riverside, and King Street Café.

Hunger Games
From testing flights of beer to hang gliding high above the Earth, it’s easy to whet your appetite in a visit to western North Carolina. However, hunger is no game at the restaurants in Burke and Rutherford counties.

If you’re pining for pork, then JD’s Smokehouse, a popular barbecue restaurant in Rutherford College, is known for its brisket. The menu also includes pulled pork, ribs, chicken tenders and smoked chicken. A variety of sauces awaits on the tables, and sides include Brunswick stew, jalapeno cheese grits and sweet potato crunch.

Judge’s Riverside, situated on the Catawba River, has barbecue, beef brisket, ribs, chicken tenders, fish and chips, burgers and sandwiches on the docket. Eat inside or on the deck overlooking the river.

In downtown Morganton, Root & Vine focuses on seasonal produce and local seafood (think North Carolina mountain trout). Prepared from scratch, the fare combines Southern sensibilities with traditional French culinary techniques. Located in a building that dates to 1901, the restaurant offers an extensive craft beer and wine list. The outdoor patio is as inviting as the comfort food on the menu.

For more fine dining, King Street Café offers nightly specials in the intimate setting of a Victorian home. Fresh herbs and spices as well as freshly made sauces accent the seasonal fare of wild game, fowl and seafood. Don’t miss the French onion soup or homemade desserts.

 If You Go:

What: State of Origin Craft Brew Festival

When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday, June 10

Where: Courthouse Square, Morganton, North Carolina

How Much: $50 general admission; $20 designated drivers

More Info:, or 888-462-2921 

By Betsy Gilliland

Photos courtesy of Burke County Tourism Development Authority


Floating in Style

In The Home

Floating in StyleWhen it’s time for a little R & R, houseboat owners feel at home on Clarks Hill Lake

For some people, Trade Winds Marina in Appling is a great place to dock a boat. For others – particularly those who keep houseboats at the marina – it’s a home away from home. And the weekends, if they can wait that long, can’t get here fast enough. 

Living on Autopilot
James “Buzzy” Mims of Evans has been going to Clarks Hill Lake since childhood. In more recent years, he spent a lot of time at the lake on a friend’s houseboat. A decade ago, he finally decided to get a houseboat of his own. 

“I just love the water, and you have so much room on a houseboat,” says Buzzy. “I love going out at night and sleeping on the lake and floating around.”

Buzzy owns Richmond Industrial Machine, a company that makes parts for machines in the baking industry, and he always has been mechanically inclined. So when he bought his houseboat, he put his skills to good use.

Floating in StyleHe quickly got to work customizing the boat with lots of automated features. The houseboat has an extra 25-gallon tank supplying purified water to the refrigerator and ice makers; a water refill assist system that fills all tanks in sequence without having to flip valves tucked in out-of-the-way places; and a flip-out beach ladder on the underside of the bow. With the push of a button, Buzzy can change the engine and generator oil. If the power goes out or if there’s water in the hold, a device sends Buzzy a text message to let him know. 

“If I was to fall off the boat, it would come find me,” he jokes. 

The houseboat has a stereo system, and its weather radar system reaches out 24 miles. Buzzy also can enter his desired destination into an automatic pilot system. Of course, what good is the autopilot system if you can’t have a little fun with it?

When he has a floating party on the lake (with or without a live band), one of his favorite tricks is to ask someone who has never been on a boat – there’s always someone – to do him a favor. He’ll just ask the guest to take the steering wheel and drive the boat for a moment. Who could turn down such a gracious host? However, Buzzy says, “I’m actually driving the boat with the remote control in my pocket.”

He also neglects to tell his temporary skipper something he learned in a hurry.

Floating in Style“Houseboats are very difficult to drive. It takes a lot of time to learn and a lot of nerve. For the first year, nobody talked to me when I was driving. It took two years for me to feel comfortable driving the boat,” says Buzzy. “Some people have houseboats but never drive them. I just love it. I love the challenge.”

The houseboat, which is 16-feet-by-70-feet, features four bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen, a den and an upper deck that covers the full length of the vessel. Buzzy has worked his magic in those areas as well. 

The boat originally had carpeting, but he replaced it with oak wood flooring. He put granite countertops in the kitchen, and maple wood can be found throughout the boat as well. 

Buzzy made the custom steering wheel on the lower helm out of black walnut, and even the wood has a story. The lumber had been in his family for about 200 years, and he also used it to build a walnut instrument panel to replace the standard black panel.

“The wood belonged to my great-grandmother. Her parents gave her the boards as a wedding gift to make bedroom furniture, but they never did,” Buzzy says. “The wood was passed down in my family, and I finally did something with it.” 

On the upper deck, an auto-tracking HD satellite system lets people watch TV on any of the numerous flat screen TVs onboard. One of those televisions – the 48-inch TV on the top deck – swings up into a lockable, Buzzy-designed enclosure so that it’s out of the way when not in use. The upper deck also includes a covered area with two ceiling fans and a grill.

Buzzy spends as many weekends as he can at the lake, and he spends most of his time on the houseboat on the upper deck. 

“We go out year-round. We just don’t swim year-round,” he says. “We’ll tie it up on the beaches and stay for the weekend.” 

Floating in StyleSo naturally, he needed to make the boat as comfortable as possible for the hottest and coldest days. Buzzy spent two-and-a-half years adding a bow enclosure to the front deck. He designed and built the walls, individually fabricating each wall panel to size. He milled out the windows and carefully bolted them into place. Since no detail is too small to overlook, he also fabricated in-house all of the hardware such as doors, handles and hinges.

“For 10 years of my life, I’ve spent almost every weekend on this boat. It’s the best investment I’ve ever made,” Buzzy says. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work. It’s a labor of love.” 

For about six years, the houseboat only lacked one thing – a name. “It was the boat with no name forever,” says Buzzy. 

One night when he was watching a baseball game, however, the announcer said, “See ya later,” after a batter hit a homerun. “That was it,” Buzzy says. He christened his boat “Sea Ya Later.” 

Floating in StyleHot Tub to Hot Spot
While Buzzy might be ready to “Sea Ya Later,” for two more houseboat owners, Blake and Kenley Clark, the “Sky’s the Limit.”

That name came with the 17-year-old, 16-foot-by-90-foot houseboat they purchased about a year ago, and they decided to keep the moniker.

“The previous owner was a helicopter pilot,” says Blake. “But if you think about it, it can mean a lot of other things, too.” 

The name certainly could apply to the amenities in this three bedroom, two bath houseboat. The vessel is energy efficient, and Blake and Kenley can control the lights and air conditioning with their cell phones. The boat also has cameras everywhere.

Floating in Style“From my cell phone, I can see what’s going on all around the boat,” Blake says. “The cameras make sure everything is safe.”

The boat also features a hot spot for cellular service, so they can watch television without satellite or cable out on the water. “We’re never disconnected,” says Blake.

Wood flooring covers the cabin, galley, dining area, baths and hallway, and the boat also has a full-sized washer and dryer. “Most boats don’t have room for them,” says Blake. “Others will have mini stackers.”

Floating in StyleThe large, U-shaped kitchen features a center island, Corian countertops, a double oven, an industrial-size Sub-Zero refrigerator, a trash compactor and a microwave. A fountain on the bar has five different buttons that let thirsty passengers select their drink of choice.

A custom entertainment center with a 60-foot flat screen TV, a leather couch and chair, and a dining table with six chairs can be found in the cabin. A bed for their three dachshunds – Noah, Eli and Maggie – is tucked in the corner of the space, but the seasoned sea dogs also have the run of the boat. 

The master bedroom includes a ceiling fan and three walk-in closets. The master bath has a full-size jetted tub/shower, and the doors in the boat, which includes a front deck enclosure, are all solid wood.

Although Blake and Kenley live in Augusta, they spend about 70 percent of their time on the water. “We usually have something going on every weekend,” says Blake. 

The top deck is the perfect spot to entertain. This 24-foot party area includes a 55-foot flat screen TV, screens, lights, a stereo, a hot tub and a covered wet bar with a ceiling fan, sink, refrigerator, ice maker, wine cooler and stainless steel grill. 

Floating in StyleThey like to jet ski, relax, entertain friends and beach it on the islands in the lake. As much as they love the time they spend at Clarks Hill, it isn’t purely for pleasure. Blake and Kenley started renting their Augusta home to patients at the Georgia Cancer Center more than two years ago. Since they started renting their house to cancer patients, they have spent the majority of their time living on their houseboat.

 “We rent the house for six, eight or 10 weeks at the time. It has been pretty constant,” Kenley says. “We don’t do it to make money. We do it for cost.”

He also likes the rural feel of Clarks Hill, even though it is so close to Augusta. “It’s sad that more people don’t take advantage of the lake,” says Kenley.

Buzzy agrees. “This is one of the area’s best kept secrets,” he says.

By Sarah James

Grilled Corn Salad

  • Food Salad6 ears sweet corn
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing corn
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Slivered almonds 

Remove husks and silk from corn. Prepare grill to medium high heat. Brush corn lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill 6-7 minutes until charred in spots but still slightly crisp. Remove from grill and let cool slightly before cutting kernels from the cobs. Scrape kernels off, rows at a time, with a sharp kitchen knife and set on plates. Place tomatoes and onion in a bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Pour dressing over tomatoes and onion and toss to thoroughly coat. Spoon tomatoes and onions over corn. Garnish with almond slivers and serve. Makes 6 servings.


Dive Rescue and Recovery Team

Community Groups in Action

Dive Rescue and Recovery TeamEmergencies can occur anytime, anywhere. However, if something happens on local waterways, the Columbia County Dive Rescue and Recovery Team is ready to respond.

The team is made up of 40 volunteers who receive training and diving certifications from a nationally recognized agency. They must meet the physical requirements necessary to perform underwater recovery specialist and boat operator duties, and they also purchase their own diving equipment. 

Dive Rescue and Recovery Team“They train on their own time at their own expense,” says Danny Kuhlmann, the operations chief of Columbia County Fire Rescue, which oversees the team. “The fire department maintains other equipment and gets it to the dive sites. We’re here to help the team in any way possible.” 

Duties include conducting underwater searches for missing persons and forensic underwater searches for physical evidence. “The county has so much water in addition to Clarks Hill Lake and the Savannah River,” says Kuhlmann. “There are hundreds and hundreds of ponds in the county.” 

The dive team also performs surface and ground searches, rescue and safety operations, and public safety demonstrations and presentations. In addition, dive team members provide support for local events such as the Adaptive Water Ski Clinic, Benderdinker and Heroes on the Water. 

Dive Rescue and Recovery Team“This is a fantastic volunteer group right here in our back yard that we rarely think about until an emergency happens. Constant training and preparation enables them to respond quickly when a dreaded accident occurs. Our hat’s off to these wonderful folks,” says Phil Alexander, CallingPost founder.

Volunteers range in age from 18 to 60, but not all of them are divers. Some are boat operators; others help suit up divers and watch over them when they are on a mission. The team also has a volunteer who performs administrative duties.

Kuhlmann says the number of volunteers cannot exceed 40. However, anyone who is interested in becoming part of the team can email him at He will contact  eligible applicants as openings become available.

Lee Ann Liska – Chief Executive Officer, AU Medical Center

Lee Ann Liska

Phil Jones photo

Lee Ann Liska
Chief Executive Officer, AU Medical Center

Number of years in position: 1 

Family: Husband Joe Ed; daughter Catherine

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: I am passionate about improving the health care experiences of our patients and their families. I’ve faced health issues in my own family, and these situations gave me personal insight into how to make those encounters better. AU Medical Center is a pioneer in patient- and family-centered care, and we look forward to extending this health care philosophy to our Columbia County health campus in Grovetown.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: I like to support United Way because our patients and employees benefit from its services, and the American Heart Association because it supports research for heart and stroke care – the #1 and #5 killer of men and women in America. I also support YWCA and its missions to eliminate racism, empower women and promote social justice.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at age 7. As a hospital chief executive officer, this hit home in more ways than one for me. I stood by Catherine during three long years of cancer treatment. I was running a hospital, while trying to be the best mom for my daughter as well. She is such a fighter and a survivor, and I’m very proud to be her mother. 

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Being recognized as a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in 2011

What Your Childhood Self Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: Film music composer or TV broadcaster

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: At a campsite, sitting on a chair with a book or magazine by the fire

Favorite TV Show: “The Crown”

Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice

Favorite Sports Team: The closest football team to where I live and work

Favorite Comfort Food: Jujyfruits

Favorite App: Spotify 

Last Book Read: The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

Dream Vacation: Blackberry Farm in the Tennessee mountains. It’s peaceful, gorgeous, and they take great care of you. 

Something That Has Changed My Life: Having my daughter 

Best Thing I Ever Learned: Never burn bridges 

One Word You Would Use to Describe Yourself: Passionate 

Favorite Hobbies: Cooking and shopping

Secret Aspiration: Country music groupie

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: None

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I like to cook.