Nothing should surprise the people of the lake anymore; after an alligator was spotted twice in the lake and more recently, a brown pelican that is about 120 miles from where it should be. So to see a giant turtle will probably not even phase the Wateree residents. But she sure has created a lot of excitement for weekenders and neighbors, especially children, who come by to see ‘Wirtle’ tied to the Stanley’s dock.
Several years ago I featured an article about local commercial artist, Wayman Stanley. He and his wife Phyllis have been married for 54 years and moved to the lake from Mount Pleasant in the year 2004. He has taught painting, written books, does carving and many other activities among which includes a life long interest in sea turtles.
He has been a guest speaker many times on Career Day on this subject. He once turned his 1973 Volkswagen car into a large turtle with the use of 200 feet of PVC pipe and paper mache and entered it in a Christmas parade. Now he has taken it one step further and made a giant turtle as seen in the picture.
He has named her ‘Wirtle,’ a name close to a previous turtle he wrote a book about, named ‘Myrtle’. She was a sea turtle that was on land and this turtle is a land turtle that returns to the sea, or in this case, a lake.
Working alone, the project took five months to complete. He started it in December of last year, but with the snow, flooding and rains that occurred during that time, he was not able to work on it full time.
How it happened was that a small Sunfish sailboat with no mast or center boards and in really bad shape, floated up to Stanley’s dock. He inflated 40 wine bladders and placed them around the boat’s form to keep it afloat.
For those of you who may not know, a wine bladder is the plastic bag holding wine inside a boxed wine container. He wanted me to know that he did not drink all that wine himself but had friends saving for him also.
Once the boat was stable and floated he made a frame over the body from PVC pipe, then covered it with chicken wire. The wire was then covered with newspapers, Food Lion paper bags, paper mache and painted to look like a turtle shell. The whole thing was then covered with polyurethane for protection from the water. Around the outside, insulation covered pipes are held together with plastic bag ties.
Her maiden voyage was made on July 1, Stanley’s 75th birthday. ‘Wirtle’ was pulled into the big water and then on her own, powered by a small motor made from parts of two motors, she motored into the cove at Colonel Creek.
A bottle of champagne toasted both the birthday boy and his creation. On this particular night, a one-man band was playing for the many patrons of the Retreat restaurant and to their delight and surprise they all saw this giant turtle arrive. Not only are the neighbors and boaters interested and come by to look, the birds do not know what to make of it and the real turtles have been most curious.
Stanley was inspired by his love of turtles that has been a big part of his life for many years.