A young Dan Schmiedt

Why Daniel Schmiedt Became A Volunteer (part 1 of 4)

You see the Volunteer trip invitations and the images of those who come out for their Frying Pan Tower adventure, but why? Why do they do it? Follow along with volunteer Daniel Schmiedt as he discusses his decision to become part of the restoration! Here’s part 1 of 4 in Dan’s own words…


Much to the chagrin of my parents, I had lugged home yet another old radio. This one was practically golden as far as I was concerned: it was a Pierce-Simpson Bimini VHF marine radio. My friend Wray at the radio shop had GIVEN it to me! I would use it to listen to ships in the Charleston Harbor.

I set it on my radio table, connected up a wire for an antenna, and turned it on. It hummed, then crackled. Occasionally, I’d hear Coast Guard group Charleston make announcements. Sometimes, I’d tune into the weather and listen to the recorded weather observations from along the coast.

“Offshore seas six feet, measured at the Frying Pan Observation Station…” the man with the familiar voice read. I wondered what that station was and would sometimes daydream about it, since the marine weather man talked about it so much.

In the decades that have passed since then, I recall seeing fleeting news headlines about that structure that somehow stood alone far out at sea. It was abandoned by the Coast Guard. It was going to be torn down. It was sold at an auction. It was a bed and breakfast. It was up for auction again.

Finally, I stumbled into a Facebook group. It was being rebuilt by volunteers. I added my name to the list, and would get announcements about work weekends. But, I weighed too much for the helicopter.

I’ve lost 34 pounds since December, and when I got the latest notice about a work weekend, I realized that I was within the acceptable weight envelope. I checked my calendar; there was no reason I couldn’t go.

I paid for my helicopter flight and soon got a call from Richard, the managing director of the nonprofit in charge of restoring the tower.

“Why do you want to come out here?” he asked.

I told him about the Pierce-Simpson radio, that I’d seen the announcement, and that I couldn’t think of a reason not to come out.

“Perfect,” he said. “Flight one leaves Southport at 9am on Friday.”

Dan brought a lot of effort and talent to our volunteer crew by giving of his time and talent over the next few days. He was introduced to our mission of restoring, protecting and preserving Frying Pan Tower, and was instrumental in helping us achieve it.

Check back for Day 1 as Dan shares is musings about being onsite… 

Are You Interested In Volunteering?

Experience the sea-faring adventure of a lifetime! Find out if you've got what it takes to be a volunteer to help restore, protect and preserve Frying Pan Tower. 

Learn More


  1. Robbie Stewart

    Great story, Rich! I hope you showed Mr. Schmiedt your 1970’s vintage clock radio that you featured in one of your Facebook vids along with the stereo with turntable that you had to do some work on. Wish I could’ve been out with you then, because I’m a certified electronics technician, and I know how to do that kind of work. Got my start fixing my late father’s music equipment when I was 7 years old back in 1976 and wound up doing that for him for 45 years until he passed away. My dad was both a professional musician and entertainer who worked in many nightclubs back then and if his equipment didn’t work on the job, then he couldn’t earn the money to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellys. So, fixing his gear was a huge responsibilty that I took very seriously. I’m in the same position as Mr. Schmiedt was in in that I weigh close to 340 lbs, so that too puts me over the helicopter weight limit along with the fact that I’m both a caregiver to my mom and an IT Support Technician to over 35 members of my family’s tech devices. I’m also a CompITA A+ certified computer tech. I try to exercise when I can, but I spend so much time fixing my family’s issues during the day that I can barely take care of my own. I can’t go out and exercise at night since I live in a very bad part of town like I used to do before I moved to a different city, so my way of volunteering is regularly monitoring your public postings on your Facebook page. I’m not allowed to log in to that site and post comments since I’m permanantly banned from it, but I do keep notes of your previous postings. Then, when Hurricanes are blowing by the tower and everyone’s going to your flag cam on explore.org’s You Tube channel and asking questions about the tower late at night when you’re not logged on, like many did with this last Hurricane Isaias, I do my best to answer their questions based on your prior video postings on Facebook and refer them to both your Facebook channel and to this website. I do most my work at night anyway, since it’s the only time that I get any downtime from family demands. I’ve always been a night person thanks to my late dad’s career playing nightclubs for many years, so it works out to have someone helping with You Tube and Twitter parts of the social media on the night shift. Still the best thing you ever did after you bought this tower at auction was get a broadband Internet connection established from it via that microwave antenna and the Viasat backup of yours. By doing so, you have showed the importance of having a broadband Internet connection which is something that many kids who live in rural areas can’t get and are now struggling to do virtual learning from a mobile cell phone connection during this Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks for everything that you do for the tower and I’ll keep monitoring your morning coffee posting and answering questions during Hurricane flag cam watch on the nightshift. Take care and God bless.

    1. Richard Neal

      Robbie, Great info and thanks for what you are doing to help both now and in the past with your dad! I agree access to the Internet for our youth is vital to them learning both about the world and in education with the virus that has changed our lives. I’ll see on Facebook what I can do to help get you access again! Best, Richard

    1. Richard Neal

      Lisa Ann, We are not because we are 100% focused on the restoration effort. Our volunteers, however, DO come out and stay as we work together on the various projects! Take a look at our volunteering information to see if this is something you might want to do with some of your friends! Richard

Comments are closed.