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Follow the uncharted journey of the Folly Boat

Follow the uncharted journey of the Folly Boat
May 2021

You can't keep a good hull down

The raging winds and storm surge of Hurricane Hugo swept her ashore on that wild September night in 1989. She had lost her topsides; only her hull remained. Nobody came forward to claim her. For three decades she remained in that spot, a funky maritime feature along the causeway to Folly Beach. How she became the community’s billboard isn’t quite known, but the Folly Boat was soon the most popular hull in town—painted and repainted almost daily to announce birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, and marriages. In 2017, Hurricane Irma swept her away again. But you can’t keep a good hull down. As a result of outstanding teamwork by folks throughout the community, she’s back! Read on to follow the beloved boat’s uncharted course

NAUTICAL CANVAS Not long after Hurricane Hugo, folks began using the boat as a canvas for art displays and to make congratulatory declarations—from birthday wishes to graduation announcements. Her hull has even been creatively used to propose marriage. Since proclamations often are made daily and the craft is completely repainted with each new display, the Folly Boat could be a contender for one of the most well-used canvases in the country.

ON THE EDGE The boat has become the iconic symbol of the funky independence for which Folly is known. As visitors drive along the causeway to the beach, it acts as a uniquely local welcome mat, a maritime ambassador greeting all who travel to the self-proclaimed “Edge of America.” 

ONE OF A KIND No permit is needed to paint the boat. The main requirement is thoughtfulness, including cleaning up empty paint cans and brushes afterward. No rude, crude, or hateful statements, please. Messages should be in keeping with the upbeat energy this beloved symbol of creativity has come to represent—the sharing of milestones and positive vibes with folks heading to the beach. 

ON THE ROAD AGAIN When Hurricane Irma swept the hull away in September 2017, she landed in the marsh near a private dock on the James Island mainland off Sol Legare Road. It took two years, a GoFundMe campaign, and a determined community working together to get her moved back to Folly Road. With a volunteer crew, crane, and flatbed truck from Limehouse & Sons, she was hauled to her new home—this time a safer location by The Barrel, near the corner of Folly Road and Battery Island Drive.

INCREDIBLE HULK The 36-foot-long hull, made of steel and filled with cement, weighs at least 20 tons, according to engineers who assisted in relocating her. Crews used a 100-ton crane to attach hooks to the bow and lift it. Secured by straps around the bottom, she was then moved onto a 40-foot, wide-load flatbed truck and escorted by police to her new home. 

ARTS & CRAFT At times, the boat has become an outdoor canvas for artists to display their work. One favorite painting, depicted here, is of an orca mother and her calf by wildlife artist Tiffany Maser. Noted one local, “Sometimes it’s tough to see such good work get repainted, but that’s the Folly Boat. She’s there for everybody.”