Private efforts to find new spot for boat well underway

By Bill Davis | Contributing Writer

It has been said that when the people will lead, the leaders will follow. If that’s so, then everyone better get behind local realtor Eric Draper.

For years, Draper has been chronicling the paintings displayed on the Folly Boat in pictures, and then posting those photographs on his website for all to see.

That practice came to a halt last year when a major storm unmoored the boat from its spot along Folly Road, and took it out into the nearby marshes, crashing it into one man’s dock.

And it sat there since, as city officials debated paying for its removal, repair, and re-placing it  its former spot.

But as expense, effort, and time began to mount, it became clear what was City hall’s mantra: a storm brought it to Folly and a storm took it away. It seemed fated to remain out to sea, as it were.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin, while relieved he doesn’t have to deal with the headache, is glad someone is championing the reclamation.

“My daughter painted it once, ‘Welcome Home, Charlotte,’ after I got married and brought my wife down here, and then her and her friend guarded it all day to make sure no one painted over it,” says Goodwin.

Enter Draper, who has begun a Save the Folly Boat organization, and begun a GoFundMe page to raise public interest and the money needed to haul the boat, weld it fixed, and then transport it to a different, privately-owned spot further up the street at 1839 Folly Road.

In addition to championing and chronicling the boat, Draper has also painted it. Once, he piggybacked on someone else who had painted a “Happy Birthday” message on it for their loved one. Draper painted his stepson’s name over part of it the next day and then ran him down to see all his hard work.

Speaking of hard work, Draper has already lined up a welder and a crane company, if needed.

Draper says he hopes the welder who’s agreed to do the work on the massive, 35-foot-long steel boat for a reduced rate, will be able to get the boat seaworthy again. He doesn’t know its exact weight, and guesstimates it’s covered with “36 gazillion gallons of paint.”

That way, instead of spending over $10,000 to crane it out of the marsh, he can just float it to a boat dock and borrow someone “big as all get-out” boat trailer and just haul it

Raising the money probably won’t be the hard part. While the total amount needed to fix and transport the boat is a moving target, there is no doubt of the public affection for it.

Last month, there were already more than 3,000 “likes” on its Facebook pages, and over half of the initial $2,500 goal had already been raised in a few short weeks.

And the reach of affection isn’t just locals, as a Myrtle Beach school teacher recently dropped a $250 donation, even.

Once the boat is in place, on a small 0.33-acre triangular spit of land, there will be ongoing financial needs. Draper and the land’s owner, Rex Plimpton, have agreed on a $100 monthly rent for the spot.

“We’ve been talking to Eric (Draper) for months now, back and forth,” says Plimpton, who surfs on Folly when not tending to a family snow-tubing business in the North Carolina mountains.

Plimpton, a James Island resident, plans to build a “twice the ice” dispensing machine there, too, and install a couple of parking spots for shoppers and painters. He sees it as a “win-win” for him and the boat, with both efforts bolstering the other.

Draper is working on getting the insurance locked down for the effort, as someone could sue if they climbed on the boat, fell, and twisted their ankle.

Another potential headache Draper will take on from the mayor is handling what happens when racist, or otherwise inflammatory messages are scrawled across the boat.

Unlike when the city was overseeing the boat, it could be on private land and managed by a private entity, which means access to it could be more strictly controlled.

But Draper expects the nature of the boat and how often it gets painted will take care of most problems like that, and has no plans to restrict access.

“There are some times the boat would be painted five times a day.”

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