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The Folly Boat is pictured at Chris John's dock on James Island on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. The boat, which damaged John's dock, was carried away from it's location on Folly Road after Tropical Storm Irma last year. Lauren Petracca/ Staff

Tuesday marks a year since the remnants of Hurricane Irma swept away the Folly Boat, a 20-ton steel and concrete vessel that had served as a community message board for almost three decades. 

In that year, some have moved on. 

Members of a group that wants to move the boat to a new site on private property have made some progress: As of Friday afternoon, they'd raised almost $2,000 on a GoFundMe page, with donations ranging from $5 to $150. That's in addition to more than $1,000 that already had been socked away from selling bumper stickers. 

But the costs associated with placing it in a new location on a triangle of grass between Folly Road, Old Folly Road and Battery Island Drive are many. The boat must be insured in its new location, and a small rent must be paid to the landowner.

The biggest expense, though, is moving it out of the marsh behind Chris John's house on Sol Legare Road. That is expected to involve a crane and cost several thousand dollars. 

John hopes some of the past enthusiasm over the boat will translate into more real-world action. 

"We’re being met with that same old story of a bunch of people are passionate about something, but where is everybody?" John said. "I just want to plead for community support."

Just as the boat was itself a forum that attracted a spectrum of messages, there's a broad range of views on whether the boat should be moved at all. 

"We need to let sleeping boats lie. In with a storm, out with a storm," one observer commented on Facebook. 

"There are definitely some folks who feel like 'Hey, it's time to let it go.' Everybody’s entitled to their personal opinions, and I get it," said Eric Draper, who has spearheaded the fundraising effort to move the vessel with his nonprofit group, Save the Folly Boat. 

At the same time, he said, "There is a lot of popular support for the boat. A lot of people love the boat."

Since Hurricane Hugo swept it to its previous spot next to a marsh along Folly Road in 1989, the Folly Boat became a message board for times of celebration and mourning, sporting marriage proposals and inside jokes. It also was the site of controversy when it was covered a few times last year with images of the Confederate battle flag. 

Before Hugo, the boat was used by employees of Backman's Seafood off Sol Legare Road to plant oysters in the area. David Richardson, a member of the Backman family, said the military surplus boat simply could not be floated again after Hugo swept it away. 

By at least 1991, people were painting the vessel — one of LaJuan Kennedy's first memories of a message on the boat was an advertisement that year for the Folly Float Frenzy. 

"As long as people were respectful with it, it was fun," she said. 

And for years, it was another charming piece of Folly, a tight-knit beach community. Sometimes visitors to the boat stirred up a ruckus by leaving trash in the nearby marsh; a few times, the weight of accumulated paint simply could not hold, sloughing off the boat like skin off a massive reptile. 

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The multiple layers of paint that together are sagging off of the message laden "Folly Boat" are examined by Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin and Kevin Whitsett, the city's director of public works on April 30, 2012. Goodwin said the thick layer of paint that accumulated after many years will be fully peeled off. File/ Staff

But until it left, there was always someone ready to repaint it, sometimes an hour or less after the previous artist. 

The reality that Draper and John are now facing, however, is that Folly Beach and the surrounding community have been without their unofficial message board for a year. Life has moved on.

Apathy isn't the only threat to the boat. John was worrying about a new curveball in the vessel's future as he spoke with the Post and Courier on Friday. 

That day, forecasts indicated it was increasingly possible that Tropical Storm Florence would intensify and affect the East Coast during the next week.

Could yet another storm take the boat on a new journey? 

"The same force that brought it might take it away again," John said. "This thing might bounce all around the Lowcountry." 

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Chris John is pictured with the Folly Boat that washed up on his dock on James Island on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. The boat was carried away from its location on Folly Road after Tropical Storm Irma last year. Lauren Petracca/ Staff

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Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

Chloe Johnson covers the coastal environment and climate change for the Post and Courier. She's always looking for a good excuse to hop on a boat.

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