Moving the Folly Boat has become, in some ways, its own folly.
First, the 50-foot vessel that crashed into Chris John's dock during Tropical Storm Irma last year weighs at least 20 tons — at least that's the estimate of some engineers John hired. It's made of steel, and it's filled with cement.
Removing it will require a crane. Transporting it back to Folly Road by water isn't feasible, John said, because of holes in the back of the boat and the risk that it might sink, creating an environmental mess. That means potentially ripping out a few trees and a fence to create a path out of John's yard, onto Sol Legare Road.
Finally, the boat needs a place to land, and an insurance policy, too, in case an accident happens nearby.
"(It) has been a pretty slow process," John said. "It hasn't been so easy."
For decades after Hurricane Hugo swept the Folly Boat to its former resting place next to Folly Road in 1989, it's been a sounding board for the community, painted and re-painted with political slogans, declarations of love and other messages.
The process of re-creating a landmark that has exemplified Folly Beach's funky, close-knit vibe has dragged on for months, as both John and Eric Draper, founder of Save the Folly Boat, have struggled to set up new arrangements in their spare time.
And it's taken a lot of time. A public spot in Folly's right of way became complicated and unworkable as the S.C. Department of Transportation drafted a long list of preconditions. The boat backers then looked toward privately owned sites.
After property owners near a spot by the Folly Creek Bridge objected, Draper said a new site was located on a triangle of grass a bit farther north, at the spot between Folly Road, Old Folly Road and Battery Island Drive.
The boat is now being included in the property owner's plan to put a food truck and ice cooler there, which means its placement is pending Charleston County's approval of a site plan, Draper said.
Assuming that site works out, there's still the issue of cost. Draper said he'd initially lined up a crane operator who had offered to move the boat for free, but that person since left town. John's also hoping to be paid for some of the damage that will be done to his yard when the boat is moved through.
Meanwhile, there would be financial burdens associated with the new site: a $100 monthly rent and an insurance policy to indemnify the owner of the land, Draper said.
So far, Save the Folly Boat has raised about $1,000, mostly from the sale of bumper stickers. Those interested in buying one can find more information on their Facebook page.
A Go Fund Me fundraising page is in the works, but had not been set up as of Wednesday morning. Draper was unsure of how the group might find funding into perpetuity to cover the rent and insurance costs, but said he and others plan to approach local businesses to see if they might support the cause.
Draper, a real estate agent by trade, is new to the process of organizing a charity and soliciting donations. The city of Folly Beach has essentially dropped the matter and is not planning to offer financial or logistical help, Mayor Tim Goodwin said.
"We’re just normal citizens trying to do something neat," Draper said.
The Folly Boat is a long-beloved symbol of the community, and one that many people mourned after Irma. Over the years, it was painted with birth announcements and marriage proposals.
Like all venues for public discussion, however, it also got mired in controversy at times: In the months before Irma swept the boat across the marsh, Confederate battle flags were painted on its hull multiple times.
That sparked a cycle: Others rushed to cover up the images, and then supporters of the flag returned to paint it again. At one point, those who wanted to paint the flag and those who wanted to paint over the flag faced off on the roadside, arguing. Police were called in.
Not everyone is in a rush for the boat to return. Just as it arrived in a storm, some in Folly see its departure as a sign it should be left where it is, suggesting that it's best remembered for the years it's already been enjoyed.
John acknowledges that whenever the boat is relocated, it won't be the same. But, he argued, it could be better.
"I think it’ll be even greater, because it will kind of expand the journey … that the boat has been on for all these years," John said.