Small Lifeboat of Big Dreams

Posted on September 17, 2017


In 1989, Hurricane Hugo took a break from its path of major destruction to pick up a random, little lifeboat and deposit it just off Rt 171 on Folly Beach, at the southern end of James Island in Charleston, SC. Some believe that the boat had been used as a coast guard lifeboat during WW II. It was a bit worse for wear, but was still intact.

Attempts were made to find the owner of the boat, but no one stepped forward. There it sat, a small eyesore angled along the roadway leading to the uber-popular beach destination.  It didn’t take long before some enterprising person decided that the little boat would be the perfect personal billboard for him to announce whatever it was that was on his mind.

It’s long-forgotten what that first message was. But throughout the years, the Folly Boat became a witness to countless life events, sports wins and losses, political statements, 9-11 memorials, and a canvas to aspiring artists and graffiti writers. One’s message could be there for days or for minutes, only as long as it took until the next message would appear.

A couple of days before Life in the Boomer Lane’s younger son was to be married, his family gathered to leave their mark on the boat. The result was “M” and “J” with a heart in between and the date 4.18.15, in extravagant spray paint colors. LBL lost count of the times she then drove back and forth past the boat, in order to read the message.  She had to do it quickly, since she knew that this message, like all others that preceded it, was on borrowed time.

The Charleston city government had always considered the boat an eyesore and a nuisance to drivers.  They made occasional noises about moving the boat, but thankfully for countless people, the boat remained.

Then along came Hurricane Irma.  Irma, like Hugo, decided to relocate the little boat. During the hurricane, people Tweeted about the usual storm-centric events, venting fear and frustration. Evacuations and the need to stay safe took up all of people’s focus. Then someone noticed that the Folly Boat was gone. Tweets came fast and furious. The hugeness of the consequences of the hurricane was too much for people to process. But the disappearance of one small boat was not.

The Folly Boat was eventually found, crashed against someone’s dock, on the marsh behind his home. New Tweets came in, expressing relief, with photos of the boat and its current surroundings. Some photos included the new, unintended “owner” of the boat, who doesn’t want it at his house. Charleston says the move would be “costly and dangerous.”  So the boat sits where it is, while people argue about its fate.

Like rings of a tree, if one were to cut through the countless layers of paint, one would travel through the turning points, the passions, and the artistic expressions of countless lives.  LBL’s daughter-in-law is bummed because she was planning to announce her daughter’s first birthday on the boat. Many others were looking forward to announcing their own upcoming life events on the side of the boat.

LBL’s son, a master of putting things into perspective, Tweeted, “Put there by a hurricane. Removed by a hurricane. It’s a great story and I’m happy to be intimately associated with one of those thin layers of paint now forever sealed by other’s memories.”