One day it’s a wedding announcement, the next it promotes a non-profit with a simple web address, and the next day it is an elaborate work of art. Dubbed the “unofficial ambassador to Folly Beach” by the web site that bears it’s name, the Folly Boat welcomes everyone to the Edge of America.
During 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, the Folly Boat washed ashore in its current location. At the time, it was just another victim of the storm, another sad reminder of the damage and the wreckage that was caused, just another unclaimed, land-locked boat. But the Folly Boat’s location, on the marsh beside Folly Road between the Harris Teeter and Bowens Island Road, was its saving grace. Someone realized that visitors and residents driving onto the island couldn’t help but spot the boat, and its life as a blank canvas was born.
The Folly Boat remains unclaimed, so anyone is able to paint it for any occasion. And paint it they do. Quite often, the boat is decorated one way in the morning and then redecorated by the afternoon. And each message is different both in design and subject matter. Birthdays, birth announcements, causes, businesses, concert or event announcements, or political messages are all painted on. But painters are encouraged to clean up after themselves and to only paint the boat. Painting the road is both illegal and dangerous.
Twenty-three years later, the Folly Boat is quite popular. It was featured on the cover of The Humours of Folly by Ellie Maas Davis and Frank Braden. And FollyBoat.com provides photo galleries of the landmark as it has been painted as far back as 1993. The site accepts submissions and plans to continue growing its collection. But more than its web presence, the Folly Boat is a local landmark, an institution, and an icon.