SNOW HILL– Snow Hill’s riverboat will likely be docked for the summer as it awaits repairs.
A Coast Guard inspection in Norfolk revealed extensive repairs were needed on the Black-Eyed Susan, the riverboat the Town of Snow Hill purchased in 2020. Jim Washington, the riverboat’s operator, says he’s waiting to hear how the town plans to proceed.
“They found more work than we anticipated,” he said. “I don’t know enough yet to say what’s going to happen.”
The town purchased the riverboat in the fall of 2020 after being approached by Tom Perlozzo, who was at the time the county’s director of tourism, economic development and recreation and parks, with the possibility of buying the boat to encourage economic growth in Snow Hill. Though some of the Worcester County Commissioners expressed concerns about what they felt was a rushed proposal that hadn’t been properly vetted, in a 5-2 vote they agreed to provide the town with a $400,000 no-interest loan to buy the boat.
After spending several months undergoing repairs at Murtech Marine, the Black-Eyed Susan began offering cruises down the Pocomoke River in August. At the close of the 2021 season, the boat was taken out of the water for routine inspection.
“The paddleboat is currently in Norfolk for inspection and tune up which is required by the U.S. Coast Guard every five years,” Snow Hill Mayor Jennifer Jewell told the Worcester County Commissioners March 1. “We just happened to purchase the boat in the fourth year. The Black-Eyed Susan will return shortly for the 2022 season.”
Though cruises were set to begin in April, county staff confirmed this week that the boat would need repairs before resuming cruises. It would reportedly take about $300,000 in repairs to put the boat in sufficient condition to be towed back to Snow Hill and docked to serve as a floating restaurant. It would take about $600,000 in repairs to ensure the paddleboat was fully operational.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the Town of Snow Hill acknowledged the issues with the boat.
“Preliminary reports indicate that a wide range of issues have been discovered covering the boat’s structure and engines, many of which would not have been found when the boat was inspected in the water prior to purchase,” the statement reads. “At present, the Town is engaged in discussions with the shipyard and the United States Coast Guard to develop an affordable plan that would return the Black-Eyed Susan to Snow Hill and the Pocomoke River in time for the summer 2022 season. The Town recognizes that the lack of a definitive date for return-to-service is placing Washington’s Inc., the paddlewheel’s tenant, in a difficult position for booking events and is working diligently with all parties to bring the process to a satisfactory conclusion.”