Snow Hill Council Commits To Bringing Riverboat Back

Snow Hill Council Commits To Bringing Riverboat Back
The Black-Eyed Susan is pictured docked in Snow Hill last summer. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – The town’s riverboat should once again be docked in Snow Hill this summer.

The Black-Eyed Susan (BES), Snow Hill’s riverboat, will return to the county seat after undergoing partial repairs in Norfolk. The boat will need even more work, however, before it can resume its cruises up and down the Pocomoke River.

“Ultimately, a majority of the town council voted in favor of the limited repairs that would keep the BES in service, albeit in a reduced capacity, while efforts are made to fund a full restoration in hopes that the vision that inspired the original purpose can still be realized,” a news release from the Town of Snow Hill reads.

Last week, the council voted 2-1 to proceed with the repairs needed to get the BES back to Snow Hill. Though the boat, purchased in 2020, had a successful season in 2021, an inspection in Norfolk earlier this year revealed it would need extensive repairs in order to resume regular service.

“As it happened, the BES was acquired in year four of a five-year mandated U.S. Coast Guard inspection routine,” the town’s release reads. “Accordingly, the BES was taken to Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, in February where it underwent an extensive inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The thorough inspection revealed multiple issues with the hull, hydraulics system, and paddlewheel frame to the tune of an estimated $604,000 repair estimate, a cost beyond the means of the town’s budget.”

Since then, officials have been exploring potential funding sources. While no financial assistance has been identified yet, officials are hopeful some grants might become available. At the town’s request, the Coast Guard also provided a condensed scope of work that would improve the vessel enough that it could be used as a floating, docked venue. According to town staff it will cost $193,000 for the minimal repairs.

Though the possibility of selling the boat was considered, officials said that was expensive too.

“The town consulted with legal counsel to determine its obligations should they abandon the BES and attempt to sell it on the open market,” the release reads. “That option also proved to be expensive with varying degrees of loan and grant obligations to the participating parties and lingering after-effects regarding future grant opportunities.”

According to municipal officials, residents offered mixed opinions regarding the boat’s future. Shae Von Marsh, a local business owner, said she was excited to see the boat return.

“Seeing this vessel docked in our little town evokes momentous emotion and provides hope that Snow Hill will continue to prosper,” she said. “As a unique attraction, the Black-Eyed Susan increases visitors to our area on the Eastern Shore and we believe that as it grows in popularity and recognition, it will continue to help introduce new people to the charm that Snow Hill has to offer.”

Town officials said the repairs are expected to take a month to complete and the boat should be towed back to Snow Hill shortly thereafter.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.