SNOW HILL – Snow Hill officials agreed this week to sell the town’s riverboat to the owner of the River House Inn.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept Mayor Michael Pruitt’s recommendation to sell the Black-Eyed Susan to Henry Wright for $75,000.
“Mr. Wright owns the River House Inn bed & breakfast just on the other side of the drawbridge and plans to dock the Black-Eyed Susan there and make it an entertainment venue,” Town Manager Rick Pollitt said.
The town purchased the Black-Eyed Susan, a 149-passenger riverboat, in 2020 with the help of a $400,000 loan from Worcester County. The boat had a successful season running up and down the Pocomoke River in 2021 but a mandatory inspection in 2022, however, revealed that the vessel needed extensive repairs in order to resume cruises. The inspection revealed numerous repairs, estimated at $600,000, were needed. As a result, the Black-Eyed Susan has been docked ever since.
After issuing a request for proposals (RFP) last month, the town received three bids for the boat. Wright bid $75,000 while Bay Coastal Contracting bid $20,000 and Slaughter Creek Marina bid $24,800. At its meeting Oct. 10, the council voted unanimously to accept the bid from Wright.
According to Wright’s RFP submission, he believes the riverboat will be a great addition to the River House Inn, a property he purchased with business partners about a year ago.
“In our collective imagination, we can hear the melodies of live music, see the joyous sway of dancers, and witness our cherished guests savoring delectable meals beneath the summer’s starry skies, all while basking in the enchantment of the Pocomoke River,” reads a letter included in the RFP response. “Out intention is to transform the Black-Eyed Susan into a delightful restaurant and event venue that welcomes the public.”
Wright and his staff have been in communication with the Town of Snow Hill and the Coast Guard regarding the requirements to move the Black-Eyed Susan to the bulkhead at Wright’s property on Market Street.
“Assuming the engines are operable, which is what is believed, a captain (Jim Washington has been approached to provide names of previous captains who are familiar with the vessel) will be hired to move the vessel from its current location through the drawbridge to 201 E. Market St.,” the RFP response reads. “The Town of Snow Hill has investigated whether the vessel can indeed fit through the drawbridge and all has been confirmed that indeed it does fit.”
If the engines don’t work, Wright intends to hire a tow to move the boat.
Pollitt said the town’s lawyer was working on a contract with Wright.
“Our attorney is working on a contract of sale now describing all the obligations of the buyer to accept the boat and take the process forward,” he said.
He added, however, that the boat would not be leaving its current location in the immediate future.
“As he needs to rebuild his own dock area, he proposes to keep the boat where it is and pay the town a fee for dockage and electricity,” Pollitt said.
He said Wright had advised that the boat could be there for months still because permits were needed to build a pier.
“We’re told it could take him 6 to 8 months to get the required permits and another 4 to 6 weeks to construct his dock so we will be seeing it here for a while still,” Pollitt said. “We are requiring that settlement take place by the end of October. After that, all responsibility for the boat will be in Mr. Wright’s hands and there will be no further obligation on the part of the Town except to continue to repay the $300,000 still due Worcester County for the original loan that purchased the boat.”