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Pirate ship pulled from Wateree River

Posted: September 8, 2011 5:14 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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The “Black Heart,” a 50-foot-long, pirate-themed boat built by two men from Camden, was originally intended to be used for tours along the Wateree River. Due to several complaints, however, the boat is now being dismantled per the request of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

The Wateree River Pirates have likely taken their final voyage. Only weeks after constructing a 50-foot-long, pirate-themed boat for use along the Wateree River, Matt McCaskill and Colt Shirley were forced to take apart the ship they essentially built from scratch.

“As soon as we got it done, they put signs all over it saying we had to have it gone in 30 days,” Shirley said. The boat was built by the two men with virtually no electricity along a sandbar under I-20 near Exit 98. 

According to Cpt. William Poole with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Law Enforcement Division in Florence, the placement of the ship was in violation of several statutes, including the S.C. Public Waters Nuisance Abatement Act, which prohibits structures from being built along public waterways.

”We also received about 12 to 15 complaints,” Poole said. “The biggest complaint was that it was an eye-sore and other people were saying that if someone could go down there and build that structure, then what’s going to stop somebody else from building another building or something else in the bed of the river.”

 The S.C. Public Waters Nuisance Abatement Act, outlined in State Law Sections 49-30-10 through 49-30-90, typically deals with so-called “river shacks,” which are floating structures built along lakes and rivers. According to Mark Plowden, communications director for the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, the pirate ship was also in violation of the law.   

“DNR has had some problems with river shacks in the past and their role is to identify such problems,” Plowden said. “They are responsible for identifying the problems and sending the file to the Attorney General’s Office to contemplate action. But as we understand, the pirate ship is in the process of being dismantled and we have every expectation that it will be fully removed pursuant to state law. Also, from what I understand, the two gentlemen who own the structure have been very cooperative to this point.”

While it was a disappointment for McCaskill and Shirley, they were actually able to make a few official trips in the ship. Their original plans, however, included weekend tours in the boat, which was nicknamed the “Black Heart.” The tours were to include rides along the Wateree, a fresh fruit breakfast and games like chess, checkers and volleyball along the river’s sandbars.

According to Shirley, the business seemed to be picking up, but due to the calls to DNR, the boat had to be taken out of the public’s view.

“We took it down the river and started dismantling it. We had to take it out of there,” Shirley said. “But I actually had a few people call me the other day including a woman who wanted to reserve a large party of people to come down there. A bunch of people were starting to call up because they wanted to have a spot on there and go cruising on the ship, but now it’s gone.”

At the time the initial plans were developing for the tours, McCaskill and Shirley said they wanted to help others enjoy the river as much as they do. For the two men from Camden, that goal still exists.

“We’re still going to rent kayaks to people and let people camp out on the sandbar. So we’ll still have kayak trips, but there just won’t be a ship involved. We’ve got our business license and everything so we can still rent stuff out and have a good time,” Shirley said.

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