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Sandy Island: Dock work changes course of school boat’s maiden voyage

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A new Sandy Island school boat was due to sail at the start of the new school year this morning, but its first trip was to Reserve Harbor Marina rather than Sandy Island Landing.

The New Prince Washington is a 26-foot pontoon boat ordered by the state Department of Education in June to replace the steel-hulled, diesel-powered boat that has carried students from Sandy Island across the Waccamaw River for nearly 50 years. The new boat has handicapped access and heaters. But its deck sits closer to the water than the old boat and docking at Sandy Island Landing would mean the dozen students, some as young as 5 or 6, would have to climb a ladder, Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

The school district and Georgetown County, which owns the landings on the island and the mainland, plan to extend the floating docks to accommodate the New Prince Washington. Those docks also need shore power to charge the batteries that will operate the heaters. “We’re going to share this endeavor,” Dozier said. He didn’t have a cost estimate, but said “regardless of what it is, it has to be done.”

The $124,500 school boat arrived at Hazzard Marine in Georgetown two weeks ago. It was built by Florida Marine Trading Co. to resemble the old boat. It’s been inspected and certified by the Coast Guard, along with the captain, co-captain and mate, Dozier said.

The dock renovations should be done by the middle of next week, he said. In the meantime, he arranged with Reserve Harbor Marina for temporary dockage. If that hadn’t worked out, the original Prince Washington was still available, Dozier said.

The new boat is also expected to provide access for Sandy Island residents. Georgetown County is seeking grants to fund extra trips. But those also depend on dock access. “We have to get the boat in service before we take any trips,” Dozier said.

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