AUGUST 29, 1996

MANNS HARBOR -- Ten state prisoners are doing their time in Dare County by scraping thick barnacles off state ferries and tugboats.

Just across the Croaton Sound from Manteo, prison inmates are working five to six days a week helping the ferry division of the N.C. Department of Transportation keep their vessel bottoms in tip top shape.

"Cleaning barnacles off boat bottoms is an undesirable, intensive, manual labor job," David Pharr, maintenance supervisor at the Mann's Harbor Shipyard said. "Using inmate labor has freed state personnel to do more skilled jobs, saving taxpayer dollars."

Barnacles not only slow the speed of a vessel, causing more fuel consumption, but they also suffocate the bottom paint.

A number of well known boats are sent to the shipyard including the replica of the 50-foot boat in which members of the Lost Colony sailed, the Elizabeth II. In July, the James Baxter Hunter, Jr. ferry arrived for its biannual maintenance and is now back at sea taking passengers to Currituck and Knotts Island.

Tugboats, barges, ferries and marine fisheries boats are hauled from a submerged platform to a type of railroad track which carries the boats to their temporary resting spots. The shipyard rotates boats in and out on a regularly scheduled basis, working on more boats in the winter when usage is less. The Department of Transportation has 25 ferries in its operations.

In addition to scraping barnacles, inmates are assigned tasks such as cleaning restrooms, mowing grass, sandblasting, cleaning bilges or picking up trash.

The 10 Department of Correction inmates are housed at the Dare County jail. They have been scraping barnacles for the transportation department for the past 19 months.