California city demolishes WWII vessel

For nearly three years the city of Vallejo has been trying to get rid of an unwanted, abandoned boat moored at its marina. While the boat is finally gone, it cost the city a lot of money and cost one man his dream.

In March 2017, an old WWII troop ferry ship called “The Sherman” showed up at the Vallejo Marina. The owners asked if they could berth it for a few days as it awaited renovation at the dry docks at Mare Island to become a floating restaurant. But days turned into weeks and months and years.

“The vessel was just abandoned,” said Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan. “And so we had to go through a huge process to try to remove it from our marina.”

After extensive legal action, it became the city’s property and headache. 32 months later, the Sherman has finally been towed away to be demolished. It cost the city half a million dollars in the process.

As bad as that sounds, Public Works Director Terrance Davis tells KPIX he is just glad the derelict ship didn’t sink.

“It’d be a completely different issue trying to deal with the hazardous materials on that vessel and trying to abate those after it sunk. And the recovery costs of getting that boat back up to the surface,” Davis said.

But the city isn’t the only one paying a hefty price. As long as the Sherman sat there, 80-year-old Doug Wagoner has had his 60-foot commercial barge blocked from leaving the marina.

He says he didn’t squawk when the Sherman was first berthed there, because it was only supposed to be for a few days. But he has been fighting with the city to get it out of his way ever since. Wagoner planned to rent the barge out to earn money for his retirement. Now after three years, he says it’s too late for that.

“You know, they could have done that anytime they wanted to,” Wagoner said. “All they had to do was wait for a high tide and take it out of here, but they chose to let it sit here.”

Wagoner said he’s lost his business insurance and his barge venture is dead. He would like compensation from the city but says he can’t find a lawyer to push the case.

Now, with the Sherman gone, the old ship captain believes he will have to sell everything and leave as well. Wagoner has lived on the water for 60 years, but told KPIX he will likely have to move back to family in Iowa where he thinks he can still afford a place to live.

“You can’t point to any person and say it’s their fault, you know? It’s just…it was a hell of a mess, that’s all,” he said. “It cost everybody. I cost everybody dearly.”

So whatever happened to the boat’s owners? The city says it has a legal team investigating their assets and will try to recover whatever costs they can from them. But there’s no telling whether that will help Wagoner at all.