VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — A ship captain says the city of Vallejo has created an obstacle to his business that he literally can’t get past, and he may sue because of it.
For 20 years, Doug Wagoner has lived and worked on a small cluster of boats at the back of the Vallejo Marina. At 80 years old, the retired fisherman survives on a fixed income. A while back he purchased a 60-foot commercial barge that he planned to rent out to supplement his income.
“It was just a short time after I bought this — like a month or so — when they put THAT there,” Wagoner explained, pointing down the dock at a huge WWII-era troop ferryboat named the Sherman.
Over the years, the Sherman had served as a floating restaurant in various ports including Jack London Square in Oakland. The owners convinced Vallejo to allow it to berth at the marina while waiting to be dry-docked.
But the ship is so big, there’s not enough room in the channel for Wagoner’s barge to get past it.
“That’s only 20 feet wide and this is 28 feet wide,” said Wagoner.
Initially, Wagoner wasn’t worried because the Sherman was only supposed to be there for two weeks. But weeks turned into months and more months. And now, after more than two years, Wagoner is still trapped.
“They brought it here. They left it here and for two years and two months, they just stonewalled me,” Wagoner told KPIX. “When I asked ‘em about it, they say, ‘We’re working on it, we’re working on it.'”
The owners have abandoned the Sherman. It sits rusting in the mud, plastered with warnings and court orders that have been ignored. The derelict boat is now Vallejo’s problem.
Wagoner says scrapping it will cost hundred of thousands of dollars, money the city doesn’t have. So for now, it’s staying right where it is, leaving Wagoner’s barge business waiting at the dock.
“That just killed any hopes that I had for this,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t…I can’t do anything with it. I can’t even sell it, can’t give it away…nothing. Because what are they going to do with it? They can’t get it out of here!”
At one point, the city offered to buy the barge for $50,000, but Wagoner says barges like his rent for more than $300 per day. He he figures he’s lost several hundred thousand dollars in income since the arrival of the Sherman.
Wagoner said he will pursue a claim against the city if he can find a lawyer who will help him with the case. He says he knows the city wants the boat removed as much as he does. But they allowed it to dock there and he feels they should take responsibility for it.
No one from the city would speak on camera about the matter, but the Mayor has reportedly said Vallejo is seeking bids to find out what it will cost to have the boat removed from the marina.