Time is running out for a local group aiming to save the iconic Charles Van Damme ferry, or what’s left of it, anyway, as the remaining parts of the ship are scheduled to be demolished on August 15th if the group fails to raise another $45,000. Most of the boat was destroyed by bulldozers in 1983, leaving only the enormous paddle wheel and steam stack, which have stayed to this day along the shoreline near Sausalito. Organizers of the Charles Van Damme Ferry Project are hoping to move the remaining pieces and launch an exhibit to honor the ship’s colorful history.
Originally constructed in 1916, the Van Damme was first used to ferry people, cattle and cars between Richmond and San Rafael. The ferry route ended in the mid-50s and the ship was moved just north of Sausalito, where its remnants remain today. Since then the Van Damme has been used as a restaurant and most ntably as an after-hours club called the Ark, a favored hangout for influential rock musicians of the 1960s including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana and the Grateful Dead. The boat also appeared in a 1965 Jimmy Stewart / Brigette Bardot film called “Dear Brigette.” The Van Damme was condemned as a fire and safety hazard in the 70s, and has sat vacant since despite ambitious plans to turn the ship into a library, community center or youth hostel, all of which fell through because of lack of funding.
According to Charles Van Damme Ferry Project co-founder Dona Schweiger, organizers have raised enough money to move the Van Damme’s steam stack, but another $45,000 is needed to move the paddle wheel. The group is making one last push to raise the funds they need before the August 15th deadline, set by developers planning a park for the land the boat’s remnants occupy near Waldo Point Harbor. For more information about the Charles Van Damme Ferry Project, or to donate to the effort, Click Here.