A stroll across the lawn and paths of the newly created Waldo Point Park at Bridgeway and Gate 6 Road will take you over the historic resting place of the Charles Van Damme ferry, a 1916 side paddle wheeler that, in its heyday, ferried people, cattle, cargo, and cars to ports between Richmond, Marin, Benicia, and Martinez. Her seafaring days ended in 1956 and she was beached at Waldo Point in 1960. The shoreline of Richardson Bay became her new home, and another life for the Charles Van Damme was only just beginning.
From 1960 to the early 1980’s, the Charles Van Damme became a haven for artists, musicians, and dreamers. From 1960 to 1963, Juanita Musson created her legendary Juanita’s Galley and brought unusual dining onboard. The “Ark” Nightclub took up residence in the late 1960’s as a venue hosting acts from greats like Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and Santana. While once carrying people and their cars across the Bay, the Charles Van Damme was now ferrying the creative journeys of writers, painters, poets, sculptors, dancers, and musicians throughout the Sausalito waterfront and Marin.
By 1983, the Charles Van Damme had become badly deteriorated, and the County ordered its demolition. Only the paddle wheel and smokestack survived. The good news is that there is an effort to restore these artifacts and construct a Charles Van Damme exhibit at Waldo Point Park.
Since 2006, co-founders Judyth Greenburgh and Dona Schweiger (two homeowners on Main Dock) plus accomplished local architect Michael Rex, have been telling the story and honoring the history of the Charles Van Damme by creating plans for a permanent informational exhibit with her iconic paddlewheel and smokestack. Currently, a major effort is underway to raise the funds to restore the artifacts and complete the construction of the exhibit.
The exhibit will tell the entire story of the Charles Van Damme to our residents and to the many who visit this world-famous houseboat community—all at the same location where she spent several decades as an important piece of Marin’s waterfront history. By reminding us of this unique locale, the exhibit will pay respect to a bygone maritime era, the transitional counter-culture history of the 1960’s and 70’s, and the ongoing waterfront life surrounding the arts and creative pursuits.
We need your help. The plans are complete, the exhibit’s location is confirmed, and the building permits are secured; all that is needed now is a dedicated and experienced volunteer fundraiser/planner to lead a fundraising team of volunteers to ferry this project to shore. We encourage individuals and/or organizations in the Sausalito houseboat community and beyond, who have a background in fundraising and an interest in the maritime and counter-culture history of this unique spot, to take on the challenge and be part of our crew for this fundraising effort. We are under the sponsorship of The Richardson Bay Maritime Association (RBMA), a non-profit 501(c)(3). For more details and information about the Charles Van Damme exhibit and becoming a fundraiser for this community restoration effort, please visit our website. Contact Dona through the website or directly with any inquiries about joining the fundraising team and offers to come aboard to lend a hand.