The Issaquah



1970 - The Issaquah

The old Issaquah was one of the very first locations that caught my attention, along with the Charles Van Damme ferry, late in 1969 and early in 1970 when I first arrived at the houseboat community at Waldo Point. This happened during one of my very first trips across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. After going through the tunnel built through a hillside that had a colorful RAINBOW painted around it's curved entrance, then driving over Waldo Grade on my way into Sausalito, I had the immediate feeling that something VERY special might be about to happen. Seeing the Charles Van Damme ferryboat along the Sausalito waterfront, and the Issaquah, a wonderful old riverboat off to the side and out behind it confirmed this gut feeling. Something special WAS happening and I knew that I was meant to drive into the parking lot in front of the Van Damme, get out of my vehicle and check things out. I felt that I had just entered an area that I can only describe as special, even MAGICAL. I felt that I was somehow meant to be at this incredible location doing something special. It wasn't until later that I figured out that, yes, in fact, I was meant to be here and I really was going to do something special.

The Issaquah was the very first drawing I created at Waldo Point using my "sepia pen & ink wash technique." As I watched the tide coming in, and saw water filling in the boat in the foreground that was leaned over on its side, the reflections got better and better. This, combined with seeing the Issaquah in the background with its two large smokestacks pointing towards the sky sandwiched between it's two pilot houses made the scene in front of me somewhat surreal. What could the word REDLEGS, painted on the side of the Issaquah, possibly mean? I would soon find out. This scene, created in 1970, was the first of twelve scenes I would create as part of my Master's project for San Francisco State College leading to my Master's Degree in Creative Arts in 1972.

The Issaquah ran the line from Rodeo to Vallejo over the Carquinez Straits. In 1929, the Carquinez Auto Bridge ended the need for ferry service and the ferryboat Issaquah. World War II brought her back into service to bring workers to the Mare Island shipyard. Finally, in 1948, the Issaquah was placed out of service, purchased by Argues for $1,000. and moved to his shipyard at Waldo Point. Her engine and other valuables were removed and she was then used as a houseboat on Argues' property. While I was at the community between 1970 & 1978 various people were living in each of the pilot houses. Eventually, (and thankfully AFTER I left the community in 1978 during the houseboat wars) she was completely demolished for safety reasons etc. The only things to survive are the pilot houses that now stand at the entrance to Galilee Harbor.

When I initially saw the word REDLEGS on the side of the Issaquah, which I included in my ink wash drawing, I had no idea what the word meant. Soon after spending ome time at the community, while working on my new series of drawings, I heard music coming from the Oakland and went over to check it out as many others were doing. immediately found out that the Redlegs was the local band representing the houseboat community. As their leader Joe Tate put it best "The Redlegs band began in 1970 at Sausalito, California, in the Waldo Point houseboat scene. The place was described variously as an artists' colony, a commune, a dangerous anarchy and the lair of pirates, and the Redleg's music reflected and gave expression to these aspects of life on the waterfront. Oh yeah, and it was fun too." When I attended my first Redlegs party on the Charles Van Damme, where all the beer you could drink was a donation of only $2.00 and included lots of great music, with some occasional nudity thrown in I knew I was meant to be there to become involved in this special community, and record what this area looked like in my own unique way. Flashing ahead to the present, it has been over four decades since the Redlegs first started playing together. I was recently pleased when I heard from Joe Tate that all five of the original members of the group had reunited, were doing occasional shows. launching a website, and were in the early stages of working on a new recording project. ROCK ON Joe Tate, Maggie Catfish, Jeff Costello, Kim Carrigg & Joey Brennan. I was energized in positive ways each time I heard you play on board the Ark decades ago and felt good being a part of that incredible mixed community. I feel VERY fortunate to have been introduced by Shel Silverstein to members of the community such as Larry Moyer, who is now known as the "father of the waterfront," and soft spoken poet & philosopher Piro Caro, among others back in 1970. This chance meeting with Shel out behind the old San Rafael ferry truly changed my life forever in so many positive & creative ways.


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Please contact artist John A. Kendall if you would like a custom size: jakendall@kendallink.com or 603-763-3295.