San Diego

Chula Vista Marina Asks Owner of 100-Year-Old Wooden Boat to Find It a New Home

A 100-year-old wooden boat rich with history needs a new place to call home.

Renfrew, built in Washington in 1919, is described as a “Victorian home that floats.” It sits in a slip in the Chula Vista Marina where Paula Matthei, one of its owners, lives on board.

Three days ago, the marina served Mathei with an eviction notice.

Matthei said the marina is concerned the 65-foot vessel will sink. She admits the boat shows its age, and that the recent wet winter was pretty hard on it, but said that it’s far from a liability.

“A boat in dire shape would be gushing water from her bilge pumps,” Matthei said. “She’s not. Do you see any pumps gushing water? No.”

Matthei and her husband Ed Pieters have owned the boat since 1991. Together they've spent nearly $300,000 over the years keeping it in shape. Pieters fell ill recently and maintenance became an afterthought. To pay for assisted living they sold their home, and two years ago, Matthei started living on the boat. Now, she’s packing up her belongings and preparing for life on dry land.

Matthei is hoping the marina will give her more time to find a home for Renfrew. She is looking into whether a foundation or museum could adopt it, or maybe someone who could restore the boat to its original beauty.

The marina maintains that the boat is, in fact, a liability and officials say Rendfrew’s time at the marina is up.

“They’re focusing on her age,” Mathei said. “They say she’s 100 years old. She’s sinking, she needs to be gone. Everything that is one hundred years old, does it need to be disposed of?”

A representative for the Chula Vista Marina issued a response regarding the dispute:

“The nearly 100 year old wooden vessel in question has deteriorated to the point where she does not comport with the marina's standards for vessel condition, and serious concerns have arisen as to her seaworthiness and safety.”

The response goes on to say, “Due to the poor condition of the vessel, the marina became obliged to, and did lawfully terminate the License Agreement."

If a new home is not found, Mathei fears that Renfrew will be decommissioned, which she calls “the euphemism for cutting her up into small pieces and putting her in a dumpster.”

Mathei and her husband are currently being advised by an attorney who says that the dispute could find its way to court if a resolution isn’t found.

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