What once hosted notable figures like Winston Churchill and Leonid Brezhnev — and where historic decisions like the precursor to SALT were made — has now become a nest for raccoons.
The USS Sequoia, which once was used as a presidential yacht, is falling apart and is the subject of a fierce legal fight over ownership.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the yacht is no longer the “floating White House” where Richard Nixon reached a high point of his presidency (discussing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev) and a low point (deciding to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal).
The USS Sequoia was purchased in 1931, initially to serve as a floating sting operation against alcohol smugglers. However, it soon found itself used by President Herbert Hoover for fishing (the President once used it to sail to Florida – not something that would likely happen today).
Two years later, the Commerce Department handed the Sequoia to the Navy, and it became the presidential yacht, replacing the USS Mayflower, which was decommissioned in 1929. It remained in service until President Jimmy Carter auctioned the vessel off for $286,000 in 1977.
Afterwards, it served on a private charter, but was still used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to host events.
Today, the condition of the boat is shocking. While it is drydocked in Deltaville, Virginia, the vessel has not received any maintenance. A family of raccoons have taken residence in the vessel, eating some of the ship’s keepsake candy bars and the ship might not even make it through this winter.
“The status of the vessel is we need to protect it immediately, get it through the winter. Currently, she is stressed,” Matthew Vilbas, the captain of the vessel, told CBS. “There [were] a few rooms where the animals defecated on carpets, including presidential carpets where presidents spent time with their families and foreign and national persons.”
It was Vilbas who discovered the family of raccoons using an American flag as a nest. Vilbas is desperate for the legal situation to get resolved.
“I spent hours, days, evenings with and without family on board in what I felt has been a great honor to serve and provide experiences for many different persons. And when you spend that time on her, it becomes an extension of yourself,” he told CBS.
Even after the legal ownership is resolved, it will take millions of dollars to fix the vessel. Whoever owns it will also have to locate enough shipwrights who are knowledgable about classical wood building techniques.
It reportedly could take as much as 10,000 hours to fix the ship.