RICHMOND -- The SS Red Oak Victory retired long ago, but it's still in rough waters.
After eluding a head-on challenge in July by a city councilman who wanted the ship to pay rent for docking, the ship has been knocked out of commission by sewage and electrical problems for its major events.
The monthly pancake breakfast fundraiser held on the World War II ship's deck and onboard events during the Oct. 12-13 Home Front Festival are both canceled.
"We're not able to participate in the Home Front Festival this year," said Richmond Museum Association President Lois Boyle, who is in charge of the ship. "We don't have the space, electrical service or sanitation systems."
The space near the ship's dock and the sewer systems are both limited by new construction at the Riggers Loft, a nearby WWII-era building set to be refurbished into a port security operations building.
The electricity is out because of the construction and because city inspectors last month deemed it not up to code, soon after the rent flap.
But Boyle said the short-term problems will benefit the ship long term.
"We are hoping to get new systems for sanitation and electricity and a reconstructed neighbor," Boyle said. "It's a win-win situation."
Boyle added that for the next 10 to 12 months, the ship will have an "awkward" situation, as it won't be open for major events and fundraisers but will still be open for daily National Park Service
"We hope to be open for the (2013) Home Front Festival," Boyle said.
The World War II cargo ship was built in Richmond in 1944 and is stationed at the city's port as a floating museum.
The ship is among the popular attractions of the city's Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which preserves numerous sites along the shorefront and in the inner city. The Museum Association consists of volunteers who have helped restore the ship.
In July, Councilman Corky Booze called on the association to pay rent and back rent, but his proposals were rejected by the council. Booze also gave a public presentation showing a seemingly dilapidated and possibly dangerous shorefront area, including the Riggers Loft. Soon after, a city inspection resulted in a cease-and-desist order regarding the Red Oak's electrical power system.
Boyle said Booze had nothing to do with the current situation.
"Our service is from the Riggers Loft, and it has to be disconnected as the contractors work," Boyle said.
Councilman Tom Butt, who tussled with Booze over the Riggers Loft project, said Booze brought the heat on the Red Oak.
"For a long time, there was kind of a live and let live thing going on down there," Butt said. "But Corky intimidated the port and the city people to go down there and look at this with a critical eye."
"Tom got his way with the Riggers Loft, and this is what happens," Booze said. "The utilities were illegally put out there in the first place, without permits, and to work on the Riggers Loft now they have to cut that power."
Felix Hunziker, a resident and regular attendee of the monthly pancake breakfasts on the ship, said he shares Boyle's hopes that the construction will work out for the best but added that the ship's retirement is not exactly peaceful.
"This is part of the battle between Corky and Tom," Hunziker said. "The Red Oak is caught in the middle."