Jean Varda, Alan Watts & The S.S. Vallejo Ferry in Sausalito
We see lots of press on two of Sausalito’s most famous houseboats, the Taj Mahal and Forbes Island. But the two most famous boats in 20th Century Sausalito history are both retired ferries: the S.S. Vallejo and the S.S. Charles Van Damme.
Greek-French Artist Jean Varda, who was part of the Paris salons of the 1920’s with Picasso, Hemingway, Stein et al, partnered with English artist Gordon Onslow Ford to buy the ferryboat S.S. Vallejo and moor it in Sausalito in 1948, beginning a major expansion of the artist presence on our waterfront.
Philosopher Alan Watts replaced Ford as Varda’s partner in 1961, and ushered in another area of growth in the Sausalito creative community. The Vallejo was used for over 30 years as a private retreat for meetings and events hosted by Varda (who died in 1971 and whose funeral for many signaled the end of an era), Watts (who died in 1973) and several successors.
Seven Degrees of Separation Dept.: During this time Varda taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) one of our Editors’ grandmothers was one of his students.
The Vallejo was fitted with a new fiberglass hull a few years ago and extensively remodeled. It is now a private residence in Sausalito. It is not open to visitors.
Interested in Sausalito history? Check out the Sausalito Historical Society!