Controversy Continues for Avalon Repair Barge

repair barge at Avalon

The Log ran a story by Marisa O’Neil a week ago (Avalon takes another look at large barge) about the new repair barge that owner Robert Sherrill has anchored off the Casino in Avalon. At issue is the height of the barge, which at three stories has prompted many in Avalon to complain that it is an eyesore.

Now the LA Times’ Nancy Wride has written an article with some additional detail: New barge roils water in Avalon. From the latter story:

Sherrill’s Marine Services has been a fixture of Catalina for decades. His father bought the barge in the late 1950s from a guy named “Smitty” — and even then it was old, Sherrill said. The Sherrill family had a Long Beach boat repair business, but also spent summers at Avalon Harbor in what was then a seasonal business. From the age of 11, Robert Sherrill worked on the barge and often slept on its spartan cots. In 1984, he bought the barge from his father.

At first, Sherrill’s family lived in an Avalon condo, but he sold it a few years ago and moved to Temecula. He decided to move back, he said, after the business became a full-time venture and a partner couldn’t run it anymore. But now his family can’t afford any property on the island, Sherrill said.

He said the workers on whom the island depends can no longer afford to live there. As for worries that a lot of people will suddenly start living in the harbor, Sherrill said they’re nonsense because of the cost of Avalon moorings, many of which sell for more than $1 million.

Sherrill said he made his plans clear from the start, telling the harbor master about the construction and about his intention to move his wife, two teenagers and dog on board, into an 800-square-foot, third-floor apartment. He said he described his plan to split the 800-square-foot second floor into three units to house visiting mechanics and boat captains who staff the business’ 24-hour vessel assistance service and help tackle ballooning demand in warmer months.

Harbor Master Bray disputes this, saying that Sherrill told him the bottom two floors would be repair and vessel rescue offices, and the top floor would be for on-call boat captains and mechanics. No one is living on the boat now, however.

In November, the City Council held a public hearing on whether to pull Sherrill’s Marine Services’ permit. It voted not to do so, instead ordering Sherrill to work with the harbor commission to improve the look of the new barge. The council barred anyone from living on the vessel until Sherrill and the commission reach an agreement.

For now, the barge’s interior remains unfinished. Sherrill and his family, according to Sherrill, are living in close quarters on a 40-foot boat they own.

Meanwhile, everywhere they go, they hear talk about the barge. Avalon is just like “Peyton Place,” Sherrill said. “People just love to have something to talk about.”

Personally, I’ve almost always steered clear of Avalon, preferring less-crowded venues for my island getaways. My main experience of Avalon is as a cluster of lights off to port while drifting around the East End during the wee hours of the Catalina Island Race. I confess to being interested in how this controversy turns out, though.

Photo by Bob Chamberlin of the LA Times.

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