Over the course of two years, photographer Scott Haefner and friends repeated snuck on board the ships of National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) in Suisun Bay, California. The photographs from their (utterly illegal) trips offer an incredible inside-view of the state of the seventy-plus vessels in the bay, including the Sea Shadow. But definitely don’t try this at home:

We had to overcome numerous obstacles just to get to the ships without even addressing the issues involved in getting on them. To get across the channel, we acquired a small, inflatable raft that was just big enough for the three of us and our gear, along with a small motor powered by a car battery. A raft seemed ideal several reasons: 1. it was not possible to drive up to the drop-in point, so we needed something lightweight to carry across the marsh, along with our camera gear, food, water, and sleeping bags; 2. we needed a boat that we could maneuver through extremely shallow tidal flats near the shore; 3. The raft’s low profile and nearly silent motor would help us evade security patrols; 4. a raft would be the easiest type of vessel to pull aboard the ships once we found a way on, and we could then deflate it and stash it away from prying eyes.

For three years I commuted past Suisun Bay and watched the ships from the train’s window. To finally see them up close is incredible.

Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy

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  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Looks like security needs to take a round turn. Kinda sleepy.

    Which in this day and time is not a good thing.

    It was nice to see some of CINCHOUSE’s old rivals again, though sad to see them in such a state. One’s eyes still gaze upon them lovingly.

    Adieu, dear ladies. We will think of you as you were when at your prime.

    • Ed Stevens

      indeed bon soire mesdammes adieu

  • Warrant Diver

    It’s always sad to see ships come to this, neglected and rusting away at anchor. And maybe I’m being a little touchy, but his constant use of the words “gallant” and “brave” to describe how his crew sneaked around kind of raised my hackles.


    Wow! Some of them look just awful in those pictures… You can park the battleship out-back of my house. I’ll take care of her…

  • Shawn

    Too bad the Glomar Explorer isn’t there anymore. I went out there to remove a piece of equipment from a ship in ’98 and went past it. It was huge!

  • Chuck

    Incredible photos. I visited the mothball fleet about 11 years ago with a crew of vounteers that was working on the SS Red Oak Victory (commissioned as USS Red Oak Victory AK 235). We had permission to use what we could from the other victory ships before they were scrapped. The ship is now open to visitors through the Richmond Museum of History. It was quite an experience to see the Mothball Fleet.

  • Navig8r

    The Glomar Explorer is back in service under a new name. It was converted to a deep water drilling ship and is working in the Gulf of Mexico. I fish with a merchant deck officer who works aboard. 3 months on, 3 months off. Plane ticket and helicopter ride each way, and lots of time to fish. The drill rig goes down through the “moon pool” where the old crane was mounted. They don’t anchor, automated systems hold the position per GPS within a few meters, and the drill pipe can flex enough to make up for any deflection.

    As for the ships I served in, I think I shaved with one of them this morning. None of them had the dignity to be target hulks, they all went to shipbreakers.

    • Ed Stevens

      the enterprise went to scrap which I do not see as right but the Navy made the decision and the deed is done

  • Chuck Hill

    Most of it is still there. Recognized the icebreaker Glacier (WAGB-4), it was put out to pasture right after a very extensive and expensive overhaul.

  • Heather

    {sniff} There is something quite tragic about viewing these pictures; they’re a glimpse into a bygone era of the gallant hours.

  • art smith

    I was stationed on the USS Holland, AS-32, in Rota, Spain during 1965 and 1966. So sad to see her end up like this! (xDM1.USNR)

  • Scott Schneider

    I remember seen those ships on the way to concord