A Ship on Dry Land

I always try to use interesting bits of San Diego history in the Rolly Waters mysteries. For Ballast Point Breakdown, I got to include the USS Recruit, which has been a notable presence along San Diego Bay since it was first commissioned by the US Navy in 1949. More than 50,000 recruits trained here on a ship that never sailed. The Recruit is now a California historical landmark and part of Liberty Station, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego. In BPB, Rolly and a couple of security guards chase down a harmonica-playing transient who manages to elude them all while hiding in the ship.

USS Recruit on Google Maps
USS Recruit at Liberty Station
USS Recruit on Wikipedia

He crossed the street, walked to the bottom of the bridge, and took a shortcut through a stand of trees to get down to the parking lot where he’d left his old Volvo. He stepped out of the trees next to a large structure that looked like a Navy ship. The USS Recruit had served as a training platform for new enlistees at the old Naval Training Center, its top deck and tower fitted with the same rigging and cleats found on more seaworthy vessels. The below decks were empty and hollow. Dubbed the USS Neversail by former recruits, the training ship had been decommissioned years ago, then sold to developers as part of a transfer of Navy land to the city.

When Rolly was ten, his father had taken him on board the Recruit, sharing his memories of boot camp and sea voyages, hoping to pass on his enthusiasm for Navy life to his son. He gave Rolly lessons in rigging, how to tie knots and use the marlinspike, but it hadn’t turned Rolly into a sailor. Their disappointment in each other might have started that day.

From Ballast Point Breakdown, chapter 18, The Ship