Getting inside the ships was usually not straightforward, and sometimes impossible. MARAD locks them down tight, but there are so many possible entrances that persistence often paid off. One of the first orders of business each trip was finding a place to sleep. The ships are often stinky from mold, mildew, PCBs, and decay, so a room with windows that opened was preferable. We typically slept in the captain’s room where we found comfy couches, convertible beds, lots of space, and plenty of light during the daytime.
I was probably 9 or 10 the first time I asked about the Mothball Fleet (which in my family was just known as the Moth Fleet). It’s most likely we were driving to visit a friend of mine who’d moved to Vacaville. Warships aren’t particularly appealing to me, but I’m pretty sure 9 year-old me would have jumped at the chance to spend a weekend on the decaying ships – heck, I’m pretty sure 30 year-old me would jump at the chance to spend a weekend on the decaying ships, but I’d want to bring Phil.