(CNN) – Not every day you see a cruise ship for sale on Craigslist. So Chris Willson was immediately recalled when he crashed into a 293-foot ship listed on the advertising network in 2008.
The retired “pocket” cruise ship, built in Germany, was anchored in the California Delta at the time, and it was the owner who wished to release it.
After seeing the fixed list many times Willson, who was working on developing real -life tours, decided to do some research.
“I want a buyer, even though I don’t want to buy a boat,” Willson told CNN Travel. “Out of a little bit of my comfort zone, to say the least.”
When he went down the delta of the upland river and estuary in Northern California and trampled on the ship, Willson noticed that the ship was not well maintained. total 2,496 over the years.
However, when he started to look again, he found that there was a beautiful ship with five levels beneath all the “rubbish” on board.
Sign the agreement
Chris Wilson and his friend Jin Li live on a cruise ship he bought in 2008.
“It has some of the most beautiful designs of all the ships I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The stairs are beautiful.
“It’s almost like having an old 60s Corvette in the garage. You can see the good there, but if you don’t take care of it, you’re almost going to ruin it.”
After digging the stern of the ship, he discovered that it had been built by Blohm and Voss in 1955, and was the first German to build after the War. World II.
The more he learned about the ship, formerly known as Wappen von Hamburg, the more he believed it was a project he wanted to take.
After carefully considering what it would be like to have a small cruise ship, Willson set up a recovery plan and decided to take the plunge.
Although he did not talk about how much he paid, he said he was able to “do very well with the owner of the ship.”
“The new thing you’ll see is the owner of the ship,” Willson said.
But when he signs on the dotted line, he has to think about where to put it. Thankfully, Willson was able to arrange a lease in the California river city of Rio Vista and arrange for the ship to be towed there.
Willson works on the ship, which is anchored at a marina in Little Potato Slough, California, with the help of volunteers.
That’s when the restoration process began. The first step was to dump all the rubbish on the ship – Willson said there were hundreds of bags of household rubbish with old mats and bins – and to make arrangements about the availability of volunteers to help.
“I thought it was a long process,” Willson said. “It’s a lot. It’s almost like rebuilding all 15 houses.”
After spending several months traveling about three hours from his home in Santa Cruz to work on the ship, Willson decided to move on the ship with his friend Jin Li who could to oversee the project, and to take good care of it.
“When I first boarded the ship many of my friends and family were skeptical,” he admits. “It’s a huge change in the way we live.” But I find that it’s much better to improve, even though we’re not off the grid and running on solar panels and grids.
As he began to dig deeper into the history of the ship, Willson said he had learned that it was not just the motivation for the popular TV story “The Love Boat,” which was the location of the movie for the headquarters of the crime group Specter in the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love.”
The ship served as a cruise ship for two years, he said, and traveled between owners of various types and names, before being docked in Vancouver.
After some deceptive beginnings and more drunkenness and a name change, it was towed to Alameda, California in 2005. Plans were in place to make it a beautiful ship. but fell backwards.
The ship remained in Alameda for several years until it was sold by a merchant and moved to the California Delta. The ship was expected to be cut off when Willson was published on Craiglist in 2008.
“The more I learned about history, the more I thought it was fun on the beach, kind of like Queen Mary. [a retired ocean liner moored at Long Beach that’s now a popular tourist attraction]”She explained.” I want to make a museum out of it and let people go on tour [of the ship]. “
He estimated it would cost $ 3 million to turn the ship into a beach resort.
Willson, who had no prior experience working on ships, spent about 14 years repairing the ship, with the help of volunteers.
“I’m very smart,” he said, explaining that he had rebuilt many cars in the past and had previously worked as an electrician doing disaster recovery.
He renamed the island Aurora after spending his first night on board.
“I woke up to some of the best glass windows I’ve ever seen,” Willson said. “It creates an Aurora effect with clouds and water. I remember thinking at the time that ‘Aurora’ was an appropriate name.”
With the help of volunteers, including Li, whom Willson said was instrumental in helping preserve Aurora, he completed renovations on some of the trails. , as well as a restroom and living quarters.
“Our biggest success was removing the old wood from the boards and spending a lot of time weaving new steel boards to secure the boards,” he said.
“Working on the ship isn’t the hardest thing, it’s the politics behind it. Does the county or city want your ship there?”
After a few years in Rio Vista, Willson was given a bed at San Francisco’s Pier 38 and moved to Aurora there. However, things did not go as well as he had hoped and Willson was asked to find a new home for the ship.
He was returned to the California Delta in 2012, boarding the Aurora at a marina in Little Potato Slough, about 24 miles from the city of Stockton in the California Valley.
Aurora has been placed “in fresh water” here ever since and is expected to remain for the foreseeable future.
Although the ship could not sail, Willson said it had a “solid bottom.” and after consulting with some naval engineers, he was confident, “with care and attention,” that he could safely remain where he stood.
“If we don’t take it out there’s a lot of electrolysis and the like,” he added. “She is safe now but we plan to move her closer to the bay when she goes back.”
He hopes to raise more money to pull the boat out of the water and rebuild the bottom at some point.
Willson spent most of the work himself, but hoped to raise money to convert it into a museum.
“Instead of actually building a ship, I learned a lot,” he said. “There’s nothing I don’t know about editing.
Aside from a few small donations, Willson has donated a lot of self -improvement.
He was able to raise money for the operation by buying items from the hog markets and state grocery stores and reselling them on online stores such as eBay, as well as making as a discussion on historical shipbuilding projects.
But while this funding would continue the project’s success, it wasn’t enough to pay for a full return, and Willson was determined to finish what he had started.
“Since the advent of the entire YouTube app, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people donating,” he said.
Willson hopes progress will help speed things up, and says he is seeing results.
“Things are going up fast,” he said.
However, making videos on the ship’s redevelopment side is difficult, and he’s “looking for his feet,” when it comes to juggling the two. .
“When I start to feel comfortable with that, we hope to start groups of volunteers coming in several days a week,” Willson added.
Hold on to information?
There was a large staircase over the ship, which Willson renamed the Aurora.
While there is a way to go, Willson is slowly moving towards his goal of turning the Aurora into a museum.
While he was considering turning the ship into a bed and breakfast, or a wedding hall, he thought the museum was the “real” choice.
“This is something we’re trying to give people,” he said. “We don’t want to repair and build our own ship out of it.”
And of course there is a lot to see on the Aurora. The ship has 85 rooms, as well as an upstairs living room with its own bathroom in front, a swimming pool, a large galley and a theater.
“We have restored a small number of the offices upstairs but there is a lot to go and quickly give time for the public to support the restoration of a building,” he said.
Willson and his team of volunteers are working on the fantail, or end, of the Aurora and plan to restore the galley and land for the rest of 2022.
In recent years, Willson has obtained supplies from other historic ships to use aboard the Aurora.
“We received a great gift from the Island Princess, one of the ships they took to‘ The Love Boat ’, which is now hijacked,” he said.
For now, Willson enjoys working and sitting on the ship waiting for the day when he can open up to the public.
“There’s nothing more amazing than being able to work and live independently,” he said.
But does he hope that this amazing ship will sail again someday?
“If the money comes in, he can run again,” he said. “If not, it could be a great museum.”