TNB Night Owl – Dream Boat

The cruise ship Aurora, formerly the Wappen von Hamburg. Image captured by the News Blender.

Have you ever dreamt of finding an old house with lots of charm and tons of character, but in need of massive amounts of TLC? You just know that all it needs is someone to adore and restore it. How about an old car, that you’d love to return to showroom-new, or maybe hotrod? Finding an old house or car is easy, just check your local Craigslist webpages. But what if you wanted something a little more challenging, something that’s historical, romantic, hints of international intrigue, and big enough to be a problem to park? You’d look on Craigslist, right? Of course you would. That’s what Chris Willson did in 2008. Except he wasn’t looking for a former cruise ship. He wasn’t looking for any kind of boat at all. It just kept popping up in his Craigslist searches.

Eventually, curiosity piqued his interest and he decided to go kick the tires (so to speak). He had no intention of making an offer – much less buying – a ship, he just wanted a look see. What he saw was a mess. The ship hadn’t been maintained in years. It had its own collection of junk and bags of garbage that prior owners had accumulated over the years. Willson was able to see the beauty underneath all the refuse, rust, dirt, and flaking paint, however. He was particularly impressed with the staircases, which harkened back to the pre-war glory days of steamship luxury and style. Now interested, if not yet hooked, Willson began researching the history of the 2,496 gross ton vessel.

Built in 1955 by the Blohm and Voss shipyard, the ship’s original name was Wappen von Hamburg: the first significant passenger ship built in Germany following the war. The ‘pocket’ cruise ship was small compared to ocean liners of the day, but was popular with the public nonetheless. Almost as long as a football field, it had 85 cabins, a swimming pool, a movie theater, as well as the usual amenities commonly found on passenger ships at the time. Willson discovered that the Wappen von Hamburg had been a film location for the James Bond 1963 movie, “From Russia with Love”, portrayed as the headquarters of Spectre. The ship had also been the inspiration for the TV show, “The Love Boat”. After serving the cruise industry for about twenty years, the Wappen von Hamburg was sold in the mid-seventies, enduring a series of owners, name changes, and home ports, but mainly she was just neglected.

The seller was, apparently, extremely anxious to unload the aging rust bucket, and made Willson a deal. The selling price remains undisclosed, but hints suggest it was a steal. Or, maybe not so much, considering the work, time, and money that Willson and volunteers have put into it since. Another downside has been berthing. Willson has had to have it relocated a few times. Aurora (the name Willson chose for his new palace on water) is unable to move under her own power, so she has had to have been towed from port to port whenever a new berth was required.

Even with all the costs (and it certainly costs a great deal to restore something this size) it would be pretty cool to live on an old ship like this (as Willson already does), especially after the restoration is completed. Willson plans to open the finished project as a museum and toursist attraction.

“Aurora Restoration Project ( Teaser )” (1:55)

“Aurora Restoration Project Episode 1 – 4K” (8:49)

“Saving A Massive Historic Ship – The Aurora Restoration Project” (9:16)

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.