The American Christopher Willson did not care about the precarious state of a German ship from 1955 when he saw the advertisement in the classifieds in 2008: in love with the 89-meter relic, he bought the vessel. What he didn’t realize is that rarity was the setting for Sean Connery in his role as James Bond, secret agent 007.
After purchasing the vessel, Willson began the renovation. To CNN American, he claimed to have shelled out $3 million, or R$14.1 million. In the meantime, he went on to research the origin of the ship.
That’s when he discovered that the original name of the vessel was Wappen von Hambur, a ship built by the Blohm and Voss shipyard that became part of the first cruise line in the Beyond after the Second World War.
The biggest surprise was to discover that the now renamed MV Aurora also had its glory days in cinema when it served as HQ for the Specter organization in the 1963 movie “Moscow Against 007”. The boat would also have been the inspiration for the classic series “The Love Boat”, aired between the 70s and 80s.
“The stairs are magnificent. It’s like finding out you have a ’60s Corvette in your garage,” Willson told the TV network. “You can see the quality, but it was so neglected you feel bad.”
From yacht to museum
Willson bought the ship with a view to converting it into a yacht, but after learning about the vessel’s history, he decided to open it to the public and convert it into a museum “to let people take tours”.
Alongside his partner, Jin Li, he left his home and moved to Aurora, which has 85 cabins, an upper lounge with a private deck, swimming pool, theater and a large kitchen.
“When I moved to the ship, many friends and family couldn’t believe it,” he recalls. “It was a big life change. But I see it more as an upgrade, even though we’re kind of off the map and using a lot of generator and solar panels.”
The couple has been counting on the help of volunteers to transform the ship-house into a museum. In February, it launched a YouTube channel to show the progress of the reform. With more than 76,000 subscribers to the channel, Willson began to receive the offer of help from “hundreds” of volunteers.
They hope to complete the restoration of the kitchen and dining room by the end of the year, but the expected date for the museum’s opening is still unknown.