Christopher Willson was curious to see an old German cruiser from 1955 just over 89 meters long in the classifieds in 2008.
When visiting the vessel, despite the terrible state it was in with garbage everywhere, it was love at first sight: the (now) ex-programmer bought the ship. Since then, he has dedicated himself to restoring the MV Aurora, as he christened it the year after the purchase.
During the process, Willson did a lot of research on Aurora’s structure and discovered that it had a richer and more interesting history than he had imagined. Originally named Wappen von Hamburg, the ship was built by the Blohm and Voss shipyard and was part of Germany’s first post-WWII cruise line.
His resume only became more starred from then on: the vessel served as the inspiration for the series “O Barco do Amor”, produced in the 70’s and 80’s. lair or HQ for the Specter organization in the movie “Moscow Against 007”, with Sean Connery still in the role of James Bond.
It is one of the ships with the layout most spectacular I’ve ever seen. The stairs are magnificent. It’s like finding out you have a corvette from the 60’s in the garage. You can see the quality, but it was so neglected that you feel bad.” willson to the American CNN.
Despite initially having conceived it as a yacht, all this baggage made Willson want to open his Aurora to the public at the end of the process. “I would like to turn it into a museum and let people take tours.”
However, turning this dream into reality is not an easy task. Anchored in several ports in California over the past 14 years, he realized that it would have to be a full-time investment: alongside his partner, Jin Li, he left his home in Santa Cruz – from where he initially envisaged trips to the ship. up to three hours by car—and made Aurora their permanent address.
“When I moved on board the ship, many of my friends and family were in disbelief. It was a huge lifestyle change. But I see it more as an upgrade, even though we are kind of off the map and using so many generators and power boards. sun,” he admitted.
Willson estimates the cost of the renovation to be $3 million, or R$14.1 million. “The scale of the project is enormous. It’s like rebuilding 15 houses all by yourself.” However, the former programmer no longer faces his mission with just Jin Li by his side. Today, Aurora has volunteers to bring her back on the entertainment circuit.
The aid softens his labor, but for Willson the costs are still high. He has had few donations over the years and funds some of the work by buying items at auctions and second-hand markets, as well as working as a consultant on other historic ship projects and selling T-shirts with the vessel’s logo.
Hoping to speed up the venture, in February he launched a YouTube channel called “Aurora Restoration Project”, which shows the group’s progress and already has 76,600 subscribers. Since then, he has had “hundreds” of volunteers offering to help.
In recent times, he has also received an important donation: furniture from the Island Princess, one of the vessels on which “The Love Boat” was actually filmed. The work, however, is still far from over.
Aurora has 85 cabins, a superior lounge with private deck, swimming pool, theater and large kitchen. “We have restored a small number of cabins, but we have many more to come. Soon we will be offering the public the opportunity to sponsor the restoration of one cabin,” he announced.
Willson and his team hope to be able to complete the restoration of the kitchen and dining area by the end of 2022, but there is no date set for the end of the project.