Aurora Restoration Project Part 25
by Christopher Wilson - Published September 26, 2016
Sometimes if you want something bad enough it will happen. I wanted more then anything to bring the Aurora to the San Francisco waterfront. This could change her stars forever and easily make her into one of San Francisco's top attractions.
I worked hard with my dedicated crew to try and make this happen. I went back and fourth with Mr. Potter on a design that would allow the Aurora to t-bone the end of pier 38. The pier was 80ft wide and the Aurora was of course 300ft in length. It was an uphill battle because I didn't know if I could pull this off. Was it even possible?p
I spent hours on multiple occasions sitting on the end of the pier watching the tides and the prevailing winds. I even sat on the pier for some of the roughest winds and waters on the bay just to see if this could work or not. The allure of the some of the best views one could imagine was enough to keep me engaged. I had to make this work.
Mr. Potter was stuck on an idea that was going to make it impossible to make this happen. I guess he thought I was rich. His idea fell short of building a sea wall around the pier. He wanted to install sheet piling across the face of the pier. I must be rich. I have a 300ft ship. I didn't feel rich. I was trying to pull off a miracle and I know there was every chance that something could go wrong. In order to pull this off, I had to create a solution that wouldn't destroy me financially.
It's interesting some of the friends that you meet along the way. My Potter had a pier manager that he had set me up to deal with. Upon meeting this guy I could tell he was nothing like Mr. Potter but had his job to do none the less. His name was James. James seemed to be the reasonable one who could get Mr. Potter to see things more clearly. James was a former programmer that had a vast background in the Silicon Valley. Would he be a nightmare or would he be the help I would need? That comes later in the story.
Around this time my friend Mark, a friend that I had known since I was a kid came around. He wanted to help make this happen and certainly had the energy to help. I had another meeting lined up with Mr. Potter. At this time I was spending almost all of my time in SF trying to bring this idea to life. My plan was to somehow make Mr. Potter believe that my idea was his idea first. I had planned to bluff him a bit and hope that he went for it.
Our meeting was to be a lunch meeting. We went to lunch and Mr. Potter quickly ordered everyone shots. Was this a good sign or was Mr. Potter just an alcoholic? None the less after he had a few shots I presented him with his idea that was actually my idea. He of course bit the hook because it was the only sensible idea that would make this happen on a shoestring budget. He did however want a structural engineer to look at the idea and write off on it. That was likely going to be my next big problem. No engineer would put his career on the line to write off on a potentially catastrophic ship docking situation. There were a lot of what ifs involved in this scenario.
I decided to let things settle for a few days. My new idea was to just park the Aurora pier side rather then t-boning the end of the Pier. It made more sense and would be much more safe since it was more out of the bad weather behind a sea wall. Unfortunately this would void the whole idea of the Aurora being a wave break.
A week goes by and I do not have approval by any engineer nor did I see a way to get this approval. Another week goes by and finally I get a call from Mr. Potter asking me why I haven't been around building the parts to make this work. I spoke with him for a while and the engineer idea never even came up. He just wanted me to start getting things in order. Did he forget about the engineer? I guess I would know soon enough.
I brought a few of my crew from the Aurora to stay in the city for a couple of weeks to see if we could start to get this idea off the ground. The end of the Pier was a gold mine for materials. There was even a work shop area to fabricate things we needed. Most of the tools were garbage and didn't even work so we had to bring all of our own tools.
The plans I had in mind would take a lot of steel to construct. I found some steel on the pier but all was small stock and wouldn't work for what we needed. The supply we needed was going to be heavy. So we went another direction and did other things that would need to be done. Every Job was big. Progress was slow.
Another character I would like to introduce is a fellow we will call Euri, This was an employee and the most dedicated Mr. Potter follower there ever was. Nothing got by this man. He was a nice guy but he certainly reported everything said and done to Mr. Potter. He lived just right across the street from the Pier and still does to this day. His job was to keep an eye on our crews progress almost to an annoying level.
We didn't have the right materials so all we could do is plan and try to locate needed materials at a good cost. Mark had spoken with some of his friends at a metal fabrication shop in Santa Cruz and they generously offered to donate pretty much any metal that we needed for this job from their scrap piles. So we headed to Santa Cruz with a big truck to get what we could.
This was perfect. Looks like we could find enough to get started. We just needed to get everyone lined up with a job. I had a fantastic crew and they worked hard day in and day out. Mark had moved onto the Aurora in order to spend more time and help get things aboard in better order. James would periodically come by and inspect our work to see if it met the standards of the pier.
Mr. Potter had a condition. He had an advanced case of Bi-Polar disorder. One moment he was your best friend and the second minute he was the biggest ass you could ever know. To this point he was still being good to me. I figured I was on his good list. He had not shown me his bad side until now. This is where it all started.