Aurora Restoration Project Part 4
by Christopher Wilson
It was time to finally meet with the owner. I really had no idea just what to expect, so I had to over prepare for the situation. I dressed above my normal average of nice and rented a very nice car in order to give the best first impression that I was capable of. My appointment was in the early evening at a marina near the San Francisco Bay.
Was I ready? Hell no I wasn't ready. I had nothing to offer but an idea and the idea wasn't very refined and I didn't know if it was something that was feasible. For some strange reason I was not nervous at all. I did ask myself a few times just what the hell I was getting myself into. I was not a ship guy and didn't know what to do next even if I landed any kind of a deal. I went into this completely blind with no expectations.
So I traveled to the location of the meeting, I parked my car and called his phone. I'm here. Soon after an older man greeted me at the gate and seemed very polite. I asked him if he was hungry, he said yes and we headed out for a dinner meeting. The rental car was a hit. I had made a good immediate first impression.
We sat down for dinner and began discussing the ship. He told me that lots of people were interested in the ship but no one could find a spot for it.
Neither of us knew anything at all about one another so I wanted him to play his cards first. I let him talk for a while and tell me his story. First rule of a negotiation. Know the other persons cards.
He was a used marine dealer that bought and sold used equipment, cranes, boats and just about anything to turn a buck. He explained to me that the ship was abandoned in Alameda and the City had been working for a couple of years to get rid of it. She had sat at a dock just up the river from Jack London Square. Homeless people and drug addicts had been living aboard and removing fixtures for scrap. During the rain season she would start to sink at the stern. She was a huge liability for the City of Alameda. They wanted her gone at all costs.
He further told me that he had acquired the ship through a deal that was struck between him and Alameda for him to remove the ship from Alameda Jurisdiction. So he and his crew worked on the ship making her seaworthy enough for a tow. They pumped the excess water from the stern and shaft room and fixed a couple of leaky through valves and were granted a tow permit by the Coast Guard.
The ship was towed to the small island in the delta and tied up next to another large derelict vessel in bad condition.
She had sat in this location for the last eight or so months while he tried to sell her with no successful sale.
It was an interesting story he had to tell but now it was down to business. I was focused. I told him I had an idea and it didn't involve any money upfront. I gave him my idea of turning this ship into a luxury time share ship. He had nothing negative to say about that idea. It was a great idea. It's still a great idea.
Although it was a great idea generally people don't give up things like this for nothing. He soon went into the mode of trying to talk me out of the ship by exposing some of his current problems he was having in regards to the ship.
He had been paid a good deal of money to move the ship from Alameda to its new location on the small island in the Delta. Unfortunately he moved the ship on to State Lands jurisdiction. State lands was not happy about this and graciously granted him 6 months to remove the vessel. This was the biggest problem.
He had been searching every stitch of the delta to find a place to take the ship with no luck. He was in some trouble. If you are firmilliar with this agency then you know State Lands is not a very forgiving agency.
His six months at this location had ended two months ago. State Lands was looking to take action ASAP.
I thought to myself briefly, That's interesting. He is in big trouble. How can I work that to my benefit???
I also thought to myself, am I stupid? I'm walking into a bear trap. So knowing nothing about politics I called a meeting with State Lands and the owner of the ship. I asked the owner of the ship to meet me for breakfast prior to the meeting to discuss the meeting and talk to him about my terms.
So it was time. The day of the meeting was here. I rented the same nice car and dressed overly nice again. Maybe I had lost my mind. I felt as if I had a bite on getting the ship for the first time so it became a game to me. Like a giant puzzle that I had to figure out without money being part of the equation how to deal with the current situations.
I finally met the owner for breakfast and we discussed the meeting that we were about to attend and our deal for the ship. He wanted out of trouble and of course I wanted to save this ship. I finally payed my cards on the table and asked him, if I can get State Lands off from your back and find a home for the ship do we have a deal?
He looked at me as if I were a godsend and we shook hands. I stood up and paid the breakfast tab and headed to the State Lands office just up the street.
I had not a clue what I was getting into. I never even heard of State Lands until this situation came up.
So, I'm in a situation where I know nothing about ships, I know nothing about State Land Politics, I don't have a clue where I would put a ship if I got it. I knew nothing.
Again,,,, What would you do?
We entered the offices of State Lands and sat in a waiting room for maybe 30 minutes. I remember an armed guard waiting with us. Finally after the longest 30 minutes of the day we were met by an older secretary lady and she asked us to follow her. She had no smile and had a blank face about her.
So we followed her and we were taken to a room and sat down at a large conference table. We sat at this table for what seemed like 15 minutes. We were quite as we waited for the unknown. Finally we were met by the council of State lands. They looked very intelligent and there eyes were looking right through me and burning into the owner of the ship. They looked at him and he looked down at the table. There was certainly some haste going on here. They were all wearing expensive business suits. I could tell that this meeting was not going to be a good meeting.
Much much more to come.....