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AURORA Arrives In San Francisco — Updated

Posted on Sunday, August 1, 2010 by

MV AURORA's last evening in Rio Vista, CA. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010.

Writing the first portion of this  post from the starboard forward suite (now called cabin 107) on board the lovely little AURORA (ex WAPPEN VON HAMBURG, DELOS, XANADU, etc.) as she is towed by the 1936-built former research vessel ROBERT GRAY. We departed Rio Vista, CA in the Sacramento River Delta at 03:00 this morning and are now in San Pablo Bay, approaching the Richmond Bridge some twelve hours later.

AURORA bridge to Carquinez Bridge. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010.

Our destination is Pier 38 in San Francisco where the ship will be opened as a floating attraction in the near future. Two years of hard work have seen this grand 1955-built mini-liner greatly improved from her once derelict state and more work is being done to restore her to her original beauty. As this initial post was written, the Port of San Francisco was trying to intervene with the process and had threatened to deny the ship her proper berth.

MV AURORA off Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010.

UPDATE: Fortunately, AURORA’s journey continued as planned, albeit at an admittedly slow pace, averaging 2 knots once she ventured into San Francisco Bay. Seas remained relatively calm, although there was some incoming chop from the Golden Gate.

AURORA arrives! Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010.

Shortly before 10:00 PM, the ship arrived at the end of Pier 38 and was safely tied up forty five minutes later. Full blog to come.

37 Responses to AURORA Arrives In San Francisco — Updated

  1. Corey

    August 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I hope San Francisco let’s her stay. I’ll stay there

  2. Charles

    August 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Why in Gods name would the Port of San Francisco deny this lovely, historical vessel?

  3. Matthew

    August 2, 2010 at 6:13 am

    This is great news! I want to visit her as soon as she opens!!!!!
    By the way Peter, do you know who Aurora’s first owners were? I can’t find the name of the company anywhere.

  4. David Walker

    August 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Here is an interesting history of her….scroll down to Post #1632

  5. David Walker

    August 2, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Oops. forgot to include the link (scroll about 1/2 the way down)


  6. Dan

    August 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Great blog, Peter. Aside from your trek on the Aurora, do you have any future plans to an indepth report on the SS Emerald? I would love to see you do a story on her. Has there been any talks about selling her to become a preserved ship, like the SS Rotterdam for California?

  7. Harry Crossley

    August 3, 2010 at 4:59 am

    Just found this Maritime Matters (silly me) and love it. Enjoy reading all the comments.

  8. Mike Ryan

    August 3, 2010 at 8:12 am

    @Dan: Don’t forget, there already is an ‘SS Rotterdam for California’ tied up in Long Beach ;)

  9. Dan

    August 3, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I am talking about the only other passenger liner that is a U.S. built hull. The Emerald could be brought back to the U.S. as a hotel ship as is for the timebeing until the time is right to rebuild her superstructure back to its SS Santa Rosa appearance. The artifacts that was originally onboard the Santa Rosa and the Santa Paula could be reacquired and installed back into the ship. It’s the sole remaining vessel from the Grace Lines.

  10. Peter Knego

    August 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I honestly don’t get how this became a “Save THE EMERALD” thread. Internally, THE EMERALD is a modern Greek cruise ship with an original staircase, half a dining room and some cabins that are somewhat unchanged. She is barely historic and no way in the same category as the AUGUSTUS or ROTTERDAM. Further, she has absolutely no connection to California. I think it diminishes valid efforts to save truly deserving ships to throw in every elderly hull that is still afloat. Anyway, more images and a blog to come on the AURORA story in the next few days.

  11. Mage Bailey

    August 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Great news. So glad the city didn’t stop the berthing. Hurrah!

  12. Corey Abelove

    August 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Although I have disagreed with you in the past, I must say that I do agree with you about diminishing efforts to save truly historic vessels. Being that the propulsion plant is the only unaltered major aspect onboard, preservation of The Emerald would require more than one original aspect in order to have have the economic viability to sustain its own existence. With that said, I would still hope that a wealthy individual might step up to the plate and be willing to commit to preserving one of the only large US built passenger ships left. But first, SS United States……….

  13. Peter Knego

    August 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Absolutely, Corey. The UNITED STATES definitely deserves the huge efforts being made to save her. And KUNGSHOLM, AUGUSTUS (unfortunately no real effort is behind her, just luck for now), KRISTINA REGINA, AURORA and perhaps a few more are well ahead of THE EMERALD in original integrity, historic merit, etc.

  14. Justin Higner

    August 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    She looks great! Hope all goes well, and what a good addition she would make to any waterfront. :)

  15. Dan

    August 4, 2010 at 2:36 am

    Hi Peter,
    While the SS Emerald is barely historic, the SS Santa Rosa is historic as it is the sole remaining ship of the Grace Lines. The one important aspect that’s left is it original powerplant, like the SS United States. The ship’s current superstructure could be rebuilt back to its original SS Santa Rosa Profile. I am not sure how much it would cost to rebuild her back to the SS Santa Rosa. But it would be nice if we could work to document her current history and generate some interest in the ship other than the scrapyard.

    In retrospect, did the original owners ever got their $70 Million investment beck when they rebuilt the SS Santa Rosa into the SS Emerald? It seemed that they might have been better off renovating the interiors instead of rebuilding the superstructure of the ship, which was a beautiful masterpiece. I would love to see a grassroots effort established to save the Santa Rosa.

  16. Peter Knego

    August 4, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Dan (and all of your other aliases), I know THE EMERALD. I don’t get your logic and often wonder if you are just putting things out there to be provocative. Ive said my piece about the ship, will keep posting news when it comes up about her, possibly even do a Decked! at some point, but there are other more important priorities on my list, like the AURORA. If you want a grass roots effort to save THE EMERALD, why not start one?

  17. Peter Newall

    August 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks for showing us yet another forgotten ship Peter. I featured her as XANADU in my A to Z Liner series for Ships Monthly, not only because I could not find another ship beginning with X but also because she was such a lovely ship, especially as the Greek cruise ship DELOS. As you know, Laurence Dunn did some lovely artwork for the DELOS brochure – cheers from the other side…..Peter

  18. Dan

    August 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for the reply, Peter. I plan to set up an awareness group on the Emerald. This was nothing personal towards you or anyone else. You have already stated you statement previously and I respect that. I know that you are a very busy person. I am happy that the Aurora is saved from the scrapyard, as her salvation came as a complete shock to everyone, considering that she spent most of her career layed up, like the SS United States, as well as a missed opportunity to become a cruiseship once again at the forefront of the modern cruise industry of the 1980s to Today.

    Also, I am not trying to play games with anyone here. Especially not with you. I made a case for the Emerald because I feel that she deserves preservation in the United States as a hotel ship. Since the SS Independence is now lost(due to the imporper layup proceedures that led to her deterioration before she was towed away), the Emerald is the only other U.S. built passenger liner left. Of couse, I know that the chances of the ship going to Alang is possible and the chances of preservation are next to zero.

  19. Charlie

    August 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I actually want THE EMERALD to go to the scrap heap… They can have all that cheap steel/aluminum from her horrible Greek rebuild…

    I am more sad about the poor Sagafjord in China right now :(

  20. Charles

    August 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    To bring back the Santa Rosa to her original profile would not only be costly, but to spend that money on a ship that could only sit in the water an look good is doomed to fail. My father was a captain for Grace lines and he has the fondest of memories of the ships until he passed away last year. I would love nothing more than to see the real Santa Rosa again, but at this point it’s just not going to happen. Maybe a Santa Rosa II that has similar lines that could sail for the next 30+ years would be a better, safer idea.
    I was working with Starlight Marine when the Aurora was towed in, sinking to Alameda. I went on board he a few days later and never thought she would sail or be saved again. I figured SCRAP was the word. I truly look forward to the day I am able to visit again and make a donation to her preservation.

  21. Darren

    August 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Peter,
    It was great meeting you aboard the Robert Gray just before the “dead ship tow”. I was wondering why you chose the name Aurora for this article and not one of the many others. She was last called the Faithful. I prefer her first name Wappen Von Hamburg but then again, what’s in a name.

    What a great site you have here. Keep up the good work.

  22. Peter Knego

    August 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Hi Darren!

    Great to meet you on the tow. Actually, it was Chris who chose the name. I’ve always been partial to XANADU, so it takes all kinds, I guess, lol. I’ve got another deadline to finish but will be posting a much more detailed blog soon.

    All the best,


  23. Darren

    August 4, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Good luck to Chris in bringing this beauty back to life. He’s done so much already and lets hope he can stay in S.F. for a long time.

  24. Dan

    August 5, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Hi Darren,
    Chris Willson has done an excellent job with the Aurora. This proves that it takes one person to make a big difference. Just like Mr. Lars Hallgren is trying to do for the MS Kungsholm and the Conservancy for the SS United States.

    @Charles: I wouldn’t mind seeing a SS Santa Rosa III. Although, I envision the ship being at least 700ft to 800ft in length with twin green funnel stacks. And the ship would have dual engine rooms, like the SS United States. That would be an awesome ship. It’s like combining the Santa Rosa and the Santa Paula together to form one large ship.

  25. Corey

    August 5, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I think pier 38 is perfect for the ship. I cruised last year on mariner of the seas into frisco and from the ocean vantage it is a great place to see the city. San Francisco is a great maritime city. I talked to one of the maritime museum workers where they truly care about the preservation of history . I also went aboard the jerimiah obrian libertyship and they had the engine running with the screw turning. It was great to see the triple expansion engine working. And the ship was tied up but the prop was churning. It’s great to see ships being saved.

  26. edvard

    August 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I’m so glad to see the AURORA getting a break. I used to take the ferry in Alameda and saw this beauty sitting there rusting away. She looks 1000% better now. Next time I’m on a day trip to SF I will definitely stop by to check her out.

  27. David

    August 5, 2010 at 10:25 am




  28. steve toth

    August 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    i could have swore that the emerald was solas compliant, now BACK to Aurora such happiness over her salvation

  29. Hank

    August 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Well so was the RMS Queen Mary and, look where she is now. Not that that necessarily means that the SS Emerald will be saved (I do like her though). I heard she won’t meet SOLAS. I think the SS Unites States must be saved too.

  30. edvard

    August 6, 2010 at 8:02 am

    One question: Is the ship actually accessible? I’m not familiar with SF as I live in the East Bay. Can you actually walk over and take a look at her?

  31. Hank

    August 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

    That comment was a response to David. Oh and btw. Look where Aurora is now. .Now i’ll be able to see two preserved ships. Early 2010 was bad for ocean liners. Now look where she is

  32. Hank

    August 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

    2010 is looking up.

  33. Corey palm desert

    August 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    The emerald will never be saved because noone but diehard ship lovers care about her. I m 44 years old and I have been into ships since I was a kid. My house is decorated in ships and I don’t care much for the emerald. If the Norway couldn’t be saved and the united states which has a huge history and the 1890’s battleship Olympic in Philly is being given up don’t think ur favorite ship has a chance in hell. Even if economy was good noone would save her. Go on queen Mary the most famous hotelship and she is a step away from being thrown away. Aurora has chance in frisco because she is very small

  34. Ron

    September 29, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I’m wondering why this vessel Aurora is listed for sale on Yachtworld.com ??

  35. Peter Knego

    September 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Ron,

    That site lists a lot of ships like SERENADE and ODYSSEUS, which no longer exist. I think if it is still a viable shipbroking entity, it needs to purge many of the ships listed, including AURORA.

    All the best,


  36. Mario Lafuente

    December 4, 2010 at 2:00 am

    I am glad to see her looking better, I am planning to come and see her as soon as I can make a trip to Sanfrancisco. I first saw the now days Aurora at the Marco shipyard in Tacoma in the the Spring of 1970 at the time it was the D.E.S. Polar Star, she was undergoing a refit for the Alaska season operated by West Line Inc of Seattle I sail on her as electrical officer and later as Chief Electrician. After de 1971 Alaska Cruise season it was reflag with Panamenian flag and renamed Pacific Star for our year long deployment to the South Pacific (Tahiti). On board of her I experienced the best time of my profesional live none of all the other vessels can take her place .

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