I was doing my usual Google Earth rounds when I sweeped across Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay and to my surprise there was the historic Hughes Mining Barge docked at one of the piers! Make sure you read my widely circulated piece on the HMB-1 & the Sea Shadow as well as the sad update that the Sea Shadow has been scrapped. It was widely assumed that the Sea Shadow and its HMB-1 mothership were both going to be scrapped together, as the HMB-1 was in fairly bad disrepair and the US Government would not allow the Sea Shadow to be used commercially. It ends up that the San Francisco based Bay Ship & Yacht company, who purchased both as scrap from the US Government for $2.5M after no museum had the creativity or cash to step up and adopt the historic duo, had big plans for the Hughes Mining Barge after all!
When the two Cold Warrior mechanical marvels went up for sale I was blown away that the Hughes Mining Barge, even with its cosmetic and mechanic deficiencies caused by years of neglect, was not a hot item for the private sector to get a hold of. It’s basically a huge movable dry-dock with a unique retractable roof. Certainly, such capabilities would cost many tens of millions of dollars to design and build in the current day and age, so why was there not a bidding war over the unique vessel as its potential commercial uses are many? Well it turns out that Bay Ship & Yacht saw the same business potential as I did, and they had the money to act on it. They have totally restored the Hughes Mining Barge, after cutting up the Sea Shadow as the surplus disposal contract stipulated, and turned the HMB-1 into a multi-use ship container, dry-dock, working berth, and especially a highly environmental friendly maritime paint and coating facility. Brilliant recycling of the HMB-1 on Bay Ship & Yacht’s part that will surely turn into big profits for the company’s owners.
So the HMB-1 lives on in a fully overhauled fashion and is already producing revenue for its proud new private owners. Although I find it terrible that no museum could display the HMB-1 and Sea Shadow together, I applaud the folks from Bay Ship and Yacht for recognizing the potential of what was recently a rotting hulk, although a very unique rotting hulk, and I wish them the best in their new endeavor. Who knows, maybe the new owners will get a call from Uncle Sam, who will realize the unique capability they sold off for penny’s on the dollar, and the humble HMB-1 will take on a new clandestine mission for its prior masters. When it comes to one-off defense technologies, things do have a strange way of coming full circle, and the HMB-1 is a Cold War survivor if nothing else…
More about the HMB-1’s new commercial role and restoration can be found at the links below: