...out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- To the government, it was a defunct offshore light tower that hadn't helped ships navigate the waters off North Carolina in more than a decade. To a Minnesota entrepreneur, the platform out in the Atlantic is a launching pad for research into wind power and other technologies.
First, some renovations will be needed at the Diamond Shoals Light Tower, which sits about 13 miles off Cape Hatteras. Its buyer hopes to get his first view of his new property next week - provided, of course, that the landing pad is sturdy enough for a helicopter.
"The pilot says he's confident it will be OK," said Dave Schneider of Richfield, Minn., who plans to chopper out Wednesday for his first look. "He says if we try to land and it looks shaky, we're not going to land."
Schneider, 56, paid $20,000 for the tower and platform in September after he was the only bidder for it in an auction by the General Services Administration, which sells real estate that the federal government no longer needs. In doing so, he brushed aside the GSA's 2-year-old inspection that concluded it would cost $2.3 million to renovate the structure that resembles an oil rig platform.
He pored over the 125-page engineering report before deciding it wasn't in as poor shape as it first appeared. It's sturdy, sitting in 50 feet of water and with pylons going 150 feet into the seabed. Of the renovation estimate, $1 million is for a boat-winching system and boat, neither of which he needs. Another $189,000 was earmarked for contingencies, and part of the renovation was for labor, some of which Schneider will do himself.
That's not too different than one of my fantasy hermit dwellings, a screwpile lighthouse out in Chesapeake Bay. Wonder what it's like to be up in that tower during a big nor'easter?