Summers are for getting away, but it seems like you can never quite get all the way away. No matter how secluded the beach or cabin, there’s always a crying kid within earshot or a hiker getting mauled by a bear under your window. (Sorry, I’d call the forest ranger, but I promised myself this would be an “unplugged” vacation.) Worse yet are the horror stories from people who bought vacation homes way back when in places like Aspen, only to watch their sleepy little towns transform into bustling tourist traps. So where’s a vaguely anti-social agoraphobe with money to burn supposed to go to unwind? How about your very own decommissioned oil rig 14 miles off the Virginia coast?
You have about a week to make this dream come true. The GSA is currently auctioning off the Chesapeake Light Tower, way out in the water off Virginia Beach; with six days left, the price is only up to a paltry $46,000. The light tower – technically called a “Texas Tower” because its design is based on an offshore oil rig – functioned as an offshore lighthouse from 1965-2012, warning ships of the shallow waters there. The U.S. Department of Energy took over ownership of the tower from the Coast Guard in 2012, intending to turn it into a research facility to study weather, only to realize that outfitting it would be prohibitively expensive. Their impulse buy could be your gain.
The tower has seven rooms, one bathroom, plenty of storage, a kitchen, and a 120-foot-tall light tower that your friend Chad will definitely try to dive off of once he’s drunk. There are also generators, solar panels, fuel tanks, and a helicopter landing pad. While these rigs do sway when the water gets choppy, much like an ocean liner, you don’t have to worry about it collapsing; its four 33-inch concrete-filled steel pilings are driven 180 feet into the ocean floor. The water in the area is 45 feet deep, and studies have shown that fish populations are 10 to 20 times denser around the rigs, as the supports act as artificial reefs; fishing for sport or survival (don’t tell me the apocalypse doesn’t seem at least plausible after the last month of news) would be a cinch.
The idea of turning a rig like this into a vacation home isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. Morris Architects of Houston, TX, won a Radical Innovations in Hospitality prize in 2009 for their Rig Resort. (There are 4000 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that are scheduled to be decommissioned in the next decade or two, and no one has any idea what to do with them.) Their design features grids of glass-walled, water-facing rooms, a diving bell to the seafloor, and a glass-floored central area. The resort will get all its power from a wind turbine, wave generators, and solar panels, and use geothermal pumps to heat and cool the structure. Something to think about if you’ve got some money to spend.
Of course, if you want to go a more modest route, there’s an example for that approach too. South of the Chesapeake Tower, thirty miles off North Carolina, is “Frying Pan Tower,” an identical decommissioned Texas Tower that was purchased by a software engineer in 2010 for $85,000. He’s turned it into a charming bed and breakfast where, for $598, you can spend 3 days and 2 nights fishing, swimming, sunbathing, staring out at the distant landless horizon thinking about the meaninglessness of life, or just vomiting nonstop from seasickness. If that sounds ridiculously cheap, the catch is that it doesn’t include transportation – a chartered boat or helicopter ride will run you an additional $1000 to $1650. All the more reason to buy your own tower and boat. You have six days to think about it.