Shell protesters had this idea of a solar-powered event barge off Alki. They had to get a barge, and were turned down by some companies, but not Dave Wells of Kenmore.
It’s doubtful that John Sellers and Dave Wells will be having beers together.
Still, during the Shell oil-rig protests, they’ve got themselves a pretty good working relationship.
Both being 48 years old would be one of their few commonalities.
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Sellers, of Vashon Island, works at a nonprofit, other98, that’s about “undue corporate influence.” He’s one of the organizers of the Seattle protests and a big believer in going solar.
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Wells owns Lakeshore Marine Construction in Kenmore, and some of his work takes him to waterfront properties on Lake Washington.
As Wells explains, “Everything I own runs on fuel. I burn A LOT of fuel. I’m realistic enough to know we’ll keep drilling for oil until we run out of fossil fuel.”
They came together when Sellers and others decided that as their part of the anti-Shell protests of the company’s oil rig parked at Terminal 5, they’d anchor a huge barge just off Alki at Seacrest Park.
Wells rents out barges.
The protesters said on their website they wanted a 4,000-square-foot barge that they’d turn into an “incredible show,” with a giant screen and a whole bunch of amplified speakers that would “light up the night with massive projections exposing Shell’s horrendous track record.”
Sort of like KISS meets Kshama Sawant: I-i-i-i wanna protest all night long.
In a fundraising campaign on indiegogo, Sellers’ group explained that “The People’s Platform” would run on solar panels and wind turbines; those were set up on Saturday.
For a couple of weeks, they’ll power a whole bunch of amplified speakers and high-illumination digital equipment. All right, so the 29 solar panels were trucked up from California, but there’s just so much alternative you can do.
There was a nicely done YouTube video explaining how it will all look, something oh-so-important for today’s media age.
There was one detail that had to be taken care of, however, by the group, which actually is called the “Mosquito Fleet” and describes itself as “a volunteer armada of kayaktivsts.”
The important detail was getting a barge.
A number of marine firms turned him down, Sellers says.
“I was pretty honest about what we were doing,” he says. “I think they didn’t think we were serious enough.”
Then he came to Wells.
His equipment includes six barges.
“I don’t really know what their purpose is,” says Wells about The People’s Platform. “To be honest, I don’t care. I think it’s to show other forms of energy.”
It’s not cheap to rent a big barge.
Sellers says it’ll be “over $15,000” for two weeks.
In addition, there is about another $5,000 for insurance, as Sellers says companies weren’t particularly interested in a short-term rental that likely wouldn’t result in repeat business.
As of Saturday afternoon, donations had reached $16,400, not bad for a fundraiser started six days earlier.
As the barge was towed from Kenmore through the Ship Canal to an area off Seacrest Park, Sellers and Wells talked some.
“He’s a super nice guy, very gracious,” Sellers says.
Says Wells, “Everyone seemed great. I chatted with them a little bit.”
Told about the solar panels, he says, “I didn’t realize the amount of power that thing puts out.”
But Wells says he’s not a political-type guy.
“I want to stay out of it,” he says. “I don’t want oil spills.”
He talked about a friend of his who had been in the Gulf of Mexico.
“That oil spill there that they said had cleaned itself up? There were tar balls everywhere underwater,” he says.
Sellers says he’d like to keep the barge as a protest site for as long as the Shell oil rig is here.
That’s fine with Wells.
There is a long history in this country of various events being able to take place because someone not associated with the cause said, “Sure.”
The famous Woodstock rock-music festival in 1969, for one, became a reality when a farmer named Max Yasgur leased one of his fields, after others declined.
Says Wells about his barge, “It’s just basically a floating box. They can keep it as long as they want. We’re in the rental business. Their money is green.”
Information in this article, originally published May 16, 2015, was corrected May 17, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the barge was 400 square feet. It is 4,000 square feet.