At risk of sounding self-important, I’ve seen enough yachts over time that they’ve begun to blur in my mind. Some though, stand out. I remember walking down a dock in Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour in the first years of the millennium alongside a new boat called Tatoosh. She had a 40ish-foot Hinckley flybridge powerboat loaded onto her starboard side deck and a rigged-and-ready racing sailboat of about the same length nestled on her port side. At the time, 301-foot (92-meter) yachts were showstoppers anyway, but seeing one displayed with tenders that large gave me pause.
To most rank-and-file yachting enthusiasts, those two vessels alone would constitute an ideal fleet. But to the owner of Tatoosh, the recently deceased Paul G. Allen, they were just accoutrements to his own much larger stable, which, at the time, included two other not-insubstantial motoryachts: the Feadships Meduse and Charade. And he was awaiting delivery from Lürssen of the 413-foot (126-meter) Octopus, which today remains one of the largest yachts in the world.
Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and a billionaire many times over, was then, and remained until his death this past October, a boat guy to the core, albeit on a grander scale than most of us could imagine. He enjoyed the floating life as much as any of us, but there was something else to his passion for the sea. Like an increasing number of yacht owners, Allen chose to use his fleet for the greater good, making his boats available for exploration and scientific research.
Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has been at it for some years using his converted 184-foot (56-meter) support vessel Alucia for ocean research and conservation filmmaking. Dalio’s OceanX project this year is launching Alucia 2, another, larger conversion designed to further human understanding of the ocean environment.According to a press release, Dalio and his son, working with James Cameron and other experts, created OceanX as “a bold new initiative to explore the ocean and bring it back to the world through great media. OceanX will unite next-gen technology, fearless science, compelling storytelling and immersive experiences to educate, inspire and connect the world with the ocean.”
Yet another owner, Norwegian Kjell Inge Røkke, will launch in 2020 what is expected to be the longest yacht in the world, the 597-foot (182-meter) Espen Øino-designed REV, which is being built to undertake ambitious ocean research.
These committed owners and a growing number of others, including members of the stalwart International SeaKeepers Society, of which Allen was a founder, and the Blue Marine Yacht Club, not only gain pleasure from their yachts, but also have used and will use them to conserve and improve the quality of the environment in which we all play.
The rest of us may not be able to give back on such a grand scale, but the efforts of owners such as these will shed benefit to us all. They may not need our money, but they surely deserve our gratitude and support. -Kenny Wooton