Microsoft co-founder and international man of leisure Paul Allen has seen his wealth slide with the rest of us impacted by the recession. Forbes wrote in April that the South Lake Union land baron and Seahawks owner "has lost 36% of his fortune in the last 12 months." He was third among the world's richest people in 2003, but Forbes ranked him only 32nd this year.
Thanks to Yachtspotter.com, however, we can assess a more tangible metric than share prices and land values: Where in the world are Paul Allen's two megayachts? How far have they traveled? And what's their carbon output? Let's look at the yachts, ports, and numbers....
Allen's two main rides are the Octopus, rated at 414 feet and reportedly once the largest private yacht in the world, and the Tatoosh, rated at a paltry 303 feet and few years older than the Octopus, having been built in 2000 for Craig McCaw, the local cell-phone magnate, who sold the craft to Allen a year later for $100 million. (The Octopus reportedly cost $200 million and has an annual operating budget of $20 million.)
If the Octopus is equivalent to a maritime Hummer, fully blinged-out and weighing 2,900 metric tons, the 2,300-ton Tatoosh isn't exactly a Prius. Both carry helicopters. The Octopus also has a submarine. And the Tatoosh carries a 43-foot sailboat on its hip.
Since last leaving U.S. waters near the port of Palm Beach, Florida at the end of 2008, the Octopus (above) has been puttering around the Mediterranean, conveniently close to the Cannes Film Festival, where Allen has been a regular visitor and film investor. (This past May, he entertained celebrities including Mick Jagger, Quentin Tarantino, Tilda Swinton, and Diane Kruger.)
Most recently, per Yachtspotter, the Octopus passed Gibraltar early this September, which could mean it's now crossing the Atlantic (or headed to Europe, though no sightings have been reported). The vessel has a range of 8,000 nautical miles and carries 224,000 gallons of diesel, meaning it needs less than a half tank of gas to reach Florida from the Straights of Gibraltar, 3,821 nautical miles away, a distance the yacht could comfortably cover in 10 days without stopping.
Thanks to a convenient carbon offset calculator provided by BoatBookings.com, we know that "burning a gallon of gasoline produces 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide." It's all about the yacht's burn rate per hour. The Octopus would empty its tank cruising at 17 knots over 8,000 miles; that's 470 hours of continuous cruising and a burn rate of 476 U.S. gallons per hour. Enter that burn rate and a 10 day (240 hour) passage from Gibraltar to Florida in the calculator, and BoatBookings projects that 1,253 tons of carbon dioxide would be produced.
How much driving would you have to do for an equivalent carbon impact? Per the calculator on Web site Carbonfund.org, you'd have to put two million miles on a 2007 Lincoln Navigator. That's 80 times the circumference of the Earth. (Remember to pack a lunch.)
If you chartered an Octopus-sized yacht at BoatBookings, however, the carbon impact could be offset via a $11,352 investment in credits "used to build wind generation plants, replant rainforests, create bioenergy, install efficient lighting." (The company's carbon offset fund is coincidentally run by JP Morgan, the new owner of Washington Mutual.)
An offset cost of $11,352 for each Atlantic crossing is chump change to Allen, of course, and he's actually invested much more than that in several green ventures. The Times of London this year rated him the world's No. 8 green mogul, with a $250,000 stake in Imperium Renewables (the local biodiesel concern) and an undisclosed portion of a $20 million investment in California geothermal company Alta Rock Energy. The Times also lauds Allen's local Vulcan real-estate arm for using "environmentally sensitive materials." (Bill Gates is ranked second; both local moguls are ahead of the two Google dudes.)
The Tatoosh (above) leaves no public record of its fuel capacity or maximum range. Judged by weight, it probably produces 20 percent less carbon than the larger Octopus. It was last reported to be at anchor up the Côte d'Azur from Cannes, at Antibes, where the Tatoosh is listed on the Web site of a commercial chartering firm, meaning you, for the right price, could hire it out for a cruise to celebrated a wedding, anniversary, or bar mitzvah. How much? What's the old expression--if you have to ask... But at least the boat is generating a little income, as opposed to just depreciating at the dock. (Is there a Cash for Clunkers program for thirsty old yachts?)
Then, Allen has a third yacht, the 200-foot Meduse, which is the smallest, oldest of his fleet. And, we hope, the most fuel-efficient. It was spotted up in Alaska this September, so maybe we'll soon see it arriving in Elliott Bay. And then we can calculate its carbon impact, too.