Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Octopus Lore

Act IV of Puccini's La Boheme last night at the Metropolitan Opera House. 10:30 PM. Photo: JH.
1/7/09. Cold in New York and awaiting a “complex” storm (Accu-weather) of rain, sleet, snow. At this hour just after midnight, it is doing none of the above although it is wet and cold. So, we’ll see.

Yesterday was a comparatively quiet day in New York although the cabbies told me it was nothing compared to Monday. Historically, January is a relatively quiet month in the city. The current financial situation has many people worried about all kinds of things. Once they get through (or bored with) the worry part, all kinds of creative things will follow.

First things first. Last Friday’s NYSD ran among other things, a picture of Octopus, the 414-foot yacht of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This yacht cost Mr. Allen (who was once said to be worth upwards of $20 billion or so) $200 million to build. It has a permanent crew of 60 including several former Navy Seals. It has 2 helicopters, 7 boats, a 10-man sub and a remote controlled vehicle for crawling the ocean floor (“Come crawl with me, let’s crawl, let’s crawl away ...”) The sub has the capacity to sleep 8 for up to two weeks underwater. Glug glug.
Octopus, the 414-foot yacht of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Yachts are very expensive to keep up, as we all know especially if we hang with billionaires. And you can tell Mr. Allen really knows how to live -- so if you’ve got it, it’s hard to resist, no? The yacht upkeep rule of thumb is approximately ten percent of the cost of the boat on delivery.

That would put Mr. Allen’s annuals for Octopus somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million or about $384k per week. In another words: another fortune. And, Mr. Allen also has two other yachts. Smaller of course. Personally I hear this stuff and I wish I were rich, that rich. If you didn’t already know, there ain’t nothing like it.
Mr. Allen, as many know, is also a major rock and roll fan and a Jimi Hendrix aficionado to the point where he’s accumulated much of the late great rocker’s earthly possessions which are stored in museum like surroundings.

I have a friend who was one of the last loves of the late great rocker and who has a few mementos of those sweet moments. She will not sell them.
I just thought I’d throw that in. Although this business about the 21st century Gatsby-esque tycoon and his yacht is leading somewhere. In last Friday’s Diary, I wrote that Mr. Allen’s Octopus – which was down in St. Barth’s over the holidays – when it was in Capri two or three years ago, was accused of disposing of its garbage, before pulling up anchor, by throwing it into the sea.

These alleged acts of disposal were said to have riled the locals and the visitors who were “aware” of it. I was told this by an American friend of mine who has spent the better part of every summer for the past 25 years in Capri, and something of a yachtswoman herself.
Yesterday I got a message from Mr. Allen’s office insisting that this story was NOT TRUE. I must say that when I first heard it, I thought to myself “this doesn’t fit the public image of Mr. Allen.” The spokesman for Mr. Allen insisted that he checked with those who manage the ship and determined that this was not their means or habits of disposal. This makes sense. A full time crew of 60 means 180 meals a day, just for starters. When the boat is in use it could increase half again as much or more. I told the Allen spokesman about my source who passed on the information with great disappointment. The spokesman insisted that Mr. Allen would never allow such activity.

When you look at this beautiful ship, and see the completeness of its engineering and design, it seems inconceivable that the world’s largest private yacht wouldn’t have the highest of high tech disposal systems. 2 helicopters and 7 boats and no place to throw the garbage? Not likely, don’t you think?

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