Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Carl Allen and two friends on Little Grand Cay, The Bahamas

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Carl Allen and two friends on Little Grand Cay, The Bahamas

Purpose

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

From environmental research expeditions to hurricane relief efforts, yacht owner Carl Allen is a man on many missions.

By Dominique Afacan | 26 November 2019

Carl Allen has a thing for the water. Growing up on the Finger Lakes of New York, and, later on, close to Lake Michigan, fishing was a big part of his childhood and diving soon became a hobby, too. “At a very young age, I was exposed to the water and in particular, the Bahamas,” he says. Fast forward a few decades, and Allen began to charter yachts with his family. “I had young kids at the time and we really got addicted to it. Every time we had a couple of weeks off, we’d charter yachts.” In 2004 the family made the leap and bought their first yacht. Ten years later, after Allen had sold his company, he bought another yacht for his wife’s birthday – even giving it her name, Gigi. Allen Explorations was born.

“Allen Explorations started pretty much as soon as I sold my company,” he explains. “Our office sits on top of a building here in Dallas, Texas and everyone thinks we must be an oil and gas company!” The reality is rather different. Allen Explorations has multiple projects on the go, from environmental research and disaster relief to expeditions that go out in search of historical shipwrecks. “In order to work for me, you have to be a certified diver,’ says Allen. In fact, four of his team are qualified rescue divers. “Whether we’re diving for research or looking for shipwrecks, it’s quite a sight to see us all out there at once.”

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

An Allen family dive

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

An Allen family dive

One of the foundation’s latest projects came about unexpectedly when Hurricane Dorian struck in late August. Regarded as the worst natural disaster to ever hit the Bahamas, it caused catastrophic damage across the islands. “We had to drop everything and help after the hurricane,” says Allen. “Our support yacht, Axis, delivered over £700,000 of supplies and made multiple trips to Little Grand. We’ve turned it into the epitome of how to organise hurricane relief. I am almost thinking that it’s going to be better than it was before the storm.” One of the first things that the team did on arrival was to get the local school back up-and-running – sweeping floors and pulling out ceiling tiles. Then they organised for a group from Florida Power and Light to come and help restore the power. “Within a month, they were able to do that,” says Allen. “The island also lost their water tower, so we delivered four tanks on Axis.”

Aside from the hurricane relief effort, Allen has a lot more on his plate. As a former plastic bag manufacturer, he admits he has some guilt when it comes to environmental concerns, but he is keen to put it right with his extensive knowledge of the industry. “I know a lot about trash; what it’s made out of and where it comes from. My concern is microplastics. Those little beads get into fish gills and we don’t have a clue what is going on with them. I have a feeling they are going to make the mercury problem look small. We just don’t know, as there haven’t been enough studies.”

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Gigi Allen overseeing the offloading of supplies

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Gigi Allen overseeing the offloading of supplies

Allen has challenged himself to study microplastics and has teamed up with a couple of not-for-profits in the Bahamas to help. One of the charities, called The Plastic Solution, organises summer camps where they teach children about the problem. “We’ll go around an island together and collect trash and try to work out where it came from,” explains Allen. “Because 85% of the trash in the Bahamas didn’t come from the Bahamas.” Afterwards, at the local junkanoo [a local street parade with music, dance and costumes], the children use all this gathered trash to make outfits.

There is a more dedicated research arm to Allen Explorations, too, which makes use of the submarine on Allen’s support yacht, Axis. “With the submarine, we are able to take water samples at different depths,” explains Allen. He plans to get down to 1000 feet, take samples and have them analysed and see what kind of microplastics are in existence in the area. “The Bahamas is a good place to do it because we are right there on the edge of the Gulf Stream,” says Allen.

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Gigi and Carl Allen on Walker's Cay

Research and relief on the Allen fleet

Gigi and Carl Allen on Walker's Cay

The Bahamas has always been close to Allen’s heart, so much so that he recently invested in the island of Walker’s Cay, yet another project he is involved with. “I always said that if I was able, I would buy Walker’s Cay and about a year and a half ago, I did. We anticipate that the marina there will be open mid-summer. It will be the first time you’ll be able to get superyachts in there.”

It’s around this special cay that Allen has taken some of his memorable dives. “I’ve been a couple of feet away from a tiger shark off Walkers before which was cool, they were swimming right by me.” That is just one of over 3000 dives taken by Allen. Another memorable dive took place in his submarine. “In the Bahamas, at about 400 feet, we found a huge underwater arch with sharks and turtles swimming through it. It was like something from a movie. Every time you go down past 200 feet, you’re seeing stuff that nobody has ever seen.”

Allen has also been able to share his passion for the ocean with his family. With four children and two grandchildren, he has plenty of opportunities for big get-togethers on the water. “I’m a big family man,” he says. “We have a blast – it’s a lot easier the second time around with grandkids! It’s a family affair on this yacht, that’s for sure.”

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