Tale of two boats; one book brings $46 million
"The money is close. Real close."
That's probably what executives of the St. Armands-based Freedom Ship International Inc. are whispering to themselves these days. The company hopes to complete a private stock offering this year and, with the proceeds, acquire a shipyard in Honduras to begin construction of a floating city capable of accommodating 70,000 people.
The biggest ship on the planet would cost about $20 billion to build, so it will indeed be a long fundraising process, but it would definitely be something to see.
As envisioned by Norman Nixon, the company's chief executive officer and founder, the vessel would be about a mile long and 750 feet wide. Its size would prohibit it from entering ports, so it would just meander around the world, taking about three years per revolution. It would anchor off certain coasts periodically to allow passengers or residents to visit the locales. In fact, the ship will be at key spots about 70 percent of the time and in transit for the remainder of the three years.
Some of the "specs" for the ship include:
- 18,000 living units, with prices in the range of $180,000 to $2.5 million, including a small number of premium suites currently priced up to $44 million.
- 3,000 commercial units in a similar price range.
- 2,400 time-share units.
- 10,000 hotel units.
- A casino.
- A ferryboat transportation system that provides departures every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, to three or more local cities giving ship residents access to the local neighborhood and up to 30,000 land-based residents a chance to spend a day on the ship.
- A medical facility practicing Western and Eastern medicine as well as preventive and anti-aging medicine.
- A school system that gives the students a chance to take a field trip into a different country each week for academic purposes or to compete with local schools in numerous sporting events.
- An international trade center that gives on-board companies and shops the opportunity to show and sell their products in a different country each week.
- More than 100 acres of outdoor park, recreation, exercise and community space.
More 'modest' vessel?
Back into the land of believability comes Piero Rivolta's 90-foot-long sailboat. It sleeps eight in four cabins, each with its own bathroom - each big enough to be called a bathroom rather than a head.
What's neat, although almost everything about the boat is neat, is its retractable keel that allows a draft of about six feet in shallows and almost 13 feet when under sail off the coast. There are twin rudders, twin engines, and all the other stuff you would expect in a world-class vessel.
Rivolta keeps it in back of his Bird Key home. It's easy to spot since the mast is about the same height as the nearby Ringling Bridge. In fact, he's got to putter down the Intracoastal Waterway to Venice Inlet to get out into the Gulf of Mexico.
I haven't spent much time on big boats, so I was naturally impressed with one so huge. A buddy who has spent a lot of time on big boats probably summed it up best when he said that the Rivolta sailboat "was the nicest sailboat I've ever seen."
Big money to go away
The company that mostly built and was to run the big water desalination plant in Hillsborough County has been given a $5 million golden parachute and told to go away.
Tampa Bay Water officials agreed to pay the sum to Covanta, the outfit that built the plant. The desal facility has been shut down due to a fear that the filters that strain salt from water were being damaged.
Tampa Bay Water and Covanta had been in court for the past few months regarding contract issues.
The plant is now supposed to be fully operational in 2005, producing 25 million gallons of potable water a day.
Value of one book
Dr. Sylvia Earle's book, "Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans" was worth $46 million to one Texas publisher. No, not in royalties or an advance, but for the betterment of the Gulf.
Edward Harte is the retired owner and publisher of a daily newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas. His son gave him a copy of Earle's book, and Harte the elder liked it and its message so much he wrote a check establishing the Harte Research Institute For Gulf of Mexico Studies, which is charged with being a "cooperator and collaborator with other marine labs" to focus on the Gulf.
Harte was at Mote Marine Laboratory the other week, the same lab that Dr. Earle was director of at one time. She still serves on the board of directors, and is also the "explorer in residence" at the National Geographic Society and chairs Gulf studies at the Harte Institute.
A few years ago there was some buzz in the publishing world about Stephen King signing a three-book contract with a London publishing house for $46 million.
It looks like Dr. Earle has trumped ol' Steve, doesn't it?
The Harte Institute has a Web site, www.gulfbase.org, which includes a whole slew of information about the Gulf. Among the entries in the "circulation" category is the following:
"Water enters the Gulf through the Yucatan Strait, circulates as the Loop Current, and exits through the Florida Strait, eventually forming the Gulf Stream. Portions of the Loop Current often break away, forming eddies or 'gyres,' which affect regional current patterns. Smaller wind-driven and tidal currents are created in nearshore environments.
"Drainage into the Gulf of Mexico is extensive and includes 20 major river systems covering over 3.8 million square kilometers of the continental United States. Annual freshwater inflow to the Gulf is approximately 280 trillion gallons, of which 85 percent comes from the United States, with 64 percent originating from the Mississippi River alone. Additional freshwater inputs originate in Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba."