The Great American Senior Show

Carl and Gigi Allen -- Retirement, Treasure, and Philanthropy Episode 01

September 03, 2022 Sam Yates Season 2 Episode 84
The Great American Senior Show
Carl and Gigi Allen -- Retirement, Treasure, and Philanthropy Episode 01
Show Notes Transcript

From his home on the east coast of Florida, a 12 year old youth gazed eastward over the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean and asked "What is out there". Carl Allen, now a retired and very successful Texas businessman who is also the stepson of the Walgreens founder, today owns what is out there -- Walkers Cay in the northern fringe of the Bahamas.

Allen is a fisherman and philanthropist who, together with his wife Gigi have rebuilt Walkers Cay into a fisherman's paradise complete with dockage for yachts up to 200 feet and an airstrip for small aircraft. He has rebuilt his island paradise from the ruins of three major hurricanes in recent years.

Allen is also the name behind Allen Exploration -- a  treasure and maritime artifact search company so successful that an entire maritime museum has been built in Port Lucaya, Freeport, Bahamas to house the treasure and artifacts.

It is the Bahamas Maritime Museum and it is NOW OPEN.

Carl and Gigi Allen invited Sam Yates, your information guru and information anchorman to their home to share their story in a series of episodes for the Florida, Ohio, and Texas Business Forum Podcasts and the Great American Senior Show. 

Here is Episode One.

Sam Yates:

Hello, everyone and welcome to another exciting edition of The Great American Senior Show. I'm your grey haired host, Sam Yates. Have you ever dreamed of retiring in the Bahamas, maybe owning your own island, having an exploration company, a treasure exploration company, and of course, helping people in need. We have a special guest today a person whose adventures some of you may recognize, but others will be getting a great introduction to him and some of his very amazing discoveries. And I want to welcome Carl Allen to the program. Welcome today. Sam, thank you. It's great to be here. You know, as I mentioned, a lot of people know about you, but there are still others who do not know about you. So tell us about yourself.

Carl Allen:

Oh, jeez. Well, I grew up in Chicago, went to school in Philly. I lived in Atlanta for a while and my wife and I have been in Texas, she's almost 30 years now. 30 years this year, four kids, three granddaughters. And I grew up I worked for a company my almost my whole life. Never thought I would sell it and somebody came along and offered me a lot of money and enabled me and my wife to kind of fulfill our dreams and a big part of that was the Bahamas and we I've been going there since I was 12. And you know, coming to Stuart and going over the walkers and and it was a real thrill in 2018 that we bought walkers K

Sam Yates:

is a wonderful island about 100 acres if I recall, and it's got some good high ground on it. It's got a marina it's got an airstrip. What caught your attention about Walker's Cay?

Carl Allen:

Well, first of all, it's we depending on the tide, we don't know 60 acres but 75 acres but but well look Sam I grew up coming to Stewart my father stepfather had a home here and and many many years since 1971. And we went out fishing when I was 12. And I looked out to the east and I said what's out there and a couple of days later, we were on a trawler in front of his an old trawler and we took over the walkers and you know when you see the banks and well first of all you see the Gulf Stream and then the beauty of the banks and then I I looked out and saw that land and I said to my stepdad what is that and he patted me on the head and said Son, that is Walker's K. And I just immediately fell in love with it. I just turned 58 That was you know 46 years ago.

Sam Yates:

And you know, I have to say I've been to walkers. It is something that being a fearless 20 Something fearless 30 Something there were those of us that would hop in a 2630 foot center console and off we would go always in pairs because we thought that was the safe way to do it. Some of the best fishing in the world in my opinion there.

Carl Allen:

Well I I have a saying it's where the the Bonefish meet the bill fish and I love the backcountry fishing just as much as the offshore. But look, it was a mecca for many, many years 70s 80s 90s that people remember the Bertram Hatter shootout, you know they had some customs out the customs shoot outs out there it was just a mecca. And it still is I mean we catch fish all year long out there and always look forward to the Wahoo season coming up because we're sort of Oahu Mecca out there. Right now that tuna run and so we chase birds and you know, everything's under the birds and but you can't beat the back country. The bonefishing is absolutely world class. And it still is

Sam Yates:

here locally, I was one of those that constantly Chase and trap them was and that's a malice. The snug and snug season is open. So you might see me out here on these days.

Carl Allen:

I see some tarpan probably running out on the beach too, I

Sam Yates:

think absolutely. Absolutely. So you know I fishing is having I think growing up here to fishing is something that once it's in your blood, you never get tired of

Carl Allen:

it. Yes. Yes,

Sam Yates:

Walker's K though. You bought it. And back around 2004 It was devastated by hurricanes. And then of course we had Dorian come through. You have been rebuilding it where are we on the rebuild.

Carl Allen:

So it's been a struggle. You know, when we first bought it in 18 We spent about eight or nine months just planning and getting to know little little grande which is our neighbor out there. And then here comes Dorian and 19 and thank God we didn't have a lot going on there yet. Just a few things in the beginning but it devastated little grand. And so we we spent a lot of time our fleet going back and forth helping those folks. And then we thought, okay, we're over that. And then here comes the pandemic. And it shut that country down. I give the previous Prime Minister a lot of credit, because the country didn't suffered too bad from the disease, but they had an economic meltdown. Because it's, you know, 80% Tourism over there and it literally came to a halt. And so it's been a struggle with supply chain issues. I mean, if if it's slow in Florida, we may as well be on Mars out there. And so what we have right now is an open Marina. I have 90 slips I can get up to 200 footers and all the center consoles. My love is the sports fishing boats, the convertibles and the big Vikings and stuff like that. We've got gas, fuel, diesel and gas. Great water people brag about our water out there. Right now I just have staff cottages and some man camp I call it for the contractors. We have 16 cottages sitting over here, Stuart, that had been prefabbed. It'll be funny to see people see it going up the inlet here and a few weeks but two at a time. I'm hoping that we'll have some of those cottages rent a bowl in Christmas time.

Sam Yates:

Tell me about those prefab where they prefabbed in our immediate area?

Carl Allen:

Absolutely. Yes, we are partnered with a company called strata con. And over here, I think it's like right in a row or right there near the lock. And it's taking you know, again, it's been slow because of everything. But the 16 first 16 are really nice. They're solid, they're very hurricane resistant. They're about I think 1300 square feet, each duplex, you can get on either side. And the foundation has been poured over there and Walker. So literally as a matter of shipping them. We have a big crane, put them in place and get everything wired. And here we go. So

Sam Yates:

if you haven't found out already, the owner of strata con is an avid fisherman. He's got a great center console and a few other boats. Oh, yeah. He's gonna be knocking on your door.

Carl Allen:

Yeah, he'll be he'll be coming back to stay, I'm sure. And I'm sure he'll be proud of it.

Sam Yates:

Well, one of these days, I'll get over there. And perhaps he and I, and we'll all be there together. Because it's, it is great there. Now as we talk about the Bahamas and the destruction and the rebuilding, that's an important part, the rebuilding, because not only at Walker's que but you had a vital hands on approach to making some of your neighbors viable again and helping the economy of the Bahamas.

Carl Allen:

Yes. You know, we love the country so much that we've been giving back my wife and I have a long trail of philanthropy over there helping schools, we've given away over 1500 These Amazon tablets, because so many books have been destroyed over there. Me and a whole bunch of great Americans went to work when Dorian hit and little grand thank God, nobody was killed and nobody even got hurt. But their island was devastated things like roofs and water and, and power. And I'm very proud to say that that me and a whole bunch of great Americans got that up and running in about five weeks. And there's a lot of people a little band that are thankful for that. And so my wife and I, because we're so close, there's 500 Bahamians over there, you know, I'm as good as them. We need them and they're, they're a great neighbor.

Sam Yates:

Now, I know that there probably is still a good clause to support there if someone is interested. How can they go about helping the Bahamas at this point? Or is it still something we're planning for the future?

Carl Allen:

Well, I mean, there's some really good charities you got to watch out for some of them but but you know, I always say you know what they need they need people come and visit and if you want to help out the Bahamas, come see us because that's the best thing because it's tourism they need that that dollar and and people are ready I mean it's been so long the cruise ships just started to come back a little bit but the cruise ships they don't really help the outer islands you know it's it's it's the people with the center consoles you know your sports fishing boats your bigger yachts that's what we need to come back and I'm surprised Walker's was pretty slow right now it's it's definitely the economy the fuel prices. I hate to say it but I'm, I'm almost $9 A gallon for diesel out there.

Sam Yates:

Ouch. Now you have a fleet. And literally you have your own fleet in addition to this, the fishing boat, but tell us a little bit about your fleet. And then I want to come back to the Bahama help.

Carl Allen:

Yeah, so when I sold the company, I thought you know, the best way to get my wife into this is to buy her a yacht and name it after. So we have a 164 West port that we just love. We've had it for six years. It's a it's a moving house and it's called GG. I think right after that. We realized when we bought that she looked at me. She said there's something up to you. And I said yep, we're going to the boat show and I fell in love. I didn't even get on it with a with a company called Damon. Rose Daymond. She's a good friend of mine. They make this yacht support vessel. We call it the axis it's 183 feet, and it's a platform. We got our submarine on there we have a full dive shop. There's a little airplane that goes on there. It holds a massive amount of fuel and gasoline makes 30,000 gallons of water every day. It's a real command ship and so when we're out doing what we do, it's sort of a mothership. Recently, I bought an 80 foot Viking I'm a big Viking fan, I had a 52 and a 68. And then GT got struck by lightning and so we were out for a while and I was getting cramped in that 68 So he went out and there was a great deal on an older now it's not real old ces 2018 80 foot Viking enclosed bridge which I never thought I would like and I love it

Sam Yates:

and I have to say I have been on board the axis and that's one of the reasons that I am here today because we being on board and knowing some of the things that were going on with another part of your life and I won't get into all of that now because I'm going to tease our second episode as we go on. That is one hell of a vessel it's North Sea sturdy.

Carl Allen:

Absolutely. It was built you know as a rig tender in the North Sea. And you know, we have things like dynamic positioning on there we have all sorts of sonar you know, we've got that forward and downward looking sonar she's just one big solid piece of metal and she's got a steel hole and an aluminum superstructure and we bought it kind of plain it was it was just a shell kind of when we bought it and I put just as much into it as what I paid for it and ended up with a vessel that is quite common now I think I've started a fad and Rosen I have never talked about that royally but yeah it's it's quite neat to see people have have adopted that because again with that as a job support right you can keep your yacht just totally clean and go places not have to tow stuff and but we do look like a fleet going down the road plus my favorite little boats you mentioned fleet is I've got a really good relationship with Hell's Bay and I'm gonna mark cases addition they made me a Walker's K addition, I've got an old whip spray. And the backcountry fishing walkers tremendous so so that's that's the fleet.

Sam Yates:

You have mentioned that several times you left out the Triton submarine

Carl Allen:

I? Well, there's a Triton submarine built in Vero Beach. Great folks have an awesome relationship with him as well. That goes down to 3300 feet with three people, a pilot and two passengers. And we have an amazing time in that because when you're in the Bahamas, anytime you get below like 200 feet, which is the divers level, you are literally seeing something no human has ever seen before. And we're finding like underwater arches and a couple of modern shipwrecks. When I say modern, you know, less than 100 years old. I am so pleased to tell you that the wildlife and the reef off of walkers is alive and well.

Sam Yates:

That is good to know. And I've had the folks from Triton here on the program where you have good and they speak very highly of the end of your vessel the axis and it is it is known for helping to launch and checkout.

Carl Allen:

And then you know there's this the last thing I should mention problem is we have a little airplane it's called an icon and it's it's got foldable wings like an old Corsair. So we can slide it onto the axis and it's amphibious. And you can land it on a runway as well. So it's it's really good for search is one of the things that we do so

Sam Yates:

as you talk about all of this activity let's let's come back to the Bahamas because that relationship with the the Bahamian government in particular. Sometimes the Bahamas isn't that easy. The Bahamian government isn't that easy to work with, but you have an excellent working relationship, what would you attribute that to?

Carl Allen:

Oh, gosh, probably just, you know, going there. I mean, I know the Bahamas, like the back of my hand, all the way from, you know, walkers down to hawks to reef and everything in between. And one of the things I got really interested in is the politics. About 20 years ago, I started to, I was thinking about building a business over there, and I started to meet people. And I got to be very good friends with the previous Prime Minister, Dr. Minnis, and his administration and, and, you know, I made promises that we've delivered on as far as walkers and our philanthropy and the salvage operations were to talk about, but it's very unique. It's a excellent model of private public partnership, PPP. And we've used that up a little ground, you know, I've done some stuff, they match it, I do it they helped me it's great.

Sam Yates:

As you talk about PPP, that private partnership, private public partnership, when people think of the Bahamas, I would venture to say they think of vacation, they may think of fishing, fun relaxation. They probably are not thinking about maritime heritage. The Bahamas has a rich maritime heritage.

Carl Allen:

Absolutely, Sam Yeah, I mean, it is a giant tourist destination. It's so beautiful. I mean, I always tell Bahamians, you're already here. You're at Paradise. We're all trying to get here. But But yes. You know, huge maritime history there. It started out with Columbus landing there and the Lucayan that Lucayan, which I've studied and I'm very interested in they, they were gone in 30 years. They brought slaves in after that, and that was really the, you know, the basics of the beginning of the Bahamas. There was some some white Bahamians that came over from Bermuda. We knew that but, but the shipping that went on there, Nassau, it was like the Mecca. I mean it all the pirates were there. And in the English, the Spanish, the Dutch, everybody used Nassau. It's incredible. What went on there as sort of a mecca of the of the Western Hemisphere.

Sam Yates:

And to certainly as we talk about that maritime industry, without going into details, because I'm trying to keep our episodes to a length that our listeners can listen while they're walking when they're in their car. You recently had a ribbon cutting for something very, very special to that maritime industry. Tell us about it, but not a lot of detail.

Carl Allen:

Sure. Yeah. So we just opened and I had two Prime Ministers there, the previous one and the current one, both supporting this, that it is the first type of its kind in the Bahamas, Bahama Maritime Museum, you can look us up. And we basically have a tour of going back to Luke ions, you know, through the slaves, a natural history of the Bahamas, and a history of shipwrecks. There is about 300,000 shipwrecks in the Bahamas from all different centuries. And it is always fascinated me I don't want to be a diver in New Jersey, where you have six inch visibility and cold water and, and mean big sharks, the Bahamas, it's clear water and usually and warm. And you can see the sharks coming from a long way.

Sam Yates:

Which is always always good, folks. Occasionally, I like to stop and pause. If you were sitting here with me today, if you had just seen the enthusiasm, and the smile that crept across your face, it started at the chin and went all the way up. And the wrinkles of the forehead were all part of this huge smile. And that's because we have something else to talk about. And it is ugly asked you prior to keep some of the details out of the conversation because I want to know can you come back for another episode?

Carl Allen:

Absolutely, Sam. Yes, sir.

Sam Yates:

Now, as we conduct this interview, I know you're on your way to Key West. And that's where there's some special ceremonies going on Mel Fisher days. And Mel Fisher days 2022. It's also marking the 400th anniversary of something that happened. The key is what was that?

Carl Allen:

So I'm very excited. It is the 400 year anniversary of the sinking of the utopia, which is 1622. And I there's something that a lot of people don't know. But Mel Fisher was born in 1922 300 years later. And it's just a tremendous man who I met when I was young. He would be 100 this year. So so this festival, it's going on all weekend. Kim and taffy and the whole families put it together and their speeches and films and cocktail parties. And it's really a celebration of the utopia and Mel's life. And it's going to be pretty neat for us to be there based on the opening of our museum and it's ended a lot of that is based on his his museum

Sam Yates:

1622 1922 2022 There are some 20 twos going on here for sure. And and there's a lot sometimes there's a lot of things that happened with coincidence that if you believe like I do things happen for a reason. That's one of the reasons we're here today. And I'm just going to tease one more time and say, gold, precious gems, cannons, swords, a trail of treasure that Alan exploration, Carl Allen, Gigi Allen, and your entire team have discovered and you're preserving for the Bahamas and that rich maritime heritage.

Carl Allen:

You just hit it off. I'm speechless. That's it. Yeah, yeah. I'd love to get in and talk to more more about what we're doing. And we're

Sam Yates:

going to do just that. So ladies and gentlemen, as I say, you know, it's Carl, you've got a great future if you get out of the exploration business and never want to come out of retirement. I've got a newscaster position for you. Because that was one hell of a tease and we're gonna come back with another episode. Awesome. Thanks, everyone for joining us.