17 September 2012 | Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs
10 June 2012 | St. Martin
04 June 2012 | St. Martin
19 May 2012 | english harbour, antigua
07 May 2012 | Bridgetown, Barbados
27 April 2012 | Georgetown, Guyana
22 April 2012 | Paramaribo, Suriname
19 April 2012 | French Guyana
13 April 2012 | Atlantic Ocean somewhere off of South America
08 April 2012 | Amazon River, Macapa, Brazil
01 April 2012 | Amazon River, Brazil
30 March 2012 | Tapajos River, Brazil
28 March 2012 | Amazon River, Brazil
21 March 2012 | Xingu River, Brazil
20 March 2012 | Amazonia, Brazil
18 March 2012 | Para River, Brazil
18 March 2012 | Belem, Brazil
13 March 2012 | Capim River, Brazil
The final blog, Bubbles sold yesterday
17 September 2012 | Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs
capt. alex rust
First lets go back to that week in May in the British Virgin Islands… we had over 20 sparkling crew on board Bubbles (all wearing the coral crew shirts) approaching the round-the-world finish line at Nanny Cay. With only a few hundred feet to go the propeller fell off. Not being able to raise sail with such a crowd on deck it looked as if we would founder on the reef just downwind of us, but just as always (and a very fitting representation of the trip), we scrambled to grab a dingy to tow Bubbles to safety and the welcoming party at the dock. Bottles were opened and high fives passed around… Circumnavigation complete.
Mohawks and mullets were shaved as the party continued for three more days on to Willie T’s, Cane Garden Bay, and Jost Van Dyke before returning to Nanny Cay (happy to report all survived). As the crew thinned out it was finally just brother Joe and I to get to work cleaning out the boat. Bubbles’s waterline raised eight inches with all her gear on the docks. Removing each piece, ranging from decorative hand carved tribal masks, to specialty tools I had modified for a specific task on the engine, my emotions flew from the happiness and frustrations of the moments past, to sadness and relief that the mission was over, to disbelief that it had even happened. I broke down in tears multiple times. Joe and I organized a dock sale to raise funds for dockage and flights home, offering shots of rum (we found all sorts of extra alcohol that I had hidden from myself had we become shipwrecked) that had ‘sailed round the world’ to entice buyers (a strategy that works quite nicely amongst fellow sailors). I gave Bubbles one last kiss as I turned her over to the son of the man I had bought her from.
Back in Indiana I was treated to 5 days in jail for a ‘failure to appear’ warrant that had gone well overdue in my absence. With air conditioning, three warm meals a day, and a floor to sleep where I didn’t get water splashed on my face it felt more like a resort than punishment, but then again there was that absence of freedom that I had only recently known too well in its purest form. I quickly received the nickname ‘Magellan’ and storytime was the one part of the day when the methheads, drunks, and thieves in our crowded cell all seemed to get along as a childish dreamlike state overtook them as they sailed with me on Bubbles across the oceans.
So yesterday Bubbles sold, making this the last blog entry. In summary I have to thank Ross Gerber for starting this blog. Without him I wouldn’t have done one and I am so glad we carried forward what he started. I also want to thank all the followers who posted comments. Knowing you were with us in some of the most remote areas on earth helped keep us going.
This trip was about simple discovery, venturing out to see the world and the people in it. Along the way we faced obstacles and challenges that only a trip like this could produce, and with no alternative but success we overcame. What we found was that the world is indeed a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. And like nearly everything in life, it is the people that make the experience and Bubbles was blessed with the best characters this world has to offer. It was a dream come true for me and If I learned anything on this trip it was that with a little luck and a lot of determination (or maybe it’s the other way around) you can make anything happen… just go for it!!
As for Bubbles the boat there couldn’t be a more perfect vessel for our trip. More than just a vehicle of transport she was our home, a ‘floating palace’ as Paddy King would call her. She carried us through violent storms and protected us from the elements. A faithful companion, she performed best when she was needed most – in the open ocean. Even though this beautiful piece of fiberglass has moved on to a new owner, Bubbles is not over. For Bubbles is more than just a boat, Bubbles is an idea, a journey. And just as bubbles float through the air with that magical shine that captivates a small child, so did this trip unlock the magic and small child in each of us. Float on, Bubbles…float on.
the last leg sail
22 July 2012
cap'n alex rust
We had good wind on the morning we set sail to complete the 90 mile last leg (from St. Martin to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands) of Bubble’s circumnavigation. With a full boat, I was on deck explaining some navigational markers to some of the more virgin crew when Trevor at the helm yelled that another sailboat looked to be crossing our path up ahead. I gave a quick glance at the other boat to see they were on a port tack and knowing we were on a starboard tack, I told Trevor to maintain course (a sailing vessel on a starboard tack has the right of way). However, the other vessel kept coming and upon seeing a frantic elderly women at the helm of the larger charter boat turn towards us on approach, a collision seemed imminent. With Trevor still holding course I yelled out and motioned my arms for the lady, who was in turn yelling below deck for who was probably her husband, to turn upwind which she finally started to do at the last second, with her bow missing our stern by a few short feet. All I could think was of the 30,000 miles we had made so far and with less than 100 to go anything could still happen and I needed to stay alert (hard to do with 20 of my best friends around, some of which I hadn’t seen in years, all in party mode).
Of course Bubbles wouldn’t sail from one port to the next without a little exploration and so we diverted course to the uninhabited Dog Island of Anguilla. On the way I showed Drew Royalty how to judge how distant land is based on our eye height above sea level and in no time at all he was accurately estimating island distances on our horizon. When we arrived at Dog Island there were a few moans as to where the bars would be found on the deserted white sand beach, but within an hour’s time those moans were turned to excited laughter as the crew began collecting seashells and sharing with one another each of their newly found treasures. A small group of us went exploring further to find the island wasn’t so deserted after all with a resident feral goat population, land lizards, ginormous hermit crabs and hundreds of nesting seabirds among the islands interior scrub and cacti.
Back to our two ship fleet (Bubbles and her shadow, the Ghost ship) we set sail again, pointing our bows into the setting sun as we had done so often on our westward circumnavigation. Being the last sunset at sea we celebrated aboard Bubbles with a bottle of wine that had sailed with us around the world. We toasted the sun for the beautiful day it had given us. Panu broke out the guitar while Marta lead us is some Spanish singing. That night bodies littered the boat as we sailed towards the British Virgin Islands. Those awake practiced finding constellations with our laser pointer in the star filled night sky that only the open ocean can provide. We took shifts on watch, but with many navigational novices on board I woke every couple hours to check our position and rightly so, as on one check I found us heading directly for reef that would have surely sunk the ship had we collided. By sunrise we found ourselves sailing past Necker Island (home of Sir Richard Branson) with no sight of the Ghost ship. Then, just as any good ghost ship would, they appeared suddenly on our stern quarter slowly gaining on us until reaching by our side as we sailed quietly into the islands we had departed from nearly three years before. I shed tears as I looked upon the recognizable islands that surrounded us. We were actually going to make it…
Magic Aboard Bubbles
10 June 2012 | St. Martin
cap'n alex rust
That night in St. Martin the party aboard Bubbles can only be described as magical. With Christmas lights strung up both in the rigging to light the deck, and in the interior to light below, a special glow illuminated the boat that had carried us around the world. Paddy King lead a conga line of Bubbles crew that circled the mast over and over again in scene that rivaled any tribal celebration we had seen. We gathered everyone below for a toast stacking bodies on top one another with the left over crowd squeezing their faces in from the outside to fill every hatch. It was on this night that we introduced the 10 gallons of rum we had jerry jugged from Madagascar, which quickly and unanimously was dubbed ‘fuel’ for its duel nature of both drink and ability to run our diesel engine. Shot after shot was poured and toast after toast was made. Singing carried on into the morning.
The following day fresh crew arrived in the form of Ross Gerber (a true Bubbles veteran, having sailed 5000 miles from Panama to Tahiti as well as a second leg on board while exploring Madagascar’s west coast) and Tom Rickmeyer (a Bubbles virgin but old friend from Wisconsin). We rounded up the crew and set off across the lagoon to make the morning bridge opening that would take us to the ocean. As we neared the bridge we noticed a girl waving her arms at us from a nearby dock, but when the waving didn’t stop after we politely waved back a closer look revealed that it was one of our crew, Barbara! (a headcount I had done put us well over our crew number so I had assumed all were present, in fact, we still had aboard several guests from the night before). Srgt Sexton, captain of the dingy, rescued Barbara (plus some local friends she had gathered) and the horns blew loudly as we made our way under the bridge and out to sea.
After a short sail Bubbles and the Ghost Ship rafted together in Simspon Bay to start yet another celebration of the trip. Tex arrived with another addition to the crew of Cookie (Bubbles virgin from Minnesota) whose birthday it happened to be. With the swell increasing and our masts nearly hitting, we were forced to untie. More ‘fuel’ was distributed aboard Bubbles with much of the crew swimming back and forth in the dark from the Ghost Ship to share the cold beer. Tales of the sea were swapped late into the night.
The following day I went to check out of St. Martin with 21 passports from 10 different countries. A couple minor immigration hiccups lead to a wild goosechase around the island trying to round up various documents from crew that were now spread thin across the island with no phones, but after 6 hours and three trips to the port authority we finally were all cleared out.
Just before sunset Diego sounded the Bubbles horn on the beach and the cry of “Bubbles….ASSEMBLE!!” rang out. Rising out of the sea, ducking out of the nearby bars, and coming from every direction on the beach the Bubbles crew came together in a scene that could have been from Lord of the Flies. We formed a circle and performed a group Bubbles hug that included each crew member starting with when they joined the boat. This followed by Trevor running naked down the beach and a tight rope session set up by Panu between two coconut trees.
Back aboard Bubbles that evening a group of 30 of us gathered for the passport ceremony of three departures. We had started a tradition in Brazil of stamping the passport of departing crew with a Bubbles stamp followed by a speech. The first departures were Barbara (Holland) and Therese (Hawaii) followed by young Diego from the Galapagos. Diego had never sailed when we first met him at the age of 18 in the Galapagos. His first sail was a 3,000 mile jump across the Pacific to the Marqueses during which he improved his English. He sailed on with us to Tahiti and rejoined Bubbles just last year in South Africa adding another 10,000 miles over 7 months. A shy young kid when we first met he is now a social butterfly interacting with people in a way that creates smiles all around. He made me a lazy captain always going far and beyond his duty and a big reason that Bubbles made it this far. No one loves sailing the open seas more and he would get upset if we were on or near land more than three days. Having been through thick and thin together tears were poured as his passport was stamped. This was followed by three cheers for Diego and the ‘Hip, hip, HUZZAH! Hip, hip, HUZZAH! Hip, hip, HUZZAH!’ could be heard throughout the anchorage. Later on, one particular hardened soldier, who I have never seen emotional, sobbed uncontrollably around us as Diego and I traced our route onto his chart and exchanged personal effects to carry on with us.
The rest of the night was spent hanging out together aboard Bubbles. Claudio and Tassio, Brazilian friends of Molly’s from another sailboat, joined us and this is an excerpt of what they wrote about Bubbles and her crew that evening…
“ As we stepped on this cozy and warm 39 feet ship,we also stepped in a very unique universe. We slowly made our way between the people watching stars and laughing on the deck and those chilling in the cockpit eating Ramen with sea shells as a fork and others playing music down there. There was no doubt, we were walking on each others toes and it never felt so good to do so. They were toes from all around the world, that all had sailed with Captain Alex and Bubbles from one destination to a further one. People that he had met along the way and had decided to invite them to join him on the blue road for a little or longer while. We often get stories of people that sailed around the world with the memories of the amazing people they met along the way, but how rare it is to experience and meet these people that was part of a long and beautiful story of a circle around the planet of one person and a sailboat. That night, because of everyone, because of all these colors, languages and laughs, it felt to us like we had gone around the world with him in a few hours, it was pure magic happening. The boat had tattooed on herself the path of the long road and we could feel each miles and the spray into the captain’s eyes. Varnish long gone and floorboards pressed in from each foot that had found balance on it, Bubbles smells happiness, dreams, youth and freedom. Bubbles is more than a beautiful sailboat, she is alive and she was smiling to the stars and the sea that night. With everyone, it looked like a modern version of the party of the shipmates of the old boat back in time.”
Thier full blog entry can be found at http://blog.terradagua.com/2012/05/pure-magic-on-bubbles/
The following morning Diego and I arose to make one final mast jump together. From 30 feet above the water, I dove head first while Diego performed a back flip (both things we had been working to master for the past few months). Joe dropped Diego, Barbara, and Theresa off on the jetty before returning to help us weigh anchor. Even though we sailed out on two full boats that morning a clear bit of emptiness could be felt.
You will be missed Diego, and you will go far.
The Round the World Pre Party Begins!!
04 June 2012 | St. Martin
The seven of us woke well before sunup to the Indiana Jones theme song cranked over the Bubbles sound system. Sails were up by sunrise with Paddy King at the helm and brother Joe standing by as we watched the morning light illuminate mountainous Saba's cliffs rising from the sea. With 20 knots of wind just forward of the beam the sail to St. Martin was a quick one and it seemed likely we would make the 11 am bridge opening to enter the lagoon.
Bubbles started her round the world journey in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands almost three years ago and now being only 90 miles away at St. Martin some of the previous Bubbles crew had a chartered a ghost ship to shadow Bubbles on her last leg of the circumnavigation. Upon arrival into Simpson Bay we saw familiar faces aboard the fifty foot monhull ghost ship and after dropping hook (under sail as our fuel lines were clogged) the excitement couldn't be contained. I jumped into the sea towards the ghost ship and meeting in the water I hugged Jack 'pouse' Magruder, from Georgia, crossed the Atlantic on Bubbles; Sergent Sextent, from Texas, went up the Amazon River aboard Bubbles; Irish, from Ireland, sailed in Thailand aboard Bubbles; and Tex, from Minnesota, helped tow Bubbles through Indonesia. But there was mystery man still aboard the ghost ship wearing a power ranger mask and it wasn't until I was face to face with the man that he revealed himself as the prince of Norway, Anders, whom I hadn't seen in years. With the bridge opening soon and Bubbles having no power I rushed to clear the fuel lines and bleed the engine just in time. On the rocks next to the bridge, with bubbles shirt on, stood a waving Drew Royaly, from Seymour Indiana, having sailed on Bubbles from Tahiti to Bora Bora. Seargent Sexten picked him up to join our parade as we entered the lagoon with trumpets blaring.
Once docked inside the lagoon and checked into four square by Miss Molly it was only minutes later that we were joined by my Guru, Panu, from Finland, sailed on Bubbles from Panama to the Galapagos; and shortly thereafter Marta, from Spain, aboard Bubbles in Indonesia; rounding the Bubbles crew up to 15. Needing to get to the airport to pick up more arriving crew we rented a minivan that we all somehow managed to fit into with horns blaring , doors open and bubbles flag waving. With a delayed flight we had a tailgating party in the airport parking lot where the game of danger can was introduced (danger can is played by chanting 'danger can' loudly in unison while each person in the group hits the beer can to their forehead as hard as he/she can until it finally explodes). All wearing our Bubbles uniforms of coral colored (not to be confused with pink) around the world shirts we hid behind the arrival doors and when Trevor, from Indiana, sailed with Bubbles in Thailand, came out, the 15 of us tackled him to the ground from behind after which some humping took place.
That night we took the party first to a beach fire and then to the Soggy Dollar bar where from now on no one wearing a coral colored Bubbles shirt will be allowed to enter. The following day we did a family drive around the island in the minivan singing together 'We are climbing Sunshine Mountain' as the four grown men tetrised behind the back seat tried to breath. The Bubblesmobile circumnavigated St. Martin (one half of which is French and the other half Dutch) in time to get back to the airport to add KC Gunn, Indiana gal, sailed with Bubbles to Langkawi, and a slightly delayed Wyatt Turc, a true American unfortunately born in Canada, who had sailed with Bubbles in the primitive Philipines.
Also Joining the Bubbles crew that evening for a gathering aboard Bubbles were Kieran and the crew from Lilly Bolero, John and crew from Iris, a group of South Africans we had met in St. Helena, and the Aussie crew from the $38 million superyacht Flojo. Before kicking off the event Panu blessed the boat, Diego blew the Bubbles horn and Marta shot a flare letting everyone know.. The Bubbles Round the World Celebration had begun.
the Sea Hawk 4 takes flight
31 May 2012 | Saba Rock
The day sail to Barbuda was sunny with good wind and buzzing excitement from both new crew and old. Arriving in the poorly charted waters we ran aground, but jumping into a shallow sea full of starfish isn't a bad place to get stuck. Ashore the six of us strolled on an endless beach of pink sand with not another person or sign of human in sight (cant tell you enough how beautiful that is). The only colonizers we came across was that of several hundred frigates (a type of sea bird) across the lagoon.
Able to dredge our way out of Barbuda we carried into a sea of stars for a night sail. Conditions were near perfect and the clear skies revealed many a shooting star with some flaming so bright I thought they were missiles. Bubbles tracked nicely though the warm Caribbean waters leaving a bright trail of bioluminescence in her wake.
At sunrise we arrived in St. Barts and within minutes we ran into Turkey, a sailing friend of Diego's who lives there, supplying us with a 50 hp dingy. Our arrival coincided with the transatlantic race from France and so the party ashore had already started. We went for a burger at Le Select which inspired Jimmy Buffet's song Cheeseburger in Paradise and it was easy to see why. There we also added Theresa, the model/actress/surfer from Hawaii who we met previously in St. Lucia to the Bubbles crew rounding our crew number up to 7.
When doing some Mediterranean style mooring I noticed we had a problem with the propeller which landed us in the wrong position. Because we couldn't move with the engine we decided to move our anchor by swimming down and picking it up which Diego, Paddy and I proceeded to do little by little while Joe held the boat. The local Frenchies were so impressed they bought us all beer for our efforts. Inspecting the prop I noticed we had lost a blade so I spent the next few hours sucking air from a hose and beating it with a mini sledge before finally getting it off. The girls had no problem entertaining themselves with the chic shopping that filled the port of Gustavia where we were moored while Diego and I rigged up our own prop puller using blocks and lines around the rudder that ran to a cockpit wench. Luckily we had a spare prop on board, but being in a hurry I bent the key during installation leaving it stuck in a position that didn't allow the back nut to hold it in place. With no time or money for a haul out I decided to take our chances with half installed propeller.
The seven of us departed pre sunrise for a six hour sail to Saba which rises majestically out of the water with cliffs all around. We rounded the rocks to the leeward side of the island where Diego heroically jumped in to grab us a mooring before the 20+ knots of wind blew us into a cliff. Joe had brought down as a carry on our new dingy, the Sea Hawk 4, which is cheap inflatable raft brother Solomon had picked up for us at Wal Mart. While a couple of the crew readied the Sea Hawk for a shore landing I was checking our instruments when I was hit with a toothbrush and then heard a splash. Looking up I saw the feather light Sea Hawk 4 had taken flight and Joe had dove in, mid teeth cleaning, to rescue her. Diego joined in the chase while Paddy and I chanted the Indiana Jones theme song as we all watched Diego, Joe and the Sea Hawk 4 be blown further out to open sea. Luckily all three returned and we loaded up and headed towards the cliffs.
Ashore we found a steep staircase of 800 steps winding up the cliff. Halfway up was an abandoned customs house that in the days of old acted as the gateway to the entire island. Finally reaching the road, the seven of us hitchhiked (easy to do on an island of only 1200 locals) with a Californian named Jeff in his small jeep. Only two of us could fit inside leaving five to hang on the outside for dear life as we winded around the mountainous island roads, humming the Indiana Jones theme song along the way. We visited the airport and watched an airplane land on the worlds shortest commercial airstrip (pilots require a special permit to be able to land here) which is about the size of an aircraft carrier with cliffs to the ocean on either side. Later, on the hike to the tallest point in the Netherlands (Saba is Dutch, as is crew Barbara) we came across a donkey that took a bite out of my hat as well as the James Bond bull with his 007 eartag which we took turns feeding. Once again hanging on the outside of Jeff's jeep we nearly lost Paddy twice as he wore the Indiana Jones hat. Back at the boat we played the theme song to a day that fit the tune.
Adding more Bubbles
19 May 2012 | english harbour, antigua
Bubbles and crew ran completely broke of funds after Carine flew back to Amsterdam. Having neither cash nor credit via any type of card, Diego and I resorted to trading. For a couple dive tanks we got the jib sail repaired, for a regulator we got fresh produce out of a local garden. We were able to sell our gasoline (no longer of any value to us as we no longer have an outboard) to the Barbados cruising club commodore, Dr. Mike, to help raise cash to pay for check out costs. Thanks to local sailor Wipers we were lent a dingy to use for our days there.
One morning I woke to what I thought sounded like horses surrounding the boat to find that there were indeed horses swimming around our boat. I jumped in to join them in the pretty turquoise waters and was even able to ride one briefly. Besides making lots of good rum, Barbados also has some mighty fine race horses and the low impact training of ocean swimming is just the trick to their success.
Also in Barbados we bumped into old friend John and Jack on sailboat Iris who we hadn't seen since Simonstown in South Africa. It was nice to share the intricacies of Barbados (the local McDonalds was shut down because they didn't serve fried chicken, KFCs are everywhere) with an old friend I had first met at a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but like always with sailing friends the brief reunion was followed by another goodbye as Diego and I set out for St. Lucia.
Our passage to St. Lucia was smooth sailing with spinnaker flying most the way. Spotted dolphins greeted us with the sunrise. We arrived at the south end of the island near the international airport only to discover my brother Joe was flying into the local airport on the north end of the island (a 30 miles sail). We found him in Rodney Bay with captain hat on and rum bottle in hand and so began the celebration of the Bubbles round the World circumnavigation (also helping the celebration was St. Lucia Jazz Fest which included the likes of Ziggy Marly and Diana Ross). Also making an appearance was the Barbados commodore Dr. Mike who has sailed his 30 footer over for the Jazz fest.
Setting sail for Antigua to meet more crew we made only 4 miles towards our destination in the first 6 hours as we beat into 25 knots easterlies with current against us. Overcast skies with rain squalls didn't help our hangovers from the Madagascar rum drinking the previous night and in a rare occurrence Diego even puked. Once to windward of Martinique the wind shifted southeasterly in our favor and like a rocket we shot the next 170 miles in just over a day.
We arrived into English Harbour just before 4 am. The stylishly lit massive megayachts and classic sailing vessels (many with masts so tall they need the red aviation lights to warn passing aircraft) that were left over from sailing race week just a couple weeks before grabbed our attention in the otherwise dark and quiet hurricane hole. We tied up between two classic schooners at Nelson's Dockyard but it wasn't until morning when we walked ashore and looked back that we saw how dwarfed Bubbles was amongst the shiny boats (Bubble still ranked as the prettiest amongst our circle).
Joining as crew that day to carry on the festivities was Paddy King, a true Bubbles diehard , out of London town, crewed across the Mozambique Channel; Molly Smith, aka Starbird, out of Omaha Nebraska, returning from recently crewing up the Amazon river; and Barbara, a Bubbles rookie, out of the Netherlands, raised sailing in the North Sea. Also just happening to be in Antigua working on another boat was Sara from Texas who I had met in Jamaica three years before when starting the journey. With such a crowd together a hike up to Shirley Heights was in order for the Sunday afternoon steel drum band. Donning the Bubbles shirts we carried the party into the night and in true Bubbles fashion were last ones to leave (this made for an interesting hike back down from the cliff overlooking Antigua as we had no flashlights). Up at sunrise we set sail for Barbuda.