Magic Aboard Bubbles

cap’n alex rust

10 June 2012 | St. Martin

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

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.

With Love,

Your Captain

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