Anchors Aweigh: Rupert Returns From Pacific Trip

Lonnie Rupert and his wife Bona Gordovez smile for a picture on an island in the Pacific Ocean.
Managing Editor

Growing up in St. Marys, Grand Lake St. Marys was too small to explore for Lonnie Rupert. The 1973 Memorial High School graduate got an interest in boating and traveling so after boating on the lake and eventually up to the Maumee River, he decided he wanted to do more.

He and his wife took an eight-year voyage through the Pacific Ocean that ended in May and does not look to be done with his travels anytime soon.

“I grew up on the lake so I’ve been kind of interested in boats and so forth and had some friends that their family had boats,” he said as he returned to the states during the holiday season.

An employee at JM Rupert Realty in Lima, Rupert wanted to find a good way to be able to travel more than just the lake and the Maumee River so he thought of other ways boating could help with that. He sailed on Lake Erie before he answered an ad in a sailing magazine where a couple was looking for somebody to help them crew down in the Caribbean. After crewing in the Caribbean, he found more interest in boating since his first international experience and began reading sailing magazines about how people traveled to different spots by sea. So he took an early retirement in 2011 and bought a 37-foot yacht he named Good News in Mexico where he and his wife, Bona Gordovez — who is from the Philippines — arrived in the Philippines in May. The journery helped fulfill an interest of traveling the Pacific and encountering all of the unique islands, views and people since he was a child.

“We stopped at a lot of islands along the way and places along the west coast of Central America and South America and we just kind of island hopped across the Pacific,” Rupert said. “We had a lot of different adventures and met a lot of people.”

The Pacific Ocean is 62.46 million square miles and Rupert and Gordovez took roughly a 5,000-mile journey in an ocean that has 46 islands and countries in it. Rupert estimated about 300 people a year that cross the Pacific on yachts and other private boats. He said their stops included the French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and they met a lot of Micronesian people along the way.

“They still live in bamboo huts and they live off of their fish,” he added. “Fish and coconuts are a big diet for them, they plant taro and it’s interesting meeting different people with different cultures.

“We’ve been living on the boat for eight years, so life on a boat for eight years compared to being on land and having access to so many different things, I guess the first thing people say is like, ‘that is a limited area to live compared to a house,’ but I guess we’re kind of nature lovers so we’re actually outside a lot and we aren’t just on the boat and we’re at different islands we’re basically on the islands so but the boat is kind of a place to sleep and eat for us and to get from one place to another.”

The one thing the couple realized is not to judge people based on their lifestyles, which is what the journey was all about. He said it’s their culture and to accept it no matter what kind of culture it is and not try to evaluate it any other way.

“This is how people live, this is their culture and this is how they live,” he added. “We don’t necessarily understand everything about them; it’s no more than when they look at us and they can’t understand our lifestyle either. It’s just unique. In some islands, there is no other way in than through private boats and we’ve been to islands where nobody lived so we were just there by ourselves.”

“To be able to go to remote places is a privilege because basically if you will just fly in and fly out of a foreign country you will just see the name of a country, but sailing it, you can see an island yourself or see a small community of islands,” Gordovez said.

The couple stayed on islands anywhere from as little as two days to as much as a year. He said in some instances, they would leave their boat at an island or country and tour there for months before jumping to a new location on their boat.

Future adventures include flying back to the Philippines — where the boat is currently — after family business is taken care of here in St. Marys with Rupert’s mother, Marvalee, moving into a nursing home out of her East Spring Street home. After the first of the year, Rupert said they will fly back to the Philippines for about a year and then decide what to do at that point in time and live on boat during that time.

“We joke when we tell people that we are homeless because we don’t  own any property per se so the boat is, at this point in time, our home, so we just kind of jokingly say we’re homeless; we’re kind of like gypsies,” he said. “A lot of people, they do have a hard time relating to it if you get around the water — we have some friends down in North Carolina and they’re relatively close to the coast, they can kind of relate to it more, but this up here is like farm country and these people like their dirt. They’re ancestors were into farming and it’s like they can relate to the farm and farm life and so forth but on the sea, they can’t really relate to it.”