Museum afloat

January 2011 News Carol Bareuther -

There's only one place on earth where you can see everything from a 100-million-year-old petri-fied dinosaur egg to an antique Japanese fiddle, circa-1600 Spanish pirate sword, fleet of Texaco model toy planes and much more ... and it's actually on the sea. Long-time Virgin Islands resident, Randy Bullington, has turned his 64-foot Chris-Craft houseboat into a wondrous museum that also doubles as his private home.

Born in Illinois, Bullington grew up in a military family, left home at a young age and traveled the world. This short-circuiting of his childhood has left inside of him a perpetual 'kid' and this youthful exuberance has come out through his avid hobby as a collector. The nautical bent to Bullington's collecting started when he moved to the Caribbean in the late 1970s and landed a job at Caribbean Yacht Charters (CYC). He worked his way from the yard to delivery crew, making 27 voyages of 1000 nautical miles or more. When friends were in the market to sell their houseboat, Bullington signed on as buyer. The boat has proven a perfect platform to store and showcase his collections as well as to create a comfortable self-contained home.

"I've always been curious about weird things, everything from collectables to memorabilia," Bullington tells, as we sit together atop the boat where an artificial grass rug, metal folding chairs and a wooden side table decorated like a cat makes a gem of a perch from which to watch sunrises and sunsets.

It is inside Bullington's boat, anchored in a secluded bay, where there's real treasure. Nestled neatly on shelves on either side of a wheel that once drove this moored vessel, there are a bounty of artifacts all arranged by subject and many labeled by name and era. For example, there's the collection of prehistoric pieces that Bullington bought from an archaeologist when he briefly lived in Colorado. These include the dinosaur egg, a petrified turtle shell from the same era, a more recent (75 million year old) T-rex tooth, a duo of Anasazi spirit pipes and an early knife crafted out of a hand's length of Elkhorn with a chiseled stone point tied on to the end.

Fast-forward to the mid-20th century and the pieces on the shelf below are six to eight inch model toy airplane banks made by Texaco. Each model represents a record in the company's aviation history and Bullington can tell you the story behind each one.


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