We Love This Bizarre “Bubbleboat” Cruising Around The San Francisco Bay

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

We Love This Bizarre “Bubbleboat” Cruising Around The San Francisco Bay

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… bubbleboat?

If you’ve spent time by the water during the last 10 years or so, you might’ve spotted this mysterious UFO-looking vessel floating around the San Francisco Bay. Now, most San Franciscans are pretty used to seeing eccentric art displays or interesting characters out and about, but Eric Staller’s Bubbleboat still has long-term residents doing a double take.

The fascinating ship (raft? sailboat?) bobs around underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, blinking with hundreds of computerized lightbulbs. Acclaimed artist and New York native Eric Staller built Bubbleboat in 1986 for the 100th year celebration of the Statue of Liberty. According to his website, electrical company GTE Sylvania commissioned an “atmospheric work” in honor of the celebration, and the 12-foot wide boat is covered with 600 Sylvania lightbulbs, computerized to blink in red, white, and blue patterns. It debuted on July 4, 1986 in New York Harbor alongside hundreds of other boats and the famed US aircraft carrier Iowa, which carried President Reagan. The glittering dome was seen cruising around the New York Harbor every summer until 1991.

Staller eventually moved to Amsterdam and spent 15 years there before moving to San Francisco in 2011. Since then, SF residents have been treated to periodic views of Bubbleboat when the artist takes it out for a spin in the Bay. The friendly, yet peculiar spectacle catches tourists’ and residents’ eyes alike, and it’s impossible not to smile as it trundles by.

Eric Staller’s Bubbleboat isn’t the only showstopping piece the artist has created. Other impressive works include Lightmobile (a Volkswagen Beetle covered in lightbulbs), Fish-O-Vision (a transparent helmet with what appear to be 20 live goldfish swimming around his head), and Mr. Lonely (a remote-controlled skeleton that cruised around tipping its hat to people in Amsterdam’s canals). Learn more about his artworks here.


Staller has displayed his work all over the world, including Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Jordan, France, New York, and San Francisco. One of his most recent contributions in San Francisco is Spirogyrate, an interactive, light-up children’s play area at SFO.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Bubbleboat as it bobs around the Bay, because it really is a treat!


[Featured Image: @jam.bay via Instagram]