It’s the season to enjoy merry-making. Since the Caribbean region is more sea than land, there are several ways to enjoy nautical-themed holiday celebrations, everything from boat parades to dockyard parties and raft-ups to watch fireworks.
CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE
The evening of December 8th is a big one for parades. Club Náutico de San Juan kicks off its Christmas Boat Parade at 6:00pm. Over 25 decorated yachts are expected to cruise through San Juan Bay. “Vessels transiting through the Caribbean during winter season are invited to participate,” invites Commodore Gustavo Hermida.
Meanwhile, the Christmas Boat Parade launches at 6:30pm in Christiansted Harbor, on the Virgin Island of St. Croix. Festivities start with chorale performances on the boardwalk, followed by the boat parade and then a fireworks display. The town’s stores and restaurants stay open late. “We welcome visiting cruisers to join us,” says organizer, Martin Oliver.
Keep those masts trimmed for the Lighted Boat Parade on St. Thomas the following weekend, December 14th. Everything from sportfishers to cruisers and Coast Guard boats have decked their bows and joined in this community event in Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Following the 6:00pm parade, there’s live music, shopping and dining as the town celebrates its annual Miracle on Main Street holiday extravaganza.
Come Christmas Eve; join in the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) in Virgin Gorda. Yachts gather at 5:45pm at the head of the Bitter End channel and Santa and his merry elves lead the parade aboard the 40ft pontoon boat, Ponce de Leon. Prizes are awarded for well-lit and creatively-decorated boats, which also includes an ‘anchored yacht’ category for large yachts. “Sail, power and crewed charter boats, plus private boats are all welcome,” says BEYC vice president of sales and marketing, John Glynn. “Join us ashore afterwards too for a Christmas Eve celebration.”
PARTIES, FESTIVALS & GAMS
In addition to hosting its sixth Christmas Boat Parade in Marina Bas du Fort and the port of Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on December 22nd, Ariane Graf, managing director of Guadeloupe Yacht Concierge, says, “there will be a contest to see who can decorate their yacht to look like a Christmas tree with an award for the best and most original.” Cruisers can also enjoy the free International Jazz Festival held in Pointe-à-Pitre from December 10th to 16th. The Festival is within walking distance from IMM’s new dry dock and shipyard facilities.
Everyone receives a Christmas gift at the St. Maarten Yacht Club’s (SMYC) Christmas Party. Slated for December 9th, the celebration starts at 5:30pm at the clubhouse in Simpson Bay. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children age ten and under. “The Christmas Party is open to SMYC members, their guests and cruising yachties. We even broadcast it on the Cruisers net,” says club manager, Petra Gilders.
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) Village is open from Noon to 6:00pm from December 13th to 22nd. “There will be chattel houses with working local craftsmen,” explains IGY Rodney Bay Marina’s Portia Mogul. “Chef demos and art classes with local chefs and artists will focus on everything from local honey and jams to wood carvings, jewelry, painted glass and local soaps to name a few. Live music takes place almost nightly, including steel pan play offs and cultural dances. Then on December 24th it’s the IGY Christmas Flotilla.”
The Christmas Day Champagne Party starts about 11:00am in Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua. There’s a cash bar (monies raised benefit local charities) and live music. “It’s a fantastic atmosphere for ex-pats, locals and yachties alike,” says Alison Sly-Adams, owner of Antigua Nice, Ltd.
Ring in the New Year at the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s January 1st GAM at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association, in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. “We have a midday pot luck and cruisers participate by bringing a dish to share,” explains Jesse James, who owns ‘Members Only’ Maxi Taxi Service. “It’s a festive get together for the cruisers who are away from family, a time to share a meal and stories and generally just be together.”
RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH FIREWORKS
The New Year’s Eve Dockyard Party in Antigua features live bands, food stalls and bars that open at 9:00pm with fireworks set off at midnight from historic Fort Berkley.
To the south, Bequia hosts a spectacular fireworks display on New Year’s Eve! “It takes place right at the head of the harbor in Admiralty Bay, and it’s viewable from just about anywhere around the harbor,” says Nicola Redway, secretary of the Bequia Sailing Club. “There are plenty of waterfront restaurants offering New Year’s Eve specials, but traditionally, the place to be and for the best fireworks view is the Frangipani Hotel, where you can enjoy a great festive BBQ and steel pan entertainment.”
To the north, the British Virgin Island of Jost Van Dyke is a great place to welcome the New Year. Yachts of all sizes start arriving in Great Harbour on Old Year’s Night. All the beach bars including Foxy’s Tamarind Bar (check out the special lobster and prime rib menu!) are open with specials on food and drink in the run up to the midnight fireworks. No snow, but definitely sand between your toes!
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.