Set your compass for holiday merrymaking throughout the islands. Here’s a sampling of what cruisers can look forward to both on land and sea:
Puerto Rico: Raft-ups are the rule during December and right through to Three Kings Day, January 6. Bring a guitar, boom box, and something to barbecue and you’ll fit right into the festivities. Popular spots include Ensenada Honda in Culebra, and off the southern shore of Puerto Rico—
Cano Matia island about a mile off Salinas, Caja de Muertos or Coffin Island off Ponce, and Caracolles and Mata a la Gata (which has picnic facilities) off La Parguera.
U.S. Virgin Islands: Deck your boat with boughs of holly! Or, colorful lights, inflatable Santa’s, plastic reindeer, Christmas trees or anything else that inspires a festive holiday mood. The St. Thomas 8th Annual Lighted Boat Parade, held in Charlotte Amalie harbor, is set for 6 pm on Friday December 14. Boats are judged on originality and the creative use of decorations and lighting. Prize categories include: Most Traditional, Most Lights, Most Creative and Boat the Traveled from the Farthest Distance. The parade kicks off an evening of shopping called Miracle on Main Street. A similar boat parade event is held mid-December in front of neighboring St. Croix’s Christiansted boardwalk.
British Virgin Islands: At Trellis Bay, Tortola, a New Year’s Eve Festival features fireworks, fire sculptures, traditional Moko Jumbie Dancers, Fungi and Steel Pan Music from midday until after midnight. Sailors can anchor out or come by land. Meanwhile, Foxy’s Tamarind Bar & Restaurant over on Jost Van Dyke is the place some 3000 or more people—often including a rock star or Hollywood celeb or two—celebrate Old Year’s night, December 31. Entertainment comes via this 7th generation Jost Van Dyker and calypsonian himself. The bar hops all night and the party continues well into the New Year.
St. Barth, FWI: All boats of any size are welcome to sail in the New Year’s Eve Regatta, reports Ellen Lampert-Gréaux. “It’s an informal, just for fun, around the island regatta held on the morning of December 31. There’s an awards ceremony on the dock at around 5 p.m.” Later on New Year’s Eve, says Lampert-Gréaux, there’s usually live music and dancing on the dock in Gustavia with fireworks over the harbor at midnight. Much of the sailing crowd also tends to gather for lunch, happy hour and early evening drinks at Le Select, the oldest bar on the island where the garden restaurant is called ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’, named after the Jimmy Buffett song. Later in the evening, sailors tend to migrate over to Le Bete A Z’Ailes, or BAZ Bar, where there’s live music and more drinks.
Antigua: Everyone from old salts to newly-landed cruisers and charter guests gather at Antigua’s English Harbour in Nelson’s Dockyard for the annual Capstan Christmas Party. It is around these capstans that cruisers toast St. Nick’s arrival with a sparkling glass of champagne. A week later, the annual Nelson’s Pursuit Race sets sail on December 31. Organized by the Antigua Marine Trades Association in coordination with the Antigua Yacht Club, the race commemorates Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s famous pursuit of the French Fleet, which ended in the Battle of Trafalgar. The regatta is open to all sailboats, large or small, cruising or crewed, private or charter. For more information, contact the Antigua Yacht Club: Tel: (268) 460-1799; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominica: There are many ways cruisers can celebrate on Dominica, says Hubert Winston of the Dominica Marine Association. “The Dominica Yacht Club, located at the Dominica Marine Center in Roseau, hosts Happy Hour every day from 6 pm until 8 pm. There are moorings, dockage and fuel available. All visiting cruisers are welcome,” says Winston. In addition, cruisers enjoy heading over to Castaways at Mero Beach, which puts on its famous ‘Fish Friday’ each Friday night from 8 pm to 2 am. Meanwhile in Portsmouth Beach, Big Papas Restaurant & Bar hosts its Reggae Night on Wednesdays, Meringue night on Thursdays, Jerk Feast with Karaoke and Jazz on Fridays and Caribbean Night on Saturdays.
St. Lucia: The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) fleet makes landfall early to mid-December. Therefore there are lots of activities to enjoy. The Buzz Restaurant hosts a Welcome Party on December 10, starting at 7 pm. ARC participants are invited to the St. Lucia Tourist Board Welcome Party, on December 12 at 3 pm, at the St. Lucia Yacht Club. The following day, enjoy an Art Competition at the National Day Extravaganza at the Rodney Bay Marina. Come with your easel, paint, and brushes and paint away beginning at 9 am. All works must have a nautical theme. From December 13 through 17, Rodney Bay Marina will play host to Boxing matches, greasy pole climbs, live pan music, and a cultural lecture on local dance. Come December 19 at 10 am, author and sailor Chris Doyle will host a lecture titled ‘Cruising The Caribbean’ at Rodney Bay Marina. Finally, on December 22, cruisers can enjoy the St. Lucian-Style Carnival Parade, which will kick off at Rodney Bay at 1 pm.
Chaguaramas, Trinidad: The Yacht Services Association of Trinidad & Tobago (YSATT)’s “Christmas Lime by the Sea”, set for December 2, features fifteen or more marine contractors who show they can whip up a dish as deliciously as they can weld, mend and tend to boat repairs. Starting at 4:30 p.m., the contractors start serving from their booths set up in the car park of The Bight Restaurant at Peake Yacht Services, in Chaguaramas. The menu? Island specialties such as geera pork, pork chops, roast duck, shish kebabs, sushi, Indian delicacies, Chinese-style chicken, corn soup, desserts and more. Traditional Trini Christmas music comes compliments of musicians who are all employees of a local marina. Nearly 400 cruisers attended this festive event last year.