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Cruising Christmas

I write this as I am getting ready to head offshore in a few days. I am already wearing my sheepskin jacket and we have already had our first snow storm. I need my head examined!… 

There is nothing better than finding a great beach, splashing in the warm ocean, toasting the poor freezing suckers up north and holding a potluck style feast. Researching local traditions and foods for the season make it more of a special Caribbean Christmas.

Christmas for cruisers can be a great time if you make the effort to organize a gathering of fellow cruisers so you don’t get too homesick for the kids, grandkids, and fireside eggnog.

One fantastic Christmas I remember as a cruising kid was in Grand Bahama. We just did our inaugural Gulf Stream crossing from Florida the day before. We arrived after 24 hours and the sun was setting as we negotiated the rock strewn channel into West End. To keep the Christmas tradition going, my Dad was up till the wee hours assembling my little brother’s tricycle that was hidden under the v-berth on the voyage. This was aboard our 27 foot Hughes with four kids and the family beagle, Bugle. All the other toys were also stashed up front.

A friendly boat neighbor donated a silver Christmas tree that we stuck on the foredeck for family photos. We all stood proudly while shutters snapped and we held our treasured first boat presents. Big brother Barry got his wished for fishing rod, middle brother Greg was ecstatic over his Major Matt Mason, and I had my doll that walked with you. Kenny’s trike ended up in the drink on a regular basis, and my Dad would get home from work and have to go diving for that, or eyeglasses, laundry bags, or fish out kids who missed the dock in the six foot tides.

Christmas morning was topped off at Jack Tar Resort, which our marina was part of, to see the amazing Junkanoo. For four little white kids who had never been to a foreign country this was a feast for the eyes. Beautiful handmade costumes adorned a huge crowd of dancing locals accompanied by steel drums. This was our initiation into island life and we were hooked. We tasted our first conch fritters and chowder, and my parents celebrated our successful crossing on the boat they built in our driveway with kids aged eight down to two who had never been sailing.

Years later I spent more than a few Christmases at sea or in Bermuda. When we are on our way south that late in the season, we all pick names out of a hat before heading offshore.  We buy funny or stupid gifts that will make it a fun day.  I buy a turkey that will fit in a Force 10 oven, having learned the first year that having a bird that is too fat is a bummer.

My first year of deliveries on brand new C&C 41’s for North/South we were knocked down in the Gulf Stream during a Nor’easter on Christmas Day. I was dreaming of my family sitting by the fire gorging on delicious turkey and stuffing, while my Christmas dinner that day was an apple. We were all feeling too queasy to stand below too long to cook something in the 30’ seas, besides which, it was taking your life in your hands to stand by a hot stove. And we were too busy trying to sort out the mess on deck to really care.

But on our way in to Bermuda two days later, I cooked that sucker, and invited the other boat we were sailing with to join us for dinner. After our trip from hell they were expecting Kraft dinner. They were pleasantly surprised to sit down to turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and all the fixin’s. And some hilarious presents were exchanged.  With spirits restored we were ready for anything.

When I called my Mom to wish her a Merry Christmas I deleted the worst parts of the delivery. She was already having nightmares while I was offshore…about pirates. I told her it was too bloody cold and too far north for any sensible pirate. Now I try to stick to the hard butter rule…. If the butter is hard, head towards the equator.

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