You won’t find snow and pine trees when celebrating Christmas in the Caribbean, but you will discover sun, palms and a host of nautical happenings. Here’s just a sample:
U.S. Virgin Islands
Raft-ups are big. On St. Croix, despite damage inflicted to the fleet by Omar, boaters will head to Buck Island for the traditional day of snorkeling the underwater trail, swimming and beach-going. On St. Thomas, it’s Christmas Cove in Great St. James island where locals and visitors alike party and potluck the day and night away. Trim your boat with lights, plastic Santas and other holiday cheer to set sail in a lighted boat parade.
At press time, plans were still in place for boat owners to parade along the Christiansted Harbor in St. Croix on December 8 starting at 6 p.m. The Virgin Islands Charteryacht League and Yacht Haven Grand will host its nautical parade in Charlotte Amalie’s Harbor December 19, starting at 7 p.m.
Bring the kids to the St. Croix Yacht Club or St. Thomas Yacht Club in December when Santa visits. On St. Croix, says director of the St. Croix International Regatta, Juliet San Martin, “this jolly fellow has been known to ditch his sleigh in favor of arriving in a dinghy, seaplane, beach cat, kite ski and even helicopter!”
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Santa also visits the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) in North Sound, Virgin Gorda. “We celebrate the Christmas holiday with a very popular annual Christmas Eve Boat Parade with prizes for best decorated and best lit boats, complete with Santa Claus on his snorkel-boat sleigh who goes around the mooring field, delivering good cheer with a steel drum musical accompaniment. It’s quite festive. All visiting boats are invited and encouraged to attend and/or participate,” says John Glynn, vice president of BEYC,
New Year’s Eve really rocks in the BVI. Foxy Callwood hosts his big bash over in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. Come early, like a day or two in advance, to find room to anchor in the harbor. All beach bars here host parties from before sundown to sunup. Barbecues, live bands, fireworks at midnight are just some of the fun.
The Trellis Bay New Year’s Eve Festival takes place from noon to after midnight in Trellis Bay, right off Tortola’s Beef Island. A mouth-watering West Indian Buffet, fireworks, live bands, and a Fireball fete are on tap at this family-oriented festivity. The Fireball fete is definitely something to see. Artist Aragorn Dick-Read creates his famed Mocko Jumbies from steel spheres and sets them ablaze right on the beach for a mesmerizing effect.
Yachts flock to this Leeward Island from both the U.S. and Europe. Racers can kick-off the season at the Jolly Harbour Regatta, set for December 6 and 7. Raced on the West Coast of the island, this regatta is open to all boats that draw 10 feet or less. Winners receive prizes. The High Tide Series is made up of three races held December 21, 26 and 28 and is run out of the Antigua Yacht Club. Come Christmas Day, “there’s the traditional champagne celebrations in Nelson’s Dockyard that start around noon,” says avid sailor, Bernie Evan-Wong.
Closing out the year, says fellow avid racer, Geoffrey Pidduck, is the Nelsons Pursuit race on December 31. 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.
The winter season heats up in terms of festive entertainment on this beautiful ‘Nature Island’. In Portsmouth, says Hubert Winston of the Dominica Marine Association and Dominica Marine Center, “there’s Reggae night at Big Papas restaurant and bar every Wednesday night, Peter’s Rib night on Fridays in the Lagoon, and Cabrits Dive night dive on Friday nights all starting in November.”
In Roseau, Winston adds, “there’s Thirsty Thursdays at the Cove in Canefield, Happy Hour at the Forth Young Hotel every Friday evening from 6pm till 11pm, and Melvina’s Corner on the Pointe Mitchell’s highway is a fun place for fish and dancing each and every Friday night till four a.m.”
The Dominica Yacht Club will soon launch its Junior Sailing Program. “It’s an exciting time to be a kid,” says Winston.
The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) sailors cross the finish line as arrive in St. Lucia in late November. In welcome, there are many festivities planned. “There will be an ARC Village which will open from December 5th and run through December 21st,” says Rodney Bay Marina manager Cuthbert Didier. “The village will provide nightly entertainment and food and drink.” Other highlights include:
- December 13: IGY Day at Rodney Bay Marina, Steelband Playoff and Carnival Costume Display,
- December 14: Fun Racing Day & Barbeque for Lasers and Optimists, St. Lucia Yacht Club.
- December 15: IGY Rodney Bay Marina General Manager’s Cocktail Party, complete with true St. Lucian entertainment and foods,
- December 18: Cruising the Caribbean Lecture by author, Chris Doyle, at Palm Haven,
- December 18: ARC Costume Party at Pigeon Island National Landmark,
- December 19: Children’s Christmas Fiesta at Rodney Bay Marina and Pigeon Island.
South in Marigot Bay, The Marina at Marigot Bay will host the finish of a Christmas Regatta, sailed December 21, from Rodney Bay Marina. On New Year’s Eve, “the whole bay will be lit up for St. Lucia’s biggest firework’s display,” says Bob Hathaway, marina manager. In addition, Hathaway says, “our cruising guests who would like to participate in a genuine Lucian family Christmas can contact the Marina Office by December 16 and we will happily organize this for them.”
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Cruisers to this chain of stepping-stone islands will find Christmas Day fireworks put on by resorts at Young Island and The Cotton House in Mustique. “Most restaurants will also lay on a special dinner,” says Narendra Sethia, at Barefoot Yacht Charters & Marine Centre. “Probably the most popular is New Year’s Eve in Bequia where one might find 300 or 400 cruising yachtsmen reveling into the early hours, with various live music events along the waterfront.”
The 31st Annual Carriacou Parang Festival will rev to a fever pitch the weekend of December 19-21. Festivities include a free open-air concert in the streets of Hillsborough featuring carol singing and parang string bands, followed by house-to-house "paranging" all night.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.