The spirit of the Christmas season is something special throughout the Caribbean. What’s more, many island festivities – parades, parties and parang (music), for example – are ether nautical in nature and close enough that you can reach them or participate by dinghy. Here’s a sampling of nautical holiday happenings this season:
CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADES & PARTIES
Power boats at Club Nautico de San Juan, in Puerto Rico, are dressed to impress with bright lights and costumed carolers for the annual Christmas Boat Parade. Set for December 13, starting at 5:30pm, the 25-plus boat fleet winds its way around San Juan Bay, where the best viewing from land is from Pier 6 at Bahia Urbana in Old San Juan.
The Christmas Boat Parade in Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix, USVI, also launches on December 13, but at 6pm. Shops and restaurants stay open longer, there are local vendors and live music along the Boardwalk and the evening is capped by a 9pm fireworks display.
The Lighted Boat Parade on St. Thomas, USVI, takes place on December 19 at 6pm. Visitors are invited to decorate their yachts and join in the procession across Charlotte Amalie Harbor.
The Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC), in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI, celebrates its 14th Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on December 24. Festivities get underway at 5:45pm at the head of the Bitter End channel and right behind the resort’s 40ft pontoon boat, Ponce de Leon, which leads the way. Sail, power, crewed charter and private boats are welcome to join in and vie for ‘best decorated’ prizes.
Set sail in the 3rd Christmas Boat Parade at the Marina Casa de Campo, in the Dominican Republic, on December 26, starting at 5pm. There are big money prizes for best decorated (US $1,000) and most creative (US $500) yachts. Entertainment features a children’s choir singing carols in Plaza del Faro.
As for parties, toast the holiday with a glass of bubbly at the Dockyard Christmas Champagne Party, on December 25th, from Noon to 8 pm, in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua. Live entertainment makes it an extra merry day.
NEW YEAR’S EVE & NEW YEAR’S DAY FESTIVITIES
Regattas, fireworks and potluck galas close out the old and ring in the New Year. Curacao will celebrate its ‘Eindejaars’ (end of year) race on December 28 from 10am to 5pm out of Spanish Water. Not only is the highly anticipated overall winning boat of the year announced at the prize-giving, but the island’s Sea Scouts make and serve over 300 ‘oliebollen’ or traditional New Year’s Eve Dutch-style doughnuts.
The Antigua Yacht Club hosts its annual Nelson’s Pursuit race on December 31. The regatta, which commemorates Lord Horatio Nelson’s chasing of the French fleet across the Atlantic in 1805, sees the slowest boat on handicap fly the French tricolor, while the rest of the fleet starts around 10am to chase her down. Shirley Heights is a great place to watch the race.
There is a trio of parties to ring in the New Year in the BVI. The most famous is at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar in Jost Van Dyke. Come dressed to party – glitter, feathers, sparkles, spangles, bikinis – whatever! There’s a VIP six-course dinner with champagne upstairs and a Caribbean-style beach BBQ downstairs, with fireworks for all at Midnight.
Trellis Bay, Beef Island, starts hopping the afternoon of December 31, with arts, crafts, live music and food, culminating with the lighting of fire balls and fire sculptures as well as a fireworks display.
The Bitter End Yacht Club hosts a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party.
The skies over Nelsons Dockyard in Antigua light up at midnight with fireworks launched from Fort Barkley. Before this, an island-elegant Old Year’s Night Dinner and Dance starts at 7pm.
The fireworks display put on by the Bequia New Year’s Eve Celebration Committee can be seen all over the Admiralty Bay waterfront and from the vast majority of waterfront bars and restaurants.
Cruisers can welcome the New Year by taking part in the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s New Year’s GAM at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association facilities in Trinidad. This consists of a potluck lunch starting at Noon, complete with story swapping and door prizes.
Join one of the biggest raft-ups of the year in Curacao for Fuik Day, in Fuik Bay, set for January 4. It’s a hugely fun day of boats (picture anything that floats), booze and booming music.
CULTURAL CELEBRATIONS & CARNIVALS
Join the finishers from the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and make merry with a Kweyol (creole-style) breakfast at the Bread Basket in IGY’s Rodney Bay, St. Lucia on December 13. Then, celebrate the island’s national day with the Fete Kweyol & Lighting Festival, which takes place between the Bay Walk Mall and JQ Rodney Bay Mall. Visiting cruisers are welcome to participate in the ARC-associated farmer’s markets, cooking demos, drumming lessons and live music that happed at the Rodney Bay Marina between December 6 and 20.
Finally, St. Vincent & The Grenadines Nine Mornings Festival (a countdown to Christmas with music and singing), the Carriacou Parang Festival (local bands parade and compete December 19 to 21 in Hillsborough), and Christmas Carnival fetes on St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Croix, USVI, all provide enough activities for a holiday season to remember.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.