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Caribbean-Style Nautical Holiday Happenings

St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade. Photo courtesy of Erik Ackerson
St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade. Photo courtesy of Erik Ackerson

Clouds shaped like Santa’s beard are a festive reminder of the winter holidays in a region where palms outnumber Christmas pines, beach sand replaces snow and the weather is more favorable for swimming than ice skating. Yet the Caribbean is a one of the best places on the planet to celebrate this time of year. Check out this sampling of nautical holiday activities.


Deck the rigging with lights, ornaments and even inflatable reindeer! On December 9th, Club Nautico de San Juan, in Puerto Rico, will hold its 9th San Juan Christmas Boat Parade. “This year, the parade will be part of the 64th edition of the International Billfish Tournament, as we had to push the dates of the fishing event back from September,” says Club spokesperson Virginia de los Reyes. In neighboring St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Lighted Boat Parade takes place December 8th, starting at 7pm, as part of Miracle on Main Street, a holiday shopping extravaganza in downtown Charlotte Amalie. The perennial lead vessel, the 50ft Grand Banks Friendship, was lost during the storms yet many others had less damage and are looking forward to participating,” says organizer Erik Ackerson.


Carols Afloat, St. Lucia’s version of a lighted boat parade moves shoreside this season and is renamed Carols on the Boardwalk at IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina, on December 17th. “We invite sailors to decorate their vessels,” says Shane Macauldy, marketing, sales and events manager. Dock at Marina Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in time for the Christmas Concert in Plaza Portofino on December 22nd. This same venue is the site of a New Year’s Eve Concert on December 31st. Five restaurants surround the plaza and make a great place to eat and listen to the music. South, in Grenada, Le Phare Bleu Boutique Hotel & Marina, in Petite Calivigny Bay, will host its dinghy concert in late December or early January. The stage is an old tug boat and sailors sit, clap and toe-tap from their dinghies.

In St. Thomas, Live musical performances are a big draw at Yacht Haven Grande’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Photo courtesy of IGY/YHG
In St. Thomas, Live musical performances are a big draw at Yacht Haven Grande’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Photo courtesy of IGY/YHG

Revel in the annual Christmas Tree Lighting at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, in early December. On the sister island of St. Croix, visit the Christmas Spoken Here event at the St. George Village Botanical Garden on December 3rd, from 11am to 4pm. Festivities include local crafts and food vendors, music and a visit from Santa. In St. Lucia, the seasonal spirit comes alive at IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina from December 1st to 16th, when the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) Village opens to ralliers and the public alike. Live bands on the boardwalk start at 10pm on December 2nd and 12th and feature Christmas-themed reggae, zouk and soca. There’s also a daily craft market perfect for last-minute gift-buying. On December 8th, the St. Maarten Yacht Club hosts its annual Christmas Party. The event is open to members ($15 pp) and non-members ($20 pp), and starts with hot chocolate, eggnog and a visit from Santa. “This year, we have an ‘Angel Tree’for people to donate presents that will be distributed among local orphanages,” says general manager Michele Korteweg. Shop for presents at the True Blue Bay Resort and Marina in Grenada on December 10th from 10am to 5pm. Find everything from crafts to jewelry, candles, swimwear, toys, wood carvings, baked goods and fresh produce. True Blue’s 12 Days of Christmas follows and features themed events like holiday cooking classes. Check out one of the many Christmas fairs on Curaçao. “The most popular is the annual fair in Pietermaai, but there’s a new player in town. Hello Skalo is the place to go December 20th to 23rd and its right around the corner from Curaçao Marine,” invites Nicole van Beusekom, the marina’s marketing and social media manager. Located in the art district of Skalo, in Willemstad, festivities include lights, food, music, parades and entertainment. In the Western Caribbean, IGY’s Red Frog Beach Island Marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama, hosts holiday parties and pot lucks for Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Bequia … Out goes the old to a spectacular fireworks display. Photo courtesy of Bequia NYE Celebration
Bequia … Out goes the old to a spectacular fireworks display. Photo courtesy of Bequia NYE Celebration

Globally-known as one of the top places to ring out the Old Year on December 31st, Foxy’s Tamarind Bar on Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands, will host thousands of revelers who arrive by boat for the big party each year. “This year’s theme is Phoenix Rising,” says Susan Zaluski, director of the non-profit Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society started by calypsonian Callwood. East in the BVI’s Beef Islands’ Trellis Bay, the family-friendly New Year’s party kicks off with artist Aragorn Dick-Read setting alight one of his brilliant Fire Ball Sculptures. Fireworks are a highly-anticipated part of the New Year’s celebrations on several islands. In Bequia, watch the show from the anchorage in Port Elizabeth or from one of the many restaurants ashore. To the north, set sail in the Nelson’s Pursuit Race hosted by Antigua Yacht Club on December 31st. Prize-giving happens in the Dockyard, followed by fireworks. There is a great firework display too on December 31st over IGY’s Yacht Club at Isle de Sol and the Simpson Bay Marina in St. Maarten, as well as a themed Crew New Year Party on January 6th. Finally, down south in Trinidad, there’s the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) Potluck GAM on January 1st, from Noon to 4pm at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association in Chaguaramas. Host, SSCA cruising station host and owner of ‘Members Only’ Maxi Taxi service, Jesse James, provides the BBQ chicken entrée and invites cruisers to bring side dishes. “This is the first GAM or get-together of the New Year worldwide,” says James.


Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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