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Festive Holiday Activities Around the Caribbean

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Boat parades, caroling afloat, festive racing, holiday parties and potlucks are just a few of the festivities you’ll find on board throughout the Caribbean in December and early January.

Boat Parades: lights, costumes & Santas

Deck your decks with lights, Christmas trees and crew wearing Santa hats—whatever your imagination inspires—and set sail in one of the many boat parades.

In Puerto Rico, Club Nautico de San Juan will host its Christmas Twilight Boat Parade on December 12, starting at 6:30 p.m. The route will be from the San Antonio Channel to the Old San Juan historic entrance. There’s a party afterward at the clubhouse. Call (787) 722-0177 for information.

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In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands’ Charteryacht League will host the 10th Annual Lighted Boat Parade on December 11. The parade will start from Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas, proceed along the Charlotte Amalie waterfront and end back at the marina. “We’ve also brought back by popular demand the very popular decorated dinghy contest,” says Erik Ackerman, VICL executive director. All participating vessels will be judged on originality and creativity, and prizes will be awarded. All registered and insured vessels are eligible to participate. www.vicl.org.

On St. Croix, on December 12 at 6:15 p.m., join one of the largest holiday boat parades in the Caribbean. “Last year we had over 25 vessels, everything from a 65-footer to an 18-footer,” says organizer, Martin Oliver. Sail and powerboats sail east to west around Protestant Cay in Christiansted Harbor two to three times. Entry is free and everyone gets a prize donated by the local business community. Crowds along the boardwalk watch and cheer, shore side steel pan bands play and Mocko Jumbies parade. Santa arrives by dinghy and hands out treats to kids on shore. Shops stay open for last minute shopping. The evening concludes with a grand fireworks display. Call (340) 773-1453 for information.

The Bitter End Yacht Club, in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, will host its Annual Holiday Boat Parade on December 24, starting at 5:45 p.m. at the head of the Bitter End Channel. Santa and his elves on steel pans will be aboard the Ponce de Leon leading the parade. Prizes will be awarded for well lit and creatively decorated boats. “Sail and power charter boats and private boats are welcome,” says John Glynn. www.beyc.com

Caroling Afloat

Join the Carols Afloat inaugural Christmas Flotilla organized by IGY Rodney Bay Marina and the St. Lucia Yacht Club on December 21, starting at 6 p.m. “We are inviting all vessels in St. Lucia, from fishermen to megayachts, to dress up their boats with Christmas lights and decorations and follow the lead boat, which will be playing Christmas carols,” says Danielle DeRouck, the SLYC’s social secretary. “We are going out from Rodney Bay Marina, past Gros Islet, out to Pigeon Point and around past all the hotels along Reduit Beach.” There’s free registration at the club and participants receive drink tickets. Contact: slycsocialsecretary@gmail.com

Festive & fun racing

Nelson’s Pursuit Race, what Antigua’s John Duffy calls “not a very serious race, therefore suitable for all comers,” takes place on December 31 and is run by the Antigua Yacht Club. “The first yacht to depart wears a French flag and the others have to chase it,” Duffy says. There are midnight fireworks after the race at English Harbor. Catamaran Marina and St. James’s Club also have firework displays.

Holiday parties & potlucks

Come party with Santa in St. Maarten. The St. Maarten Yacht Club will host it annual Christmas party on December 13. “Visiting cruisers are more than welcome,” says Petra Gilders. “We do charge a cover charge to help with the snacks and toys for all the kids, but other than that, you don’t need to bring anything.” There’s usually a raffle with cool prizes, like a weekend at a local hotel and restaurant vouchers. Proceeds from the raffle benefit the club’s Youth Sailing Program. Contact info@smyc.com.

New Year’s Eve really rocks in the BVI. Foxy Callwood hosts his big bash in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, while the Trellis Bay New Year’s Eve Festival takes place from noon to after midnight in Trellis Bay, right off Tortola’s Beef Island.

Further south, Bequia has become “the place” to spend New Year’s Eve, says Narendra ‘Seth’ Sethia, base manager for Barefoot Yacht Charters headquartered in Blue Lagoon. “You can expect to find up to 300 or 400 yachts, everything from superyachts with helicopters on the back to 25-foot impoverished cruisers. The great thing about Bequia for partying is that everything is within walking distance on the south shores of Admiralty Bay.”

The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) will ring in 2010 by holding its annual “GAM,” or “visit for friendly conversation at sea or ashore,” in Trinidad on New Year’s Day. This event, organized by SSCA members and the Official Trinidad SSCA Cruising Station, co-hosted by Jack Dausend (Boaters’ Enterprise Ltd.) and Jesse James (Members Only Maxi Taxi Services), will again be a special Potluck and meeting for SSCA members and all visiting cruisers. The festivities start at noon at the Trinidad & Tobago Sailing Association. Contact: jessejamesmembersonly@yahoo.com

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

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