Cruiser Christmas in the Caribbean

I started to call this the Twelve Days of Caribbean Christmas Log, but it has been getting too unwieldy.  So I’m just going to wade in and see what happens.

The cruising community likes a good party.  Having a few people for sundowners is a cruiser tradition, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself hanging out on a friend’s boat enjoying a cold adult beverage as the sun sets. The Christmas season really adds to the frequency of these gatherings.  But before you get the wrong idea I should mention two things:  The first is that none of us has to get up and go to work tomorrow.  Sure there are always chores and projects around the boat, but there’s no clock to punch, so we are a little more likely to attend social gatherings than when we lived in the workady world.  The second is that most cruisers have trouble staying up past nine PM, so these gatherings tend to end early.

The Christmas season started on, Monday Dec. 20, Dave on Persephone invited us, Jim and Anne from Impressionist, and Ken and Lynn from Silverheels III to join him for hors d’ouerves and sundowners.  This was the beginning of a round robin of happy hours among the  four boats. 

The next day, Tuesday Dec. 21, started early.  Very early.  Jackie woke up about 3 AM and that woke me up.  Somehow we remembered that there was a lunar eclipse that night.  We went up to the cockpit and found that the sky was crystal clear and the eclipse was just beginning.  We stayed up and watched until a little after the eclipse was total and then went back to bed.  It was spectacular.  In addition to seeing the eclipse, Jackie saw two shooting stars.  We also got to see the Southern Cross rise from behind the hills.

The eclipse begins - around 3 AM

About noon Jackie and I met Dave from Persephone at Nimrod’s for Rotis.  They were good as usual.  We went back to the boat and did some work on it. We were going to go to Clarks Court Marina for movie night to see Christmas Vacation, but the weather got bad so we stayed home and played dominoes.

Unbeknownst to us, September Song, a 27 foot sloop with two aboard, disappears in a squall off Trinidad.  They radio their buddy boat and tell them to push on towards Grenada and not to wait for them.

On Wednesday, Dec. 22.  Jackie and I get up early, listen to the net.  During the net a call goes out for information on September Song, but no one has seen or heard them. 

After the net we set the trash out for Raymond to pickup and head for the shopping bus.  The bus trip is sometimes referred to as the Magical Mystery Tour because you are never really sure where you will go.  As usual we stop at the bank to get some cash from the ATM.  Unfortunately, the ATM eats our card.  Luckily we have a spare.

That evening is the second night of the round of sundowners. This time the hosts are Jim and Anne on Impressionist, a 36 foot sloop that they sailed here from England.  We are joined there by Dave from Persephone and Lynn and Ken from Silverheels III.

L to R Jim and Anne (Impressionist), Dave (Persephone)

Lynn and Ken on Silverheels III

Thursday, Dec. 23.  We listen to the net and hear that the Venezuala, Trinidad, and Grenada coast guards have been asked to look for September Song.  A missing boat report is being sent out to various cruiser radio nets.

Jackie and I have finally got our acts together and have appointments for a checkup with a local dentist.  We make the trip into town on the local buses.  The dentist was good and we each escaped with only a cleaning.  We made a quick trip back to the boat to pick up a few things and then dinghied back to the Hog Island anchorage to visit our friends Dan and Cindy on thier steel ketch, Sitatunga.  We first met them in Georgetown, Bahamas.  We crossed paths later in Puerto Rico, but they left Salinas ahead of us and we hadn’t seen them since.  They had been in Trinidad to get some boat work done and only recently arrived in Grenada.  Their trip south was a bit frustrating.  They broke part of their drive shaft after they left Dominica.  They spent the next six days in light winds trying to get somewhere only to end up back off the Dominica coast.  They had to be towed in, but were able to get parts made so they could continue their journey.

December 24, Christmas Eve.  We have a fairly uneventful day.  I make a trip into the fuel dock to fill up the gas cans for the generator and the dinghy. On the way back I stopped at Persephone and wrapped Jackie’s Christmas present that I have hidden there.  That evening is christmas carol kareoke at clarks court Marina bt it turned out to be more of a singalong.  The event was put together by Debbie on Sailors Run and it was a lot of fun.

We return to the boat and find that Father Christmas, aka David on Persephone, has left Jackie’s present in the cockpit while we were out. I should mention that while Dave was in the states recently Jackie had him pick up my present.

December 25.  It’s hard to believe it’s Christmas.  We are sitting here in warm sunshine and jump in the water once or twice a day to cool off.  There is no snow here – Santa’s sleigh would be better off with water skis.

Swimming - a daily event to cool off

We have been invited to have Christmas dinner with Richard and Lani on Astor.  Debbie and Jeff from Sailors Run will also be there.  Astor is a schooner launched in 1923.  She is 86 feet overall and 74 feet on deck.  She is beautifully  maintained by Richard and Lani.  She is not only beautiful, but fast.  In the early sixties she took line honors in the Sydney to Hobart race three times – quite a feat for a forty year old boat.

Astor under sail

Richard and Lani met Debbie and Jeff while cruising the Pacific.  Last year Jeff soloed Sailors Run, their Baba 40 ketch, around Cape Horn.  The dinner was great and the company superb.

L to R Jeff and Debbie (Sailors Run), Richard and Lani (Astor)

Jackie relaxes on Astor's deck

Sunday finds us taking a small break from the party circuit.  Jackie does laundry and I refinish wood.  Later we have dinner and play dominos with Dave on Persephone.

Monday, Dec. 27 starts like most other days.  We are looking forward to a potluck and music jam at Da Big Fish.  Doc Adams, leader of one of the best bands on the island will play and organize the other musicians.  But shortly after the morning cruiser net the radio comes alive.  It seems that Stephens I, a ham radio operator on the island happened to be listening on the repeater he set up for Island Water World and heard a Pan Pan call from September Song.  He contacted one of the cruisers who in turn contacted the Grenada Coast Guard.  It turns out that September Song – a rather small boat – had spent six days fighting their way north from Trinidad.  This is a trip that is usually done in one day.  The captain fell down the companionway the day before and hurt his leg to the point he could not get out of the cabin and into the cockpit.

Some cruisers went with the coast guard and found September Song about 25 miles west of Grenada. The plan had been to get the captain to medical attention and have the cruisers sail the boat in, but the boat’s outboard motor was out of commission and conditions were such that sailing upwind to Grenada would have been an arduous task.  A tow was arranged and the boat and crew all arrived safely in Grenada.

And what about the jam?  It was great. Lots of guitars, a harmonica, two trumpets, a saxaphone, a keyboard, and some great vocalists put on a really good show.

Dinner before the jam

Wednesday, Dec. 29.

The boat gatherings often turn into a round robin of events.  We had already been guests on Sailors Run and Astor, so wednesday was our turn to host them on Compass Rose.  Neither crew had been around the point from Clarks Court at night so we had them over in the afternoon so they could return before dark and be back at Clarks Court for happy hour and burger nigh.  We had a little pressure ebecause I had been modifying the cockpit table so it would fold and Jackie and I had been refinishing it.  Luckily the finish dried in time for us to use it.  We had a very pleasant afternoon visiting with them.

We also dinghied around for burger night. Dave from Persephone and Cheryl and Robin from Just Imagine met us over there.  Smokey the Pan Man was the night’s entertainment.  Trudie (Persephone) was flying back to Grenada and Dave kept us up to date on the various delays her plane had trying to get out of Miami.  When the entertainment was over we had a dinghy convoy back to Mt. Hartman.  Trudie’s plane finally landed in the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, Dec. 31, is the twelvth day our Christmas countdown.  It started out like a typical friday with the morning net.  I went on the shopping trip and Jackie went for a walk.  I put a coat of Cetol on the port toe rail.   But this was New Year’s Eve and there were parties to attend.  We had looked at all the options and decided to take a taxi to Da Big Fish for dinner and music by Gylfie, Fred, and Jomo.  One of the big attractions was that in recognition of the typical cruiser’s inability to stay awake past 9PM, the new year would be rung in based on Grenwich Mean Time – 8PM local time.

Jackie had discussed this with friends and somehow became the organizer.  She made reservations and coordinated the taxi for people going from Clarks Court Bay and Mt. Hartman Bay. Somewhere in the planning we decided that 8PM might be too early to quit.  Clarks Court Marina was celebrating at midnight, so we decided to dinghy there to catch the taxi to Da Big Fish.  That way we could go to the party at Clarks Court after we returned from Da Big Fish.

Jackie, Cindy (Sitatunga), Cheryl (Just Imagine), Trudie (Persephone)

The plan worked great.  Because Jackie organized the group we had two tables full of friends and met more people at the party.  Da Big Fish put on a good pig roast and the band was great as always. The first New Years wishes came from Nils and his wife on Mary Jean.  They are from Norway and the new year started there at 7PM local time.  An our later we got to watch Big Ben strike midnight.

The band played for another hour and kept the dance floor crowded.  Then we hopped on the bus and went back to Clarks Court.  The crowd was fairly small, but Debbie from Sailors Run had put together a full night of dance music and there was a good crowd on the dance floor.  Most of our fellow bus passengers joined the fun and more people came in as the night wore on. We are an hour ahead of the US east coast, so at local midnight a ball was dropped from the rafters at Clarks Court. 

Dancing in the new year for the second time in one night

The ball begins to fall

Shortly after midnight we dinghied back to Mt. Hartman Bay.  As we rounded the point into the bay we could see the last of the fireworks from St. George over the hill.

We slept well.

Happy New Year!

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One Response to “Cruiser Christmas in the Caribbean”

  1. Dale Says:

    Sounds like you two are having lots of fun! Sure wish I was there and not here right now! Hugs

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