Anchoring the Holidays: Innovative Ways to Celebrate on Your Boat
Throughout our cruising lives, holiday celebrations on boats often become a delightful norm. We tend to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays aboard our boats. Sometimes we do so because we have no choice—when we are delivering the boat from one place to another over a holiday or when we live aboard—but more often, we choose to celebrate holidays on board our vessels. As with land-bound holidays, most are delightful celebrations, often with new boating friends and traditions that provide meaning and continuity in our lives.
It can be challenging to recapture and replicate land-bound holidays on a boat. Some of these challenges are physical—limited space, lack of equipment, or absence of specific ingredients may curtail traditional “sit-down” dinners—while others are emotional. Liveaboard cruisers may yearn to be surrounded by family and friends when they are far away. Vacationing cruisers may find themselves in circumstances or environments that differ greatly from their memories of childhood holiday celebrations—hot weather at Christmas, New Year’s in the islands, or bundling up for the Fourth of July in Alaska!
While we may long to reclaim childhood memories and traditions, celebrating holidays aboard offers terrific opportunities to create unique and exciting celebrations of your own. Blending cherished customs or rituals with new, exotic experiences makes for good times and vivid memories. In other words, if you can adjust your expectations and adopt a new attitude about holidays aboard, it will pay off in spades!
What follows are some ideas for celebrations aboard your boat to get your creative juices flowing.
Seas the Holidays: Creating New Traditions Aboard Your Vessel
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My birthday and our wedding anniversary are on the same day, which usually falls during Thanksgiving week. The year I turned 50, we flew into Miami to celebrate aboard at Dinner Key. Our flight was very late, and we arrived at the marina to find out that all the nearby restaurants and grocery stores were closed for the night. We made a sad little pre-Thanksgiving meal out of canned tuna, a package of boxed mac and cheese, and some cheese crackers. However, my sweet husband surprised me with a vintage bottle of my favorite French Burgundy (packed in his luggage), and we opened it and toasted cruising life, our anniversary, and my birthday under a full Miami moon.
I asked our cruising friends, who have sailed their 39-foot boat throughout the western Caribbean for several years, how they celebrated classic holidays aboard their boat in foreign ports. Their festivities usually involve getting together with nearby cruisers and creating gourmet potluck dinners. Each cruiser makes a very special dish, presented beautifully. While they found most ingredients nearby (poultry, squashes, potatoes, greens, bread), there are no cranberries outside the U.S. Knowing this, our friends stashed a couple bags in their freezer and made a delightful Cranberry Tart for the potluck.
While our cruising friends celebrated Christmas aboard for several years, their first year they were both feeling a little blue missing Christmas morning with their families. Suddenly, a nearby cruising vessel came over and delivered freshly made hot cinnamon buns, tied with a Christmas ribbon to their boat. This generous little gesture really got the day off on the right foot.
If you plan ahead, there are lots of fun little gifts you can make aboard—baked goods, cocktails, fruit or herb vinegars, flavored salts, sugars, spice mixes—and they are always appreciated by friends and strangers alike.
That afternoon, they gathered with friends on another boat. It was decorated with a small lit Christmas tree and colored fairy lights. As they were welcomed aboard with hot buttered rum, they saw that Christmas stockings hung on the boat rails, filled with goodies for each guest. Following a surf and turf dinner with potluck side dishes and desserts, they all sang Christmas carols and toasted the boating life.