Home for the Holidays…Aboard!

Merry Christmas from our boat to yours. Home for the holidays.

Except for all the special feasting, Chris is really Bah Humbug! about the holidays.  So move us aboard our 44 foot trawler full-time and what’s a girl to do? Holidays aboard can be another wonderful adventure. Discover all the exciting holiday traditions to create aboard your boat….home for the holidays!

As full time cruisers we had the holiday season all wrapped up – literally- before Halloween.  Since we weren’t ever quite sure how far we’d be from a post office in December it was simpler to find local treasures for family along the waterways throughout the year. We’d wrap these gifts in old charts for a bit of a nautical theme and ship them from small towns along the ICW. By the time the Holiday season was really upon us we could enjoy swinging on the hook in the Florida Keys and meeting snowbirds in various sized vessels who also escaped the frigid north winds.

On Christmas Eve, wherever we landed, I would persuade Chris to hop in our dinghy with me and go caroling in the anchorage. Sporting antlers with bells or red Santa hats, sometimes we recruited a small chorus of dinghies from nearby boats that usually ended up more of a floating party than a songfest. But, everyone who politely listened to our feeble attempt at warbling received a stocking stuffer.  As payment for the auditory assault, hotel size shampoo and soap are big hits with the smaller boats who dinghy ashore to shower.

Festival of Lights

For those grinches who need some help, there’s nothing to put you in the Holiday spirit faster than a lighted boat parade…watching one, that is. Decorating a boat can be a real challenge yet it can be done much easier than in a traditional home. But if you decide to join the parade, remember that the captain must be able to safely see, navigating among all the brightly colored garland and lights. And while the sparkle of champagne is enticing, all crew members should hold off until the boat is securely back at the dock before popping the cork.  I know, bah humbug!

While we do own bragging rights to a few trophies in the 40ft+ category, remember that Chris is not usually a willing elf when it comes to boat decorating. So, over the years living on our boat we have scaled back for the boat parades and we now assume the role of cheering masses. But we still have some holiday décor aboard to brighten the season.

Tree or Knot?

When I finally committed to learning the art of the bowline knot, decorating aboard actually helped me perfect my knots- practice, practice, practice! With some old thin line cut into short lengths I went up one side of our 44 foot boat and down the other, tying a bright string of lights to our handrails using the bowline knot. After 88 linear feet and 15 more across the stern I was a knot-tying ‘spert!

The scent from a simple spray of evergreens tied with red and gold ribbon will put the ho-ho-ho in your waterfront home with a lot less effort. Just swing by the local Christmas tree market and ask for a few discards sawed from the trunks. When you tell them you are on your boat they are always glad to accommodate! I’ve even snipped a few casuarina pine boughs and added blooms of red bougainvillea to jazz up our teak dinner table when we are in the islands. Get creative and remember that a cruisers favorite four letter “f” word is FREE.

If you have room for a small tree then be sure your ornaments are boat-proof. Unless you are sequestered in a super protected marina, almost all boat trees take a tumble at least once or twice from the wake of a go-fast boat. Wooden or paper ornaments survive the crash with much more grace than your great gramma’s antique heirlooms. Battery operated candles are the new rage and are quite realistic as a much safer option on a boat. One year I created an art deco tree with a dead branch, white paint, a small string of lights and oyster shells. Yes, everything you ever needed to learn in life you really did learn in kindergarten but having a cruiser’s fix-it mentality doesn’t hurt.

Mmmm…What’s for dinner?

Because our first holiday aboard taught us that our tiny galley oven could only hold a 12 lb turkey, our Christmas Turducken got really creative. A Turducken is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, stuffed with a de-boned chicken. Really….in a boat galley. We discovered that our boat-sized oven couldn’t fit anything that large so each bird was the smallest we could find and the chicken got demoted to a quail. Try de-boning something smaller than a sea gull and imagine the salty %@!# words you’ll invent. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Coming from New Orleans, holidays are all about the food. Then again, everything in New Orleans is all about the food so first you must know what makes a holiday a holiday for you. Then adapt your menu when you realize how cooking aboard is different than being ashore. We’ve met cruisers who believe pizza and ice cream creates the most wonderful Christmas dinner and you can’t convince them otherwise. When you consider that most boat reefers can’t keep ice cream frozen solid then you might agree. Pass the whipped cream!

No Turkey? No Problem!

More of a traditionalist may substitute a turkey breast if you really don’t have the room for leftovers from an entire bird. Or break totally with convention and go with our favorite: surf and turf which is a much less expensive undertaking when you go native. Taking on the local surf option you can substitute lobster for Georgia shrimp, Chesapeake Bay steamed crabs or even Florida grouper depending on your location. Season with some Old Bay or Tony Cachere’s and you have a feast just using your grill or boiling some water on your stove top for a quick surf steamer. Add a green salad and crisp veggies and you are in heaven!

Near many seaside towns we find weekly farmer’s markets which sometimes include seafood caught by local fishermen in addition to the expected fresh fruits and veggies. Getting off the boat and stretching our legs is an added bonus as our 44 foot home can get a bit cozy by the time the cooler holiday season rolls around.

Decorate your Table

One of the many creature comforts we have enjoyed aboard our boat is our Christmas china. Yes, we have china and crystal stowed away for special celebrations…and since we first moved aboard we broke less fragile items than we ever did living on land. Now as dirt dwellers we have further to reach when moving items from cupboard to table and I swear the all too convenient dishwasher has teeth to grind away on our delicate glassware. Use your beer can koozies to surround fine wine glasses and the beer bottle koozies to protect your champagne flutes.

Simply placing bubble wrap layered in between your china plates works wonders to keep the plates from chipping when you are in rough seas. In 1995 we started with service for 12 of our everyday china, thinking we would break some along the way…all these years later and we can still serve 12 for dinner. But all you really need is enough for your crew.

Red cloth napkins certainly compliment the colors of the season and dress up our table for two…or twelve, if you invite other boat orphans as we often refer to those of us without our families aboard. The bonus of having red napkins is that they work for Valentines’ day, fourth of July, Memorial day and just about any other time you may want to feel less like camping when you dine aboard.

Dinner Aboard

Some of the harbors we’ve called home for the holidays have given us incredible memories. The year we were still in Charleston with ice on our decks made us realize that brrrr! we needed to be further south. When your wardrobe is limited you tend to follow the sun. In Fernandina Beach Florida we really learned to appreciate our tiny galley and the luxury of a generator as we meandered around the anchorage checking our depths. The aroma of roasted turkey, oyster stuffing and candied yams danced in our wake as cruisers popped out of their cabins to see what was creating memories of a home cooked meal. Most of our boat neighbors were either reheating something in the microwave or having sandwiches on that chilly holiday after a long day on the water. Once anchored, we invited a few new friends to share the feast.

If all of this is making you ask, “so how do I provision for all this? and how can do a holiday meal in this tiny galley?” Don’t worry! Check out this video chock full of Galley Tips.

How Do Other Cruisers Celebrate?

Listen to our Great Loop Radio broadcast about how cruisers celebrate the holidays. Click here to hear Kim Russo (AGLCA) and Alyse chat about so many different winter seasons aboard. And if you have access to actually watch the broadcast then here is the link to the video so you can see some of what Kim and Alyse are describing. When moving to a new town in a new house you create new traditions to blend with the old. When you are cruising then your boat keeps moving to new towns all along the waterways. Remember this is pleasure boating. Do whatever brings you joy for your own home for the holidays.

Home is where the heart is…or where your boat is. Happy Holidays from Ask Captain Chris!

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