Many people ask me how I enjoy the holidays as a live aboard cruiser. Well…this festive season marks our fourth year on the boat and fifth year owning her. Our completion on Britican happened just before Christmas in 2013. We took possession of our new boat, sailed her down to Gibraltar from Mallorca, Spain and left her for three months to tie up loose ends back on land.
My family and I (my husband, daughter and I) celebrated our first Christmas owning the boat, but still living in the UK, the traditional way – we had the tree, decorations, Christmas parties with family and friends and a big feast on the day.
Fast forward a year later and we went back to the UK for Christmas.
During the first year of cruising we had many highs and many lows. Feeling slightly homesick and missing family and friends we returned to enjoy the delights of the British cold weather, the Christmas festival and Hyde Park, and the Turkey dinner with our best friends and family.
Where was Britican?
She was safely tied up in an marina in Sicily, waiting for our return.
The following year was very different. After just completing the Atlantic Rally For Cruisers (ARC), crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we enjoyed a Christmas in St Lucia, an island in the Caribbean. My side of the family (the American’s) flew down to meet us. On Christmas day my mother, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew boarded the boat while in Rodney Bay Marina.
Christmas was magical that year, but not the magical of days gone by.
Instead of feeling cosy in a warm home looking out at white snow, listening to Christmas carols and drinking hot cocoa, I was hot as heck looking a palm trees wondering what summer month it must be. I was also in complete awe that my family was with me in such a lovely paradise. It was the first time they saw the boat…the first time the got a real glimpse into the new-ish life I was living.
The kids passed around a few presents and us adults sat in the cockpit enjoying love and laughter. I tried my best to decorate the boat with a few Christmas banners and some lights but overall it could have been any day of the year. The festive feeling was not traditional but having my family sitting on my boat was a dream come true.
And lucky for Sienna Santa found the boat that year.
We were a little bit worried that he might have troubles locating us but Sienna and I sent our Lat and Long (a thing that boat kids have to do). On the morning of Christmas Day, Sienna opened her presents and then we had Champagne and orange juice on a neighboring boat – one that also crossed the Atlantic.
Throughout the day we celebrated with several boat buddies all around the marina. Thinking that people would fly out for the holidays, I expected the marina would be dead. It wasn’t. Many people had friends and family arrive and the atmosphere was busy, cheerful and very merry. My Christmas present arrived in the late afternoon – having my family get on our boat. It was wonderful.
Fast forward to the next Christmas and we found ourselves in Charleston, South Carolina. Half way trough the summer we decided to head up to America to put Sienna, 6-years-old at the time, into First Grade. I was having troubles with homeschooling and we were also a bit tired from traveling. At that point we wracked up 25,000 miles of sailing and I think we just wanted a break from moving so often (not a break from the boat).
Sienna truly had a blast that year – she experienced Halloween for the first time.
Enjoyed Thanksgiving and had a full blown American Christmas at my brothers house. Sienna celebrated with her classmates, had parties with the live aboard boat kids in the marina and she got to have Grandma, Grandpa, her other Grandfather (my father-in-law flew in from the UK) her Aunt and Uncle and cousins and many friends all together in one house to enjoy gifts, food and great company.
We had fun too. It was the first Christmas I spent ‘home’ in America in a long time. We walked around the neighborhood looking at all the spectacular Christmas lights, spent way too much money spoiling everyone with every gift we could imagine (perhaps we were making up for all the previous Christmas’s spent apart?!) and we enjoyed the cool temperatures and over the top everything – heck, it’s America.
And yes, once again, Santa managed to find Sienna. We had to put a word in to his elves that she was staying at her Aunt and Uncles house. It’s always a relief to find presents with Sienna’s name on them on the big day!
The following year, last year, was our most random Christmas.
We had been making our way south from Charleston, South Carolina since December 1st. Our hope was to be in the Bahamas for Christmas but that didn’t work out. When do sailing plans ever work as anticipated?! We made it as far as the New River in Los Olas, Fort Lauderdale.
It was a bizarre setting. The river gets very narrow and we were along the side of a scenic river walk. We had high rise apartments to the right of us and the Prison to the left. A bridge in front and one in back of us that opened on the hour, every hour. There were quite a few homeless people that camped out next to us by day and at night the river came to life with festive lights and couples taking romantic walks. One street away there were beautiful shops and restaurants – all decked out with the most festive lights I’ve ever seen.
On Christmas Eve, Eve, we put the TV in the cockpit and with our crewmember, Andrew, and our sailing buddy Michael we watched Scrooge. Boats passed by, often decorated with lights and decorations, and walkers would pause as they came across Britcan. They’d stop to chat and then carry on down the river. We were only there for two weeks but it felt as if we became a permanent fixture.
Every day a guy would come to feed the homeless and the squirrels.
Our daughter, Sienna, would help out. Sienna and Andrew would spend hours trying to convince the squirrels to come up and grab a peanut off the GoPro. When we weren’t holding on for dear life when a big tour boat went by, we’d be walking down the strip to sample some ice cream, fudge or watch the singing Santa (and his elves) drive by in his convertible.
On Christmas Eve, we walked into town, enjoyed the festive lights and music at a couple restaurants and then hit the sack. We left out cookies, milk and carrots (for Santa and the reindeer) and low and behold, Santa managed to find us again! What luck we’ve had.
On the 25th, we had our traditional Eggs Britican (Eggs Benedict) and then put our swim suits on. We decided to walk to the beach. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we crossed the Intracoastal to see a massive beach without a spare bit of sand! It was rammed. Who would have thought that people went to the beach on Christmas day. I just couldn’t believe it. And all the beach bars were open too! I wanted to ask people if they realized what day it was…
It’s funny because you assume that everyone celebrates Christmas the same way that you do.
After a swim in the sea and a bake in the sun we walked into town, grabbed a snack at a Greek restaurant and went to the boat to eat our Christmas ham. We shared our meal with the homeless that were next to the boat.
Sienna got her much anticipated Hatchimal. Simon got metal reusable ice cubes, I got some beautiful tops and even Andrew got a Christmas ornament – it was a globe. Perhaps one day Andrew will buy a boat and also sail around the world?!
And our Christmas was extended. The following day we rented a car and drove to the Gulf coast to see my step-mother, Suzy, and my dad. It was the last time we saw Suzy. She passed this year. It was nice to be able to see her and enjoy Christmas dinner left overs (they’re often better than the real thing!) And of course, it was great to see my dad too. When you live the traveling life you never know when you’re going to see loved one’s again – I think it makes you value your family more than usual.
For New Years Eve we sailed along the coast of Florida and once we passed Miami, we took a hard turn east to cross the gulf stream. With fireworks going off for as far as the eye could see we rocked back and forth heading into the new year and the Bahamas.
What’s in store for us this year?
We’ve got Andrew with us again this year. He must have enjoyed his original Britican Experience because he’s come back for more. And this year, he’s having his family come out to join us for a couple weeks. Andrew is sold on the idea to get a boat and sail away. Now it’s time to see if the family will also share his enthusiasm. Watch this space.
We also have my father-in-law flying out to be with us. I’m not sure yet where exactly we’ll be. Perhaps we’ll cook our own Christmas dinner or maybe we’ll go to a restaurant? Maybe we’ll go snorkeling or we might just go for a sail? Who knows – it’s still a few weeks away.
One thing is for certain…Santa will know our Lat and Long so he’ll surely deliver some presents for Miss Sienna. And as always, our Christmas will be different but it will be shared with friends and family whom we love. And noting beats that.
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