Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day in Christmas Cove

December 25, 2006  Monday
Christmas Day in Christmas Cove

To everyone who received a Christmas ecard from us:  sorry for any confusion; obviously we are not in the San Blas Islands as the card stated.  We had scheduled those cards to be sent on Christmas Eve while we were still in Bonaire, before we made our spur-of-the-moment decision to skip the San Blas Islands for now and to again do the Leewards and Windwards.

After our last update we visited Cane Garden Bay; sailed around awhile on the north side of Tortola; came back between Sandy Cay and Green Cay; and anchored in a spot that we don’t tell anyone about.  If we tell anyone then other people will start anchoring there and we will lose one of our favorite anchoring spots. 

The sail from Little Jost Van Dyke to Cruz Bay, St. John on Saturday was really nice – downwind and following seas; just like it is supposed to be.  We stopped at Cruz Bay to check with the mailing service; the light bulb from Australia still has not arrived.  We picked up a few provisions at the Dolphin Market, the most over-priced store around.  Seems like almost every item in that store is $6.95 – whether you are buying lettuce, picante sauce, oatmeal, salt or bread.  The prices only go up from there, but almost nothing is priced less than $6.95.  But they do have the “luxury” items that are usually not available elsewhere, so one must pay the price for those luxuries.

“All at Sea” (a freebie magazine down here) had a short article in the December issue about how Christmas Cove got its name and some local traditions.  The following is the basic information from that article but is not verbatim.

Fifty-two years ago, a small raft-up of charter boats set the scene for this bay at Great St. James Island to forever be known as “Christmas Cove.”  There were only three charter boats back in the mid-50’s.  One of them belonged to Rudy Thompson, who was a long time Virgin Islands resident and participant in that first holiday raft-up.  His boat was the 40-ft Windsong.  Back then, there were only two guesthouses in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, Smith’s Fancy and Higgin’s Gate; and that is where most of the charter guests stayed.  The charter boats were not bare boat charters, each was crewed.  The charter boats would pick up the guests on the waterfront and sail from Charlotte Amalie up to Great St. James.  That was always the first stop.  If the guests were seasick, a swim and short rest would make them feel better so they could then sail over to Trunk Bay on St. John for the first overnight.  (This should sound familiar to the two people who accompanied us on our first four charters here in the Virgins in the 1980’s.)

In December 1954, Rudy Thompson and a fellow charter captain decided to tie Christmas trees to their masts.  The festivity drew the third charter boat that joined the raft-up at Great St. James for a Christmas Day party.  The cove was not yet named at that point in time.  Thompson said, “We had three different boats, three different dinners and drinks on board each one.  We just hopped from one boat to another.  It was a great party.”

Onboard one of the boats was a journalist from “Sports Illustrated.”  He subsequently wrote an article, coining the term “Christmas Cove” for the tiny bay where the holiday partying took place.  Over the next four to five years, raft-ups continued, growing up to ten yachts, both charter and private sailboats.  The festive affairs were a bright spot of holiday cheer in literally a deserted setting.  At that time there was only one house on the hill over Red Hook.  According to Thompson, you could look out for hours without seeing another boat.

Then, the holiday raft-ups stopped.  The Virgin Islands really started to change in the early 1960’s.  Things started to boom – shops opened up like crazy and business was booming and people just didn’t take the time over the holidays for the sail over to Great St. James and the raft-up.

A few years later, a Coast Guard cartographer asked Thompson for the name of the bay on Great St. James.  “I told him it was Christmas Cove.  Wouldn’t you know, the next official map that came out had Christmas Cove marked on it.”

Fast-forward to the 1980’s, and St. Thomas Yacht Club members revamped the practice of rafting up in Christmas Cove to spend the day.

Judy counted the boats in Christmas Cove on Christmas Day 2006.  At 3:00 p.m., there were 52 boats anchored or rafted in this tiny cove.  They ranged in size from 12-ft to 110-ft.  Most left before dark, but a few remained overnight; and one large power boat partied well into the night.  Only a few were decorated with holiday tinsel or lights, but the bikini clad beauties were decoration enough.  One group set up a party station on the tiny beach, where dinghies visited throughout the day for keg beer and food. 

Since we didn’t know any of these people, we were observers rather than participants.  Still, it was a very peaceful Christmas Day in beautiful surroundings.  What more could you ask for.

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