by CHARLIE SCHULER
Christmas in the Bahamas. Now, that sounded good. Marianne and I were living aboard our 42’ sailboat at the time, and we were looking for a destination. This was it. We planned on leaving the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club when the cold front passed through, and the winds changed to northerly. Our goal was to sail south between the mainland and the Gulf Stream down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is a good place to wait for weather suitable for crossing the Gulf Stream. You don’t want the wind from the north while in the Gulf Stream. The stream is moving north, and the opposing wind makes the sea very rough.
It also gave us the opportunity to stop in Stuart, Florida for a Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) Gam. A Gam is a gathering of serious sailors where they swap sea stories. Their motto is to “Leave a Clean Wake” and to write about where they have been to make it easier for the next sailor to travel there. Bill and Simone Butler were sharing the story of how they survived 66 days afloat in a life raft. At the time, this was the longest anyone had survived in a raft. Their wooden sailboat got between a mother whale and her offspring. She became very unhappy and sank their sailboat. They were prepared for emergencies. They had their life raft and a grab bag which contained what the sailor believes to be essential for their survival. They went on to say that the first 20 days were not too bad because they were able to take some food with them, and they had a manual water maker which probably saved their lives.
Nature had started another ecosystem under their life raft. At first, moss started to form which attracted tiny fish; then the moss grew, and the fish did as well. Pretty soon, the bottom of the raft was covered, and larger fish started to come by. They were able to catch all the fish they wanted by hand. Simone said she wished she had brought soy sauce. They were adrift off the coast of Costa Rica for six days, and no one saw them. It is hard to be seen when the swells are 10-20 feet high. We were convinced that their positive attitude and his sense of humor is what saved them.
We arrived in Nassau, Bahamas just before Christmas. Remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season, we decorated the boat. A few years back, Marianne’s stepdad had given us a ceramic Christmas tree, and this sat on the middle of our table. We also had ornaments hung around the cabin and a wreath on the hatch cover. It looked warm and had a Christmas feeling. To continue with this feeling, we decided to take a tour of the island to see how the Bahamians were celebrating Christmas. It was beautiful, and it reminded us of home. Then, someone told us that we really should watch the parade they have each year just after Christmas. It is called JUNKANOO. Wow, what a pleasant surprise it was!
JUNKANOO comes from the John Canoe Festival which originated in the Bahamas around the 17th century as a masquerade. The slaves hid their faces with masks and costumes. They danced as they paraded along. The celebration continues today. The theme when we were there was the 10 plagues Moses brought to the Egyptian people through God’s commands. Such as locusts, frogs, lice, flies and so on. The rest of this story can be found in the Bible under Exodus 9 and 10. They did a wonderful job of portraying each plague. It was a wild party with music, the crowds were dancing and people were watching and cheering. And, it was cold. I know I tend to be cold but some of the participants didn’t have many clothes on, and I felt sorry for them.
All these Christmas celebrations reminded me of my favorite Christmas experience. I guess I was three or four years old at the time. We lived in a four-story brownstone walk up in Brooklyn on the top floor. There was a skylight in the kitchen and no fireplace or chimney in the house. I asked my parents how Santa was going to come here. They assured me he would find a way. Sure enough, there were presents under a small tree when I woke up Christmas morning. My parents took me into the kitchen, and there was a newspaper on the table with the prints of two size 13 shoes. This was right under the skylight. I was in awe. Now, I wonder how Santa would have to get to the boat and if reindeer can swim. The spirit of Christmas has no boundaries, and your mind is your only limit.
Merry Christmas, and know God loves you.