Friday, December 24th, 2010
No doubt about it, the holiday season has descended on the Picton Castle – and we are all the happier and the heavier because of it.
A few weeks before we reached Bali, Jan approached me with a request. In Holland, where he hails from, the Dutch are visited on December 5th by a fatherly figure called Sinterklaas. He brings – you guessed it – presents to all of the good Dutch boys and girls. Jan and Joh wanted to introduce this tradition to the Picton Castle crew. Seemed like a fine idea. The Captain thought so too as he had met Sinterklaas himself when he was a schoolboy in the Dutch island of Aruba. Because we knew that it would take a while for Sinterklaas to find us on the Indian Ocean, we held the event on December 12. Joh and Alison and Vicky helped Sinterklaas by baking some scrumptious holiday treats and Jan pulled presents from a large sailor bag (how fitting!) and distributed them to the crew. All in all the day made everyone feel warm and gushy inside.
Signs of Christmas were abundant in Bali during our stay. Many of the stores had decorated for the occasion with multi-coloured plastic Christmas trees adorned with tinsel and gaudy ornaments and Christmas carols blasted from intercom speakers in the predominantly tourist based areas of the island.
While out at sea we have not been faced with blatant (and endless) loudness of a commercial Christmas – we are gearing up for it nonetheless. Spending the holidays (Hanukkah, Jul, Solstice, Rise of the Sun or Christmas) on a ship will be a first for me and many of our crew. For a few seasoned sailors – like Rebecca, Mike, Susie, Logan, Paul, Nadja, WT, Michael S, Pania, Taia, Chris and Donald – at tropical, trade-wind Christmas is nothing new and they reminisce of seagoing Christmases past and the good times had by all. There is something incredibly special already about celebrating something like Christmas at sea. With no shopping mall in sight (or indeed for thousands of nautical miles) we are reminded that it is not about the gift, but about the thought behind it. We may not have much, but we have a pair of scissors and our imagination and that is really all that we need. And good company. While we are far away from our friends and family on shore (and we do think of them often!) we will spend this Holiday season with our sea family instead.
This will also be the first time that many of us have spent the holidays in a tropical or semi-tropical climate. While the air has cooled off substantially since we left Bali – the sun still shines warm and bright and the days continue to get longer. One could say that the chances of a white Christmas are slim! That being said, the holidays are not about the weather – they are about the spirit and the traditions and we would be making our own traditions this year and drinking deep of seagoing traditions as well.
When they are not on watch the crew have been busy little elves – manipulating leather, sewing colourful fabrics, carving coconuts, whittling scrap wood and painting – in preparation for the big day. And every night the galley stove stays lit for a few extra hours as the crew take turns baking sweets to freeze or store for later. Smells of gingerbread, sweetbread, chocolate and peanut butter waft from the open door – and the crew have taken to gathering for a kind of social hour on the well-deck. Perhaps with the hope of being enlisted as a taste-tester? Well, someone has to do it!