Well, this is different! For the first time in seven years, we are spending the holidays at our house in Newport. All the traditions of Christmas’ past that we had set aside in lieu of travel, have found a home in our hearts easily this year as if we never left. The recent days we spent volunteering at the local food pantry, baking cookies for neighbors, and shoveling snow are now all a memorable part of our 2020 land-based winter adventure.
We are grateful for the capacity to spread out, organize gifts, make menus, and plan our holiday together. I think back to our early years of winter boat living and am amazed at what we did with so little physical space. It took some planning to hide gifts and inspire magic on a boat with small kids, but we never questioned the effort. And magical, it was!
I remember one year on our first boat, a classic Huckins named Cortado. We made our way from Jacksonville to steamy hot Key West, picking up strategically mailed packages and boxes along the way. By Christmas Eve, the boat was packed with hidden gifts and melty chocolates. We picked up Sydney and a friend in Marathon, so that made us a crew of six on a 40′ boat with two berths, a tiny bath/shower, and a half kitchen. Sydney and her friend bunked on the aft deck cushions, al fresco – in good weather this is a heavenly place to sleep, and most of the time Florida provides the very best in warm nighttime breezes. However, a dense storm was brewing as we made our way from Marathon to Key West on Christmas Eve, 2015. With less than a few miles to port, the skies turned milky green to scary dark grey. The breeze picked up quickly and we were soon caught in a sideways downpour with zero visibility. Tony was in his element; the kids and I were terrified. What felt like an eternity later, the storm passed, the sun appeared and we pulled into a slip – tying lines tighter than necessary. I was profoundly happy to have my feet on land. But something else happened during that windy, rocky, harrowing ride. We held each other tight and did all the right things to make it through safely. We more than survived, we had an adventure we would never forget! Even though the rain came again at midnight and soaked gifts hidden in the flybridge lockers (as well as our outdoor sleepers), we held in our hearts a spirit of Christmas that could not be dampened. We were together, and safe and that is what mattered.
The Christmas holidays this year beg us to stay safe in another way. Living on a boat, safety is paramount, and this attitude has served us well during the past ten months of pandemic life. We understand what it means to hold each other tight and do the right things to make it through safely. Being strict rule-followers (as all good sailors are), we re-set our priorities and have again altered the pace of our lives, concentrating on time and togetherness. Fortunately, after six winters of cruising, we are masters at spending a LOT of time together. We have re-arranged some rooms in our house to accommodate fun and togetherness. We even moved our ping-pong table from the basement to our living room and as always, music fills every room in the house.
We miss our family dearly, but appreciate our neighbors and friends, as we give and receive gifts on each-others porches this year. Our Christmas spirit is alive and well as we forge on to make new memories this wintery-cold, joy-filled holiday at home.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.― Dr. Seuss
Wishing you all the very best in togetherness, good health, hope, and joy this holiday season – and a little adventure if you can find it.
With love and good energy, The Rey family
* We would like to give a special thanks to all our friends who, over the past seven years encouraged us in ways big and small as we cruised over the winter holidays. From holding on to our Christmas cards, regular mail, packages, birthday presents, etc… to letting us park a truck in a driveway, join your family party or stay at your dock. Thank you. We remain grateful for all the support in making our past boat winters extraordinary!