A Cruiser’s Christmas

By staff writer Vicki Lathom. Photos Copyright © Vicki Lathom.

TEMPERATURES IN THE mid-70s, a tropical breeze and palm trees seem to be an unlikely combination to celebrate a traditional Christmas. But it works for cruisers hanging out in the Bahamas for the winter at Abaco Boat Harbour.

Around December, hundreds of “snow birds” gather in the Bahamas to escape the weather in the States until spring. Regulars at Marsh Harbour, the largest town in the Abacos Islands, have formed a virtual association called the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club to sponsor activities, including dock parties such as this Christmas cocktail bash (see feature photo).

Starting at 5:30 in the evening, thirty to forty boaters congregate on one of the docks for abundant amounts of shared hors d’oeuvres and small talk about the weather. The condition of the waves and current going through the inlets in the Abacos is also a number one topic.

Santa Kota and Vicki with Kota

Right: Santa Kota | Left: Kota with Vicki on board the Cantabile

This Christmas season is Kota Lathom’s initiation into the boating world. Kota is 5½  months old and on the way to learning how to be a boat dog. This means he has to do his business on the bow and not be rowed ashore all the time. It also means sleeping through the night without whining so the rest of the crew can sleep, and to control his barking so neighboring boat owners won’t get upset.

A cruiser's Christmas tree

A cruiser's Christmas tree

Kota will be hitting the Bahamas at about six months old, the minimum legal age for pets to enter the islands because of health requirements. Just like his owners, Kota will be greeted by an immigration official—but carrying even more papers.

There’s no stopping a sailor from celebrating Christmas. Here’s a contribution from Horizon, a 38-foot Bristol sailboat currently moored in Vero Beach, Florida. Owners Sandy and Ray Meyer of Annapolis, Maryland shopped a nearby Wal-Mart for the makings of this garland, which circles the mast inside the cabin. This make-do tree comes complete with LED lights for a “green” Christmas.

SV Cantabile dressed for Christmas

The SV Cantabile dressed for Christmas

Looks more like the Spaceship Cantabile! Due to non-cooperative weather offshore, we’re docked in Vero Beach and likely to be here for a while.

Vero Beach is a popular stop-over for wintering cruisers on their way to the Florida Keys or the Bahamas. Some boats have already been waiting for the Big Window in the Sky for six weeks now.

I predict this year will break the record. Two years ago, it was six weeks total for many Bahama-goers that we know. They were so stark-raving mad they formed their own yacht club, homemade flags and all.

So it looks like we’ll be spending December 25 having turkey and mashed potatoes at a waterfront restaurant in Vero Beach. Not a bad way celebrate a cruiser’s Christmas—and a nice respite from all the waiting to cross over to the Bahamas.



Review: Chico the Boat Dog Tests Critter’s Inflatable Life Jacket


Vicki Lathom

Vicki Lathom

Vicki Lathom has been a writer and sailor for forty years. She retired from being director of public information for Montgomery County, Md., in 1996, and went to work for Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer as his speechwriter. Vicki has also done freelance travel writing and photography for such publications as SAIL and Maryland Magazine. She is currently a writing instructor for two graduate schools at the University of Maryland.



  1. I’m not a cold weather person – so that sounds like a delightful Christmas! You puppy is just adorable and who knew that it was so much extra work to have a traveling boat dog? …but worth it! Merry Christmas!

  2. Greetings from Cancun. We got here 12/24, back to Annapolis on 1/11. Although we are not cruising, we are warm. We even have insects to prove it’s warm.

    Great pictures and narrative. Can’t wait until Milliver’s Travels is picked up by the dead-tree and electronic feature news media.


  3. Kota is adorable in her little Santa hat! What a fun post, I liked learning about how this all works 🙂

  4. Jim Patterson says:

    Thanks for the links. I look forward to meeting Kota one of these days. Nice story about the cabin fever that develops when the weather holds you up for a long long time. I suppose it is in our nature to want to keep on a schedule, e.g. “Mr Roberts.” Imagine the ships caught in the Suez Canal after the Yom Kipper war. I understand they formed a soccer league

    Have fun in the sun…See you one of these days…JimP

    PS the app showing your location is great…

  5. What a great way to spend Christmas — decking out the boats and all — as you wait for weather to clear. Speaking of which, waiting that long to get out on the water must be excruciating! Hope you enjoyed your roast chicken dinner on Christmas and can hit the open water soon.

  6. Love the mast tree, just proof that wherever you are at Christmas you can make it christmassy if you put in a little effort.

    And I agree with the others, Kota is adorable, and good luck to him in his boat dog training.

    Happy New Year to you.

  7. Loved the photo your Kota..beautiful dog. I am not a water person, but I enjoyed your article. Thanks for the links and info 🙂

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