Your attitude always depends on your perspective, doesn’t it. There are a number of ways one can view Andrew and Leslie’s Christmas in Komodo. If you are Leslie’s Mom, you might be a bit sad as this is the first year, ever, Leslie has been away. If you are Andrew’s Mom, you might shrug and say “If he wanted to visit for Christmas, he’d have to come find me on the road in my lovely new travel trailer!” And, if you are me, you would say “I can’t believe I finally get to spend Christmas with my people!!!”
Not that I’m complaining about prior years, but this is an unusual Christmas for me, too. Unusually wonderful! In the first three years we were together, Andrew and Leslie would always visit me the weekend before Christmas, but of course then they would turn around and drive the twelve hours from San Diego, through Vegas, up to Utah. My Christmas would be quiet, spent with my boat friends in the Shelter Island harbor. Last year, I was high and dry - literally - waiting out the Cyclone season in Tonga. They put up my Christmas tree before they left, but then I was alone. All this year, they’ve been saying we will be together for Christmas, but I didn’t quite believe it. Imagine my joy when I realized they really are going to stay!
As they finished their Thanksgiving Dinner, they set to the task of making me jolly - decorating me inside and outside, and commencing their usual tradition of watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. This began a month’s worth of me feeling even more cozy, bright and colorful than usual.
Anytime we have internet, Leslie works on rebuilding her Christmas playlists with iTunes purchases - Classical Christmas with the Nutcracker and the Piano Guys, Island Christmas with Jimmy Buffett, the Beach Boys and some Ukulele artists; Soul Christmas with the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Boys to Men, Cocktail Christmas with Irving Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. By Christmastime, we have a good selection.
We travel around Komodo National Park together, and then right before Christmas we settle into the Labuan Bajo Mooring field.
“Sniff, Sniff, Sniff” It’s not long before I smell delicious scents coming from my galley. Coconut milk eggnog, spiced with local, freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg, Tahitian Vanilla from my South Pacific stores. They acquire the sweet, short little bananas, maraschino cherries, ripe mango, limes, and white fleshed pineapple for a fruit salad. Leslie is making quiche muffins for Christmas morning brunch - as tradition requires. The entire recipe must be substituted for something else and the "muffin tins" are a bit different than we are used to, but the approximation somehow gets us there anyway.
As they puzzle over Christmas Dinner, I search through my galley freezer stores. “Hey, I think I can feel a ham there at the bottom!” Andrew and Leslie acquire a giant bag of locally grown cloves - that will make a delicious Christmas Dinner ham if baked covered in pineapple, no?
As Christmas Eve dawns, everyone is excited. Andrew makes crepes, filled with banana slices, eggnog custard and topped with fresh whipped cream and a warm, freshly made cinnamon-clove syrup — a reasonably close approximation to maple syrup. Leslie calls her parents and chats with them as they are working through their Christmas Eve-Eve preparations. As luck would have it, long time family friends were visiting her parents, too, so she got to touch base with them. “A happy surprise!” she says, but suddenly I begin to worry she will get homesick and sad. As she hangs up, I inspect for signs of blueness.
“What?” She says, noticing me looking at her.
“Nothing, nothing….” I say, shifting my glance elsewhere.
They head to town and enjoy an Indonesian-Christmas-New-To-Them-Tradition: Christmas Eve back massages. $15 US, 60 minutes, Javanese style, with peppermint aromatherapy!
“I could get used to this,” Leslie says as she climbs back aboard. They sit in my cockpit drinking a Christmas Eve Gin and Tonic (with a red cherry and a green lime!) and re-writing “T’was the Night Before Christmas” to suit our particular situation. I think it turned out quite right. Dinner and drinks with friends, then they make sure to hang their flip-flops by the port hatch, just like the poem said.
As we all hoped, Santa arrived that night. He drank the eggnog and ate some of the cookies, but admittedly they weren’t homemade because my galley oven makes things so darn hot in here. He left a few gifts for everyone.
Grin and I received new (tais!) adventure logs, Andrew a handsome Indonesian wedding shirt and a new scuba mask, and a silver flask. Leslie received a disco light to help make us more visible to Indonesian fisherman on our night watches and a red plaid umbrella for rainy season just upon us. Santa even stuffed her flip-flops with chocolate bars. Osmond found a gift certificate for ice-cream (his favorite) and Tasman a pearl necklace. Santa also filled Tasman and Osmond’s critter-canoe with coffee candies to help them with their night watches.
Luckily, he also left Andrew and Leslie both some festive Santa hats, so when Astrid and Ben arrive for Christmas morning brunch wearing their Santa Hats, everyone looked as sunny as Christmas morning should.
Andrew whipped up more fresh whipped cream and topped some Irish Coffees as tradition required. Astrid and Ben brought some cinnamon raisin bread that approximated Leslie’s Grandmother’s traditional Christmas Morning desert bread - Poticia. (Pronounced Pah-TEE-Cia.) Not the same, but close. The food all worked, and we were all so cheerful.
Andrew and Leslie don’t leave all day. Grin snuggles next to my hull, and we are all together. I couldn’t be any happier. Around dinner time, Leslie begins poking one hundred cloves into the ham I found. She mashes some cheese onion potatoes and makes a warm spinach and bacon salad her mom always makes for Thanksgiving using the Island Spinach they got at the traditional market.
Then, we all settle down to watch “A Christmas Story” on my “big screen”. I.e. a giant blanket.
As we go to sleep that night, I could not be any happier. My heart is all warm with cheer. I’m out sailing in seas I’ve never explored before; I’ve been tickled by fireflies, watched manta rays and turtles swim beneath my hull, made friends with new and interesting ships, watched glowing red volcanoes in Vanuatu and learned a bit from my fallen ship friend, The President Coolidge. I’ve been surrounded by a circle of squid ships, visited with a colorful bird I named “skittles,” successfully avoided Cyclone Ella, visited friendly Fiji, got video taped by the “Survivor” TV Show Film Crew while under sail. I took a couple new sailors out for their first sail, (one of my favorite things to do) and of course they fell in love with sailing. My bow wake has been visited by dolphins and I’ve sailed along side (and survived hitting) a giant blue whale. I established a new speed record at 12 knots sailing to Rinca Ranger Station last week, and I’ve successfully convinced Andrew and Leslie to relax and slow our roll. We visited five countries, a new sea and I briefly touched the Indian Ocean to my lips. We’ve had safe and (relatively) comfortable passages this year; my Captain takes wonderful care of me, and Leslie loves my favorite sail as much as I do. What more can one little boat ask for?
2017 has been an incredible year for my memory books. Can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.