If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Caribbean Celebrations

January 2, 2017

In formulating an apology for not posting last week, I mentally whined, "But there was so much going on!" That's when I realized that holidays in the islands are different from what North Americans consider "normal" or even "acceptable" in some cases (such as St. Patty's Day). Here is just a small sampling of why you should plan to spend the holidays in the Caribbean some year.


Mocko Jumbie at Jump Up

For us on St. Croix, the celebrating began on what consumers know as Black Friday. Here it was Jump Up. Street vendors lined the streets starting at the waterfront boardwalk. Vendors sell local foods such as johnny cakes and pates, but my favorite vendor worked out of the back of a pickup full of coconuts and sugar cane stalks. While she opened the coconuts with a machete, her son pushed the cane through a press. They combined the juices of these two locally grown foods in a cup with ice and rum. No food inspector on the continent would allow such practices, but she was making drinks as fast as she could open coconuts.

Mocko Jumbies are always my favorite part of any festivity on St. Croix. Jumbies are spirits, and the thought is that these stilt walkers dressed up in flashy costumes (with their faces covered) will scare away the bad spirits. These young men (for they are all young and all men) practice for years to be able to walk, dance, bend over to pick up tips, and navigate through a crowd on less than flat streets and the slippery boardwalk. Their skill level is obvious by the height of their stilts. The "leaders" are the older, more experienced performers on higher stilts. (It is said that if they ever fall during a performance they are never allowed to perform again. I hope this isn't true, since they devote so much time and energy to this art.) Late in the evening, after their performance, we saw a young man in his late teens or early 20's walking through the crowd carrying his stilts. What impressed me most was that they were simple, wooden, clunky pieces of rough-cut lumber with towels for padding. I think if I had seen high tech, carbon fiber, specially made stilts I would have lost a bit of respect for the performers. But like most things on island, they are still made the way they have been for years. And they're not likely to change any time soon.


Mocko Jumbie before the boat parade

Two separate steel pan bands entertained the crowd, as well. The performers in both bands were school-aged children. The faces of the younger ones showed the concentration necessary to play these instruments where several small domes inside the drum are tuned to different notes. By hitting the correct spot on the pan with mallets, the kids performed traditional Christmas carols as well as popular tunes. But it is always the older kids that I enjoy watching play these complicated instruments. As their arms extend to reach certain notes, their bodies go with them so that they seem to sway with the music as they play. They make eye contact with their friends next to them, smile, and even sometimes exchange a few words and a laugh. You certainly can't hear them over the music, but it is truly heartwarming to see these kids play a traditional instrument with such skill and joy.

It has been a few years since we've been to a Caribbean festival, so the fire dancers were a surprise to us. They performed the "official" segment of the Jump Up and then wandered to empty spots on the street to continue their fiery dances. Once again, the love of a performer for his/her art was obvious when you got close enough to see the smiles. Even clouded with concentration, their faces couldn't hide the pure joy they felt at being able to share their skill with the crowd.


Boat Parade

The nice thing about Jump Ups is that they are held four times a year. But the best thing about this time of year on St. Croix is that there is a festival every few days from the Thanksgiving Jump Up to Three Kings Day, January 6. The next one that we attended was the boat parade. Nearly every municipality in the States with water has a boat parade, but it's the street party that accompanies the parade on St. Croix that makes it so unique. The usual cast of characters was there: street vendors (the coconut/cane/rum lady was back), performers (including steel pan bands and fire dances), and Mocko Jumbie. This time the festivities centered around the 13 boats who circled through Christiansted Harbor in front of the boardwalk, around Protestant Cay, through Gallows Bay, and back into the harbor. Children ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the lights and even the adults couldn't keep still when the boats went by sending their music across the water to the crowd on the boardwalk. At one point Dave whispered, "Look," and scanned the crowd in front of us. As far as we could see in both directions everyone was moving: some were just swaying, others were moving their feet, and a few were showing off their dance floor moves. St. Croix's waterfront makes me smile on a normal day, but watching locals enjoy festivities on the island is as much fun as the activities themselves.

A few days before Christmas we were awakened at 3:00 a.m. by extremely loud Christmas music. It seemed to be moving, but very slowly. There was nothing slow about the songs, however. Even their rendition of Silent Night was sung at triple time. While we lay in bed laughing, Dave asked, "What the hell IS that?" The next day we asked around and discovered that what we had "enjoyed" that morning was the daily circuit of Stanly and the Ten Sleepless Knights. (I LOVE that name!) They ride around in the back of a truck spreading their extraordinarily loud Christmas cheer to different neighborhoods every night during what's called a "tramp" or "Jouvert."

But don't think the fun is over at Christmas. On this little rock they celebrate Crucian Christmas Carnival for an entire month. On January 6th is the Children's Parade, in conjunction with Three Kings Day. The adult parade is the following day, complete with steel pan bands, floats, costumes, majorettes, and plenty of island flare.

After next weekend the island calms down a little. People take a few days to recuperate, and then they start planning for Valentine's Day Jump Up, St. Patty's Day, the triathlon, Easter festivities.... The one true thing you have heard about the Caribbean is that the party never ends. Won't you join us?

I love that our grandson is being raised on a boat. MONDAY we'll share one of his mother's tricks for keeping items organized in her boat fridge.

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Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.

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