Christmas Aboard: Feliz Tortugas

“Can you stave off your hunger for a couple hours longer, in favor of doing something really cool?”

Back in D.C., for Eleanor’s fourth Christmas (2006), we began a family tradition. Christmas Eve, she and I baked a ton of cookies and made small parcels of them. On Christmas Day we walked them around our neighborhood. I waited on the sidewalk while Eleanor scrambled up the steps to friends’ porches, knocked on doors, and handed over ribbon-wrapped bundles.

That year, we spread butter, sugar, chocolate, and flour joy to only about a half-dozen homes, all good friends. The following year, we hit a few more houses, to include people we’d only ever waved to. By 2010, Frances had joined our team and we were a cookie-making machine, delivering over two dozen cookie parcels to friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. It was like trick-or-treating in reverse and the girls loved it.

We haven’t stopped since starting cruising. For Christmases in La Cruz, Victoria, Puerto Magdalena, and La Paz, our small galley has turned out large numbers of cookies to pass on. This year we made parcels of cranberry-pecan shortbread cookies and banana bread. We hit some neighboring boats in the anchorage; a couple stranded with a bad dinghy motor; and the security personnel we found among three marinas, the navy housing complex, and the Magote (a developed strip of land across the narrow bay from the city)—all the latter of whom must have drawn the short straw when it came to December days off.

At 5:00, we planned to host a Christmas dinner aboard Del Viento with our friends aboard Manakai, Norma and Christian. (They're vegan, so we're talking about a margarine and wheat gluten bonanza.) But when we got back to the boat after delivering cookies, there was an email from our friends who live on the Magote, "Take the five o'clock ferry and meet us on the beach, we're releasing turtles today."

We’ve never done this and couldn’t believe our luck. Our hopes had been dashed for this year, there’d been no eggs laid there since the hurricane and nobody expected any. We shut off the stove, stopped dinner prep, and called Norma and Christian on the VHF.

“Can you stave off your hunger for a couple hours longer, in favor of doing something really cool?”

And it was cool. The little guys are determined, dragging their walnut-sized shells along the sand and into little wavelets that often flipped them onto their backs and sent them another foot or two back up the beach. But they’d regain their footing and plod back into the sea. Once past the tiny breakers, they’d paddle along with a bit more speed, holding their little heads up out of the water, vertically. They looked like little thumbs bobbing out to sea.

There was only a scant twenty to release and a half-hour after they were all gone, after the sun had set, we combed the beach with a flashlight and found five who’d been washed back ashore. They seemed spent, so the girls waded out over the bar to their waists, past the biggest surf, and started them swimming again. Chances are, maybe one out of this entire bunch will make it to adulthood. I hope your new year is better.

¡Prospero Año Nuevo!

In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Click here to read more adventures from the crew of Del Viento!

Christmas Turtle Release

Christmas Turtle Release

Windy holding a little guy before his release.Michael Robertson
Christmas in La Paz Mexico

Christmas in La Paz Mexico

Looking for stragglers after sunset.Michael Robertson
Turtle release

Turtle release

Eleanor urging her guy on. "Don't help him," we said, over and over.Michael Robertson
Baking Bread Aboard

Baking Bread Aboard

Frances made the banana bread entirely on her own.Frances Robertson
Shortbread

Shortbread

A small bundle of shortbread being readied.Frances Robertson