A South Pacific Night Before Christmas

A South Pacific Night Before Christmas

Night Before Christmas
(Somewhere in the Pacific)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the crew couldn’t sleep.
The waves were relentless, with troughs dark and deep.
The windvane was holding a course straight and true,
toward a spot on the chart that read “isles inconnues.”

As Cap tried to revive his salt-soaked GPS,
Ma delivered the news. “This ship is a mess!
The diesel won’t start. The stove‘s out of gas,
and your fancy new flashlight is a pain in the ass.”

She broke out the sextant and slugged down some rum,
“Give up on your gadgets. I’ll get this ship home!”
The moon on the water allowed just enough light
to define a horizon. She began taking sights.

The cocked hat on the chart was not as small as she hoped.
She placed an X in the middle, and refused to mope.
“Silly men and their toys,” she said with a smile.
“Bring our ship almost there, then leave us the last mile.”

She raised the atoll at dawn, but the pass, it looked bad.
No way they’d attempt it . . . but then out came a lad.
His boat was no bigger than an island canoe.
“Follow me!” he shouted. “I know just what to do!”

He revved up his outboard and hugged the east shore.
Cap took the tiller and ordered, “Sheet in some more!”
The current was ripping, and whitewater raced.
Cap’s pulse held steady, a look of calm on his face.

When they cleared the last coral head in the lagoon,
Cap ghosted gently to the dock on pontoons.
Ma took the bowline and gave it a twist.
When the spring lines were set, they softly bumped fists.

“You’re a pretty good sailor,” Ma said with a grin.
“But your navigation,” Cap said, “is what got us in.”
That night they slept well beneath glittering stars,
soothed by a dream—that a good heart can go far.

Happy holidays to Tim, Ralph, Ann, Frank, Judi, Kerstin, Drew, Dave, Bill, Monica, Dan, Jonathan, Nancy, Rod, Tom, Amanda, Doug, Nick, Stan, Paulina, and all the staff, contributors, subscribers, letter-writers, online commenters, fact-checkers, and countless superheroes in their little canoes who have helped guide Practical Sailor through the past 46 years.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. Fantastic! Thanks … and I have experienced that terror entering one of those lagoons in the Tuomotus … quite the challenge when at the way wrong time to enter … and quite the relief and joy upon reaching the quiet and peaceful inner waters. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

  2. Exceptional piece. A kid in a dugout canoe guided us through the coral heads and sand bars after we cut toward the shore from the barrier reef

  3. Gave me fresh hope! It’s 4:30 am on Xmas morning dreaded 2020. Boat’s been on blocks for nearly a year now but I’ve had the Jab in my arm and roll on the day it all ends and at 95 nothing’s going to stop me…let go aft !! …..G.


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