The Traumatic Santa Boat

20 Dec

My sister reminded me of something the other day. Something I’d tried to forget, it was so traumatic. Something which, whenever I’ve thought about it over the years, always made me feel creepy and slightly soiled.

What could be so horrible?

The Santa Boat.

Growing up on Orcas Island, WA, was unique in many ways. One of those ways was that Santa, rather than sliding into town on a sledge as he might here in Minnesota, would sail up to the Orcas Landing in a ship.

Well, a boat. A grubby, frightening boat, filled with terrifying creatures impersonating elves.

What I mean is, Santa came in an old boat and he had pirates and clowns for a crew.

He scared me to death.

The dreadful pirates were gaudy and loud and I have a memory of one of them trying to kiss my friend’s mother.

As everyone knows, clowns are horrible anyway. Add raunchy pirates masquerading as elves and you have one strange tradition. I don’t remember much about Santa himself. I presume he was round and bearded and tattooed. He had to be to fit in with that crew.

Now, in the Santa Boat’s defense, I only attended once (that I remember) and I don’t know if every year was quite as raucous as that one was. Nor am I sure if the tradition continues or if it went the way of most other pirate ships the world over, Somalia excluded.

All I know is that no toy or candy or promise of gifts to be delivered down the chimney on Christmas morning, could induce me to set foot on the Santa Boat ever again.

Anyone else have horrifying Santa memories?

PS – I do know for sure that the Santa Boat still goes to Waldron Island, another island in the San Juans. I sure hope that it’s less frightening for those Waldron kids…


4 Responses to “The Traumatic Santa Boat”

  1. Jenny December 20, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I must not have been as traumatized as you, because I took our boys to it when they were small! What I remember is the Santa that came to the school gym and gave out the bags of hard unwrapped candy with an orange in the middle of the bag. It was a hard lump of sticky, melding flavors that was rather unappetizing. I remember untangling the orange and the rest sitting until it was tossed by Mom, after she probably got tired of it sitting on the counter getting stickier and stickier!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 20, 2011 at 11:45 am #

      I remember that, too! “Unappetizing” is definitely the word. Oy, vey! I hope that M and S enjoyed the Santa Boat more than I did…being boys, they probably did!

  2. Kris December 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    In actallity Gretchen, there were for awhile, two boats that came, one from, I believe, Bellingham and the second from Vancouver. If I remember correctly, the Vancouver boat’s crew usually had dipped into the “Oh Be Joyful” (as our grandparents called it, for everyone else it would be called alcohol…) Thus, their antics left a little to be desired… The orange was good.

    My “favorite” santa memory would have to be taking our oldest daughter to my husbands Christmas party. It was her first Christmas, and santa was her father’s boss… He picked her up to hold her, and she took both of her hands and sank them into his beard. (She was 4 months old) For the next five or so minutes we were trying to get her fingers out of the beard. Jenny, “let go of santa’s beard” was a refrain said over and over…!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      Oy, that must have been…ummm…fun! But I’m glad my memory of the inedbriated pirates has now been coraborated!

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