We moved aboard The Fox in March, 2003, and by December, 2014 we had spent almost all 11 Christmases aboard. We spent some holidays by ourselves at anchor. Other times, we shared dinner with 1 or 2 other boats. Sometimes there was a typical cruiser potluck-style event. But that Christmas in Marina Chiapas in 2014 was magical.
Part of what made it so special was that Puerto Chiapas is one of those gates that cruisers go through to get to the next level. People who have only cruised in Mexico have trepidation crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec from Huatulco southbound to Puerto Chiapas, and rightly so. To arrive at Marina Chiapas from the north is an achievement in itself...but the next emotion the southbound cruiser feels is the sadness of soon leaving Mexico. It's become a home. The cruiser's next gate is to check out of home - Mexico - maybe forever - and sail further into The Great Unknown. Low-level anxiety and loss are natural and expected.
Then there are the relatively few people who cross the Tehuantepec every year without regard for the weather conditions, and come limping in to Marina Chiapas with torn sails, busted rigging, and very shaky hands. (Protip: if you happen to meet someone who's just arrived at Marina Chiapas, and they start their conversation by telling you exactly how super-experienced they are in sailing? They're fixin' to tell you the story of how they made a giant bonehead newbie screwup by not paying attention to the Tehuantepec weather forecasts because they were so super-experienced already, and because they were so super-experienced they didn't need to ponder what those Tehuantepec forecasts actually meant because again: super-experienced.) So some people in Marina Chiapas have recently been somewhat terrified and have had to confront the Greeks' concept of hubris in a very close and personal way.
Then there are the folks like us who've sailed elsewhere and have returned to Mexico because in our opinions it just doesn't get any better, anywhere. There are feelings of welcome combined with relief and excitement and worry that things might have changed too much during the time we were gone.
What I mean is: emotions are tender in Puerto Chiapas, I don't care who you are. Christmas becomes a very, very important holiday to people who feel so far away from where they think they ought to be.
We were lucky to have a wonderful mix of folks from all over the place. We had the crew of the small commercial trawler "Sea Watch" aka "SharkWatch.org," en route to the Cocos Islands in Costa Rica on a contract to study fish poaching. We had some Canadian couples like Brad and Joanne on Loukia from Nanaimo. There was Bruno, the German single-hander of the steel ketch Katharina, who was deferring his Pacific crossing for a year or more, to sail northward and enjoy the Sea of Cortez. Rain and Scott on Fool's Castle out of San Francisco were on the hard for repairs. Hannah and Birgit out of Seattle were aboard Serafin. Nate from Vancouver BC was aboard Insouciant. Delivery skipper Scott with his crew were all aboard Heron en route to Peru. The United Nations should be so lucky as to have this group.
Three of us got together to make a party happen. What began as a party for 6 rapidly expanded into an event for 16 as other boats arrived in the marina. Gallant Fox supplied the venue. Loukia planned a white-elephant gift exchange. Fool's Castle supplied the basis of the feast --- and did it while they were on the hard, people. Check out the menu: Fool's Castle: a giant pot of tamales, salad, dessert, wine, even music! Gallant Fox: turkey, stuffing, and a dried-fruit chutney. Katharina: SEVEN bottles of wine. [Maybe more - details are hazy.] Loukia: mashed potatoes, pasta salad, and veggies. Serafin: palm-heart salad, pasta salad, and cake. Pannikin, out of Australia: deviled eggs & salad. Just-arrived boats who hadn't even had a chance to re-provision in town worked hard to prepare even more goodies. Everyone partied into the warm Chiapas night as if we were all among our oldest, dearest friends. For that one moment in time, we all were.
The next morning one of the delivery crew on the SharkWatch team - a young 20-something surfer-looking dude - stopped by to tell us that when his boat had rolled in to Marina Chiapas, he had thought he would be having the loneliest Christmas of his life. Instead, he said, he had his best Christmas ever.
I know what you mean, kid.