The good folks started out with a fish tender but most of the crew now enjoy a warm cabin on a chartered passenger vessel often chased by chilling wind and lumpy seas. These volunteers with hearts of gold have set aside personal time in the busy holiday season since 1947.
Hundreds of islanders have warm memories of hearing the gentle music coming down the channel towards their chosen island dock. The Bellingham Jaycees, the Sea Scouts, the Bellingham Central Lions, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, just a few of Santa's support crew. A salty Merry Christmas to these generous people and our readers all.
|KARLUK, 1960, at Orcas landing.|
The KARLUK sailed Santa from Bellingham, WA
to the islands from 1959 to 1962.
Photo courtesy of Orcas Islander Norm Exton.
Great excitement; after the ship was tied up, jolly, happy, Santa climbed onto the dock and the children clustered around him. He gave out candy and heard the children tell what they wanted for Christmas. The parents and friends too, enjoyed this time together. Then, it was time for him to go, and with a whistle for 'all aboard' Santa waved goodbye, and the Christmas carols and the ship headed for the next stop. The music and beautiful lighted ship gently faded away as parents and 'lil' ones headed for their cars and home. Oh, what a beautiful sight to see the ship.
It was a wonderful experience for our children to enjoy, and parents too. In those days there were few stores or gift shops on the island, and few bright lights.
As years went by, the time of arrival of the Christmas ship varied, it came earlier and traveled further, and made more stops. What a wonderful thing for the Bellingham people to do, they brought such happiness.
For some years, as the experience developed, through the guidance of Bus and Esther Sheehan at the store and Clyde and Dorothy Brown and the 'Stitch and Gossip Club', cookies and cocoa were served. A 'party' on the dock!!
Those years were magical, and this reminiscing has brought our early day Christmas back to me."
Mary Schoen, 2009, Deer Harbor, San Juan Archipelago.
Mary and her husband Robert Schoen sailed CHANTEY to the San Juan Islands on their honeymoon in 1946, one year ahead of the Christmas Ship from Bellingham.