One day cruising on a small sailboat can take as much planning and packing as a week-long cruise, especially during the winter when the boat is stripped of bedding and gear. But a Christmas tradition in our family is a Saturday cruise to Bell Harbor Marina from Shilshole.

Sailing in December, with short days and rain, can be brisk even with the diesel stove, but the warmth of the harbor and downtown Seattle awaits. The secure facilities are excellent and staff at the marina are helpful, even lending a shore power cord to replace the one forgotten back at Shilshole. Most of the boats are lighted for the holidays and yacht club groups keep the marina full this time of year.

The Great Wheel and downtown lights add more cheer. An occasional squawking heron or resting harbor seal remind you that the harbor is full of life. A short hill climb (via elevator) to the pike place market provides many venues for shopping and for pubs to warm up. If you can’t wait, the bar at Anthony’s is steps away. We usually venture down to Uwajimaya and the International District for more shopping and then back to the boat to dress for dinner downtown. Walking through the freshly washed market at night is a highlight with beautiful neon and Christmas lights. Sunday morning we head for breakfast at the market and watch as tourists (especially if the Seahawks are in town) quickly fill the main arcade.  We love it when the shop keepers ask where we are visiting from and we say Ballard.

Another brisk southerly brings us home to Shilshole with a boat full of presents and holiday cheer. We like the convenience of the marina and ease of downtown without a car. Ride share bikes and cars make it easy to get around, and the marina provides a wonderful base for being a tourist in our home town.

Doug Helton and Cathy Curley.

Ranger 33 Nooka