**UPDATE: I have received a message from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources explaining that fires of any type on the sandbar are illegal. In addition, the message states that most of the trees are shipped in from the mainland and they have pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Please look at the full response from DLNR in the comments on this blog to understand the extent of law concerning this event.**
Once a year, in January, on an evening when the tide gets particularly low, an unofficial event takes place at The Sandbar in Kaneoha Bay. Quite by accident we were able to witness this event because we had decided to anchor at the sandbar and enjoy a quiet evening or two on the hook.
Saturdays are often crowded at this local hangout, but this time there were quite a few boats and people making the trek to the edges of the shallows.
Well, it turns out that every year, after Christmas, an underground communication takes place and discarded Christmas trees are gathered for a huge bonfire. I don’t know how many years this has taken place, but the news travels quickly and quietly. Friends, families neighbors and pets gather early in the day and play in the water until dusk begins to settle and the tide has rolled most of the water off of the sand.
It is in the twilight, just before dusk truly begins that one or two pontoon boats, piled high with discarded Christmas trees, arrives at the sandbar. With jovial hellos, folks grab the trees and one by one carry them to a dry spot on the sandbar. Volunteers toss the trees haphazardly in a pile, as others form a loose circle around the trees.
As we approached the the pile and saw groups of people were gathering in the circle, Dr. Seuss’ song, “Welcome Christmas” which the Who people sing on Christmas morning, was playing in my head as I watched the smiling people. (The lyrics are quite nice if you take a listen.)
One minute before the lighting of the tree, a single Roman Candle firecracker was shot into the air.
One quick flame to the tree pile sparked a huge bonfire. It literally took only moments for the trees to become a heatwave of fire. The speed of the combustion made me realize how Christmas tree fires cause such destruction in homes!
In this contained and safe environment, the fire was beautiful and enchanting as it danced and devoured the branches. Though we were standing in only ankle deep water, the night air was chilly and the blaze dispersed warmth and light that were welcome.
I was truly amazed by how quickly the fire burned through the trees! I would estimate that an hour after the fire started, the majority of the trees were gone. The remaining debris was washed away as the tide rose and today there is no evidence that the secret burning ever occurred.
In the days after the tree burning, there were complaints on-line about the event as some believe the fire creates mess and debris in the water. For myself, I thought the event was very safe and I saw no mess created. We walked the sandbar the next day and found no trace of the trees. Plus, if any branches do drift off, they are natural and can decompose in the water.
What does surprise me is that people were complaining about the mess of the Christmas Tree burning while not complaining about the mess created by the fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve. I posted a video of midnight fireworks in Kaneohe Bay which were beautiful and more abundant than I have ever seen! I absolutely cannot imagine all the bits of trash left on the streets from that event!
But everyone has his own “hot” button. (See what I did there? hehe) I’m a visitor in Hawaii and we are simply fortunate to see both the New Year’s celebratory fireworks and the Christmas Tree burn.
FYI, those of us on TTR tried to keep a 6′ distance from the others on the sandbar. Even though we were outside and standing upwind most of the time, we did our best to keep distances. We also had our face masks with us if needed.
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Last June when we visited Antigua we loved it. We felt like we barely saw the island and it has such a variety of anchorages that we wanted to come back and spend more time here.
The view from our boat as 2016 arrived.
Specifically we wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in English Harbour where we would be surrounded by the history of Nelson’s Dockyard as 2015 became history and we ushered in 2016.
Nelson’s Dockyard, a National Park, is the only continually working Georgian Shipyard in the world. The first recorded ship to enter English Harbour was “Dover Castle” in 1671 and by 1707, English navel ships used the harbor regularly. The first dockyard, St. Helena, was constructed around 1728. Building of what currently exists and is Nelson’s Dockyard began around 1740 by enslaved labor from nearby plantations.
Approaching Nelson’s from the inland street. Photobomb by Captain.
The dockyard was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who lived there from 1784-1787. According to our tour guide “Q,” Nelson was not well liked and actually lived on his boat in the harbor rather than in the dockyard as he was afraid he would be killed by local workers.
The buildings have been restored and are open for business today. Often the buildings house businesses that are similar to the original, just modernized.
This canal was used to bring sails to the loft for repair.
Rules on the guard house included, “avoid being out at improper hours.”
Quaint streets lead to the docks.
Landscaping outside what was once the hospital and is now a hotel.
Today Customs and Immigration is in the buildings to the left.
The building on the right in the above picture once housed officers on the second floor on the right side. The left side of the second floor held dead bodies until they were buried.
It wasn’t all history and fireworks in English Harbour. We also rode bikes up to Shirley Heights, the former military signal station where soldiers would use signal flags to communicate information about approaching ships to forts as far away as St. John.
It was a steep bike ride to the highest point on this part of Antigua.
Shirley Heights, a bird’s eye view of English and Falmouth Harbours.
We also walked to Falmouth Harbour for a visit to West Marine and a bit of exercise. Beautiful views popped out along the road way.
Along the main road in Falmouth.
Salt and pepper shakers at the Yacht Club
These were the salt and pepper shakers at our breakfast spot. I guess even the condiments find love in Falmouth Harbour.
In addition to all this history and sight seeing, we met and talked to a lot of cruisers. It was great getting to know so many new people. A special thanks to Roger and Lynne aboard Schatzi who gave us excellent information concerning pet entry into countries south of here.
The final and most unique aspect to our English Harbour visit was the invitation to join a family for dinner on their yacht. This family was incredibly generous and shared their table and their religious traditions with us. It was an evening we will remember and cherish forever.