Sailor & Galley: Home for the Holidays

No matter how far away they roam, this cruising couple’s Star Cookies are a delicious way to enjoy holiday traditions on board.
Lorelei Johnson adjusts sail cover on Sasha
Aboard her Island Packet 40, Sasha, Lorelei Johnson has spent numerous winter holidays far from family and friends. Courtesy Lorelei Johnson

As active seasonal ­cruisers seeking winter warmth, usually in the Bahamas, my husband, Radd, and I have spent many winter holidays aboard our Island Packet 40, Sasha, far away from family and friends back home. We do miss the gatherings and traditions, but no matter where we are, we try to embrace new ways of celebrating—joining local celebrations or attending local services—while preserving a few tried-and-true traditions from our land life. 

Nassau, on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, was the backdrop for one of our most memorable holidays. We arrived a few days before Christmas, got settled, and then set out to explore. That day’s mission was to visit the Bacardi distillery.

In all our cruising ­destinations, when venturing beyond walking distance of our harbor, we always use whatever public transportation is available (if any). Yes, we’re frugal cruisers, but public transport is a great way to interact with local people and absorb the culture. It’s always far more interesting than taking a taxi.

In Nassau, we were lucky: There’s an extensive bus system. New Providence is a fairly large island; if you want to head away from Nassau harbor and the downtown area to the island’s south side (“over the hill,” as the locals say), you must hail a taxi, get a ride or take the bus. 

After ensuring that we were going in the right direction, we asked our friendly bus driver if the Bacardi distillery was on the route. 

“No,” he replied, with a ­sorrowful head shake. Then, his face lit up with a wide smile. “But I’ll take you there.”

And away we went, the only two riders on the bus.

Once we got “over the hill,” we discovered a whole different world: homes with yards, small shopping centers, and no tourists. Eventually, we were out in the country. The driver took us right to the distillery’s entrance. We expressed our heartfelt thanks, and then he asked, “What time do you want me to pick you up?” 

The friendliness and ­courtesy of the Bahamian people are astounding.

After a pleasant tour and, of course, a rum tasting, we emerged with several bottles of Bacardi to restock our near-empty liquor locker on board. Sure enough, our new friend retrieved us at the ­appointed hour, and back “over the hill” we went.

Back on the boat, feeling festive, I formulated a plan. For as long as I can remember, my mom made special cookies for Christmas Eve. They were moist and creamy, with a hint of peanut butter perfectly ­complemented by chocolate centers. She always used packaged Brach’s Chocolate Stars, so we called them Star Cookies.

Of course, she passed down the recipe, one she’d modified through trial and error. I began to gather ingredients on the boat and realized that I had everything but the chocolate stars. It didn’t matter: The cookies are delicious with any small, solid-chocolate candy pieces for the centers. You can use dark chocolate, milk chocolate, even white chocolate.

When Christmas Eve arrived, we rode the city bus again, this time to attend a holiday service at the magnificent 300-year-old Christ Church Cathedral, a Nassau landmark. In yet another demonstration of Bahamian courtesy, a different driver apologized profusely for not being able to take us directly there but promised he’d get us within a short walk. We both wore wide smiles as easy-­listening Christmas carols blared out of the bus speakers. 

Late that night, back aboard Sasha, we feasted on the cookies, along with eggnog spiced with fresh nutmeg and a healthy shot of our recently acquired rum. Turns out it’s possible to be home for the holidays after all.

Star Cookies (yields 30 cookies)

cookies on a plate
Star Cookies Lynda Morris Childress


  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup sugar plus ½ cup more for rolling 
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • About 30 small chocolate pieces
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. 

Cream together butter, peanut butter, ½ cup sugar and ½ cup brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well, then mix until consistency is like dough. (It will be slightly wet.) 

Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. With your hands, form the dough into 1½-inch balls (about the size of a ping pong ball), and roll each ball in the remaining ½ cup sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. 

Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, place a chocolate piece on each cookie, and press firmly. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for 2 to 5 more minutes, or until the cookies are golden-brown and set. 

Let the cookies cool, and then sprinkle them with powdered sugar, especially if you miss snow. 

Prep time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium
Can be made: at anchor

Cook’s Note: 

Use a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out raw cookie dough, then roll to shape into balls. A heaping tablespoon makes a perfect-size dough ball.

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