December 9, 2016   Benjamin Harter
Night Before Christmas

Illustration by Gregg Onewein.

Poem from the December 2012 issue of 48°North by Gerald Elfendahl.

T’was the night before Christmas, on west Puget Sound.

Eagle Harbor folks slept on the hook – dream bound!

Flickering anchor lights hung in the rigging with care

in hopes that “St. Nicholas” soon would be there.


Kelp, clams and wee sailors were rocking in beds,

while visions of herring schools swam in their wee little heads.

Ma and I in long woolies and warm woolen watch caps

had just dove beneath quilts for a long winter night’s nap.


When out on the bay there arose such a ruckus,

I climbed from my bunk to see what all the fuss was.

Away to a port hole I flew in a blink

and wiped it all clear with a sponge from the sink.


The moon, city lights and aurora borealis

gave a sparkling of midday to our icy boat palace.

When what o’er my silvery bay was appearin’ …?!

but a fisherman’s dory pulled by eight …Great Blue Heron!


Its little old helmsman stood stocky and thick.

I knew right away it must be “Captain Nick”.

More smoothly than eagles his pullers they came,

and he shouted and called, each heron by name:

Now, Henry! Now, Hector!

Now, Harriett and Popeye!

On Kelpie! On Old Blue!

On Chinook and Sockeye!”


From Tyee Shoal and Wing Point to Head-of-the-Bay,

these Great Blues hauled Nick and his fisherman’s “sleigh.”

No “Nantucket sleigh ride” behind Great White Whale;

These Great birds guided gently Ol’ Nick’s dory sail!


His blue-feathered crew paused at sloop, ketch and yawl,

schooner, square-rigger, cabin cruiser – all!

O’er masthead crows’ nests Great Blue Herons flew –

with their dory full of gifts – buoys, oars, oh, and toys, too!


Landing on cabin roofs of each floating home,

Nick left food, book, sea shanty or merry-time poem.

Then I heard on our teak deck Capt. Nick’s hornpipe beat

and a prancing and dancing of blue herons’ feet.


I stepped from my port hole and was turning around,

when “down the hatch” Ol’ Nicholas belly-flopped with a bound.

He was dressed all in yellow, rain gear – “Helly Hansen” –

tarnished with all kinds of flotsam and jetsam.


A sea duffle of toys he had flung on his back.

He looked like a clam digger with a full gunny sack.

His eyes twinkled like stars. Dimples? How merry!

His cheeks were like kelp bulbs. Nose? A Marshall strawberry!


His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bowline

and his beard was as white as a shell-covered shoreline.

Nick had a beaming smile. He was broad, beamy – belly-ish.

And he shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jellyfish.


He was chubby and plump – a jolly, nautical elf.

I chuckled when I saw him in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye and his mug full of cheer

soon led me to know I had naught to fear.


He spoke not a word, smiled and hummed at his work,

filled the galley with gifts, and came about with a jerk.

Then up the companion way “Cap” Nicholas lept,

untied herons and dory…while my dreaming crew just slept.


To a pumping of wings and harmony concertina,

Nick cried, “AWAAY, BLUUES!” …

And soared beyond all marina.

Navigating mid-channel ‘tween lights red and green,

they made a most colorful and glorious scene!


And as he flew up the Sound o’er the 12 A.M. ferry,

all heard Nick sing out,






                  MOST MERRIEST

                              OF MERRRRRRRY!!!!!

Cover of the December 2012 issue of 48° North

From the December 2012 issue of 48° North