St. Nick, Reporting for Duty

Christmas did not always mean stampedes on Black Friday, though perhaps that was back when the Ferry Building was as busy as London’s Charing Cross and penny arcades offered rare glimpses of distant lands. Surely, as the city’s oldest ferry boat, the Eureka holds such memories in the crevices of her twin paddlewheels. Built in 1890, the 300-foot long vessel hauled freight cars for the North Pacific Railway before becoming one of the bay’s largest passenger ferries. Those who tend the Eureka today, from the volunteers who’ll teach you to tie a bowline to the craftsmen who helped replace her kingposts, all share a genuine love for Hyde Street’s historic boats, as well as for the sense and sensibility that made them possible. Their antediluvian holiday party, Christmas at Sea, is an invitation to slow down and appreciate the season aboard the vessel. During the afternoon, the Dogwatch Nautical Band regales parents, while children make ornaments, hear stories, and whisper in the ear of St. Nick. After sundown, finely dressed Living History players tempt guests with Victorian parlor games and sea chanteys before the captain and crew propose refreshments. The night watchmen leads lamplight tours from the top of the pier every 20 minutes, but reservations are necessary.
Fri., Dec. 12, 3 p.m., 2008

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