In cold-weather country, a Christmastime outing needs snow. But this is Southern California, so everyone involved with "Santa's Sailing Sleigh Ride" was praying for sunshine--and nice calm seas.
The plan was to gather 100 children from the San Pedro and Long Beach Boys and Girls Clubs, pull together gifts, a Santa, a Christmas tree and lunches, and then load them aboard a cruise boat for a daylong excursion from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island.
Well, the sun came out, but strong winds and heavy swells forced the sponsor, Catalina Cruises, to limit Monday's cruise to a three-hour tour of the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor.
Some of the children, ages 6 to 13, come from disadvantaged families and for many it was their first time at sea, even though most live within a few miles of the shoreline.
Fortified by hot chocolate, muffins, gifts and other goodies, the children very quickly adapted to the Christmas party afloat.
That's why the tugboat crews and longshore workers loading and unloading freighters were treated to the sound of dozens of small voices shouting "Merry Christmas!" from the deck of the Catalina Monarch as it cruised along the shipping channel.