There are two rivers in Portland. The Willamette River separates the east and west sides of Portland, and the Columbia separates Oregon from Washington with Portland right on the border. In fact, the State line is actually in the middle of the river.
Every year, several area boat owners decorate their boats for the holidays. Some go all out with their light displays; others not so much. These decorated boats are known as the Christmas ships and for about two weeks in December, they sail nightly with part of the fleet sailing the Columbia and the other part the Willamette.
I have only seen the Christmas ships once since moving here in 1996. And I had a great vantage point for doing so: on board one of the ships. I don't remember the year, but I want to say it was 2001. James' old roommate had a friend who captains one of the boats and James' friend and his wife were going to be sailing with their friend one night. Not knowing about the captain, James had mentioned to his friend I wanted to see the ships. When another couple cancelled at the last minute, James and I were invited to join his old roommate and wife on the ship, despite having never met the captain, who was very nice and who had a very nice boat.
It was so cold but we had a great time. We could see all the other ships in our part of the fleet (we were on the Columbia). We had food and drinks while sailing and luckily it was a calm night so I didn't get sick. There were a ton of people along the edge of the river and we waved to them and sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs. Not pretty on my part as I can't carry a tune and the louder I get, the angrier I sound!
When I hear people talk about the Christmas ships, I think fondly of that night and about how much fun it was to not just watch them but to actually be a part of the parade. I almost went to see the ships this year with one of my meetup groups but there was hiking involved and it was a really cold night. I have a really hard time breathing when it is cold out and when I start to lose my breath, I make it worse by panicking. James was always so good at anticipating the moment I was about to start panicking and talking me down. I was also battling a cold and didn't want to be out late in the cold. Maybe next year I will see the ships again, but from the docks this time. It wouldn't be the same to be on one of them without James.