International Lions annual Christmas Ship arriving at Orcas Ferry Landing

Submitted by Jim Biddick.

The Orcas Island Lions Club announces the return of the International Lions Annual Christmas Ship on Dec. 11, at noon at the Orcas Ferry Landing. Santa has said that he hopes there is no wind and high seas this year. His elves have a tendency to get seasick if it is too bad.

The Christmas Ship has been sailing the waters of Northern Puget Sound since its inception in 1947 when islanders first asked a ship’s captain to bring Santa to them because it was difficult to get their children to Santa on the mainland. Remember that at this time the most common way to get to the mainland was by rowboat. The operation of the ship has passed from the Bellingham Eagles Lodge to the Jaycees with Lions Club taking over the operation in 1996. Each year the ship, with its crew of 50 Lions dressed as clowns, elves and pirates, leaves Bellingham bound first for the Canadian Gulf Islands.

On Saturday, they visit the islands of Waldron, Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano and Salt Spring, where it ties up for the night. On Sunday, the ship continues its journey to the San Juans stopping at Stuart, Orcas, Shaw, Blakely, Lopez and Decatur, before returning to Bellingham. On its journey, the 110-foot ship will have covered some 2,500 square miles and at each stop, the ship arrives with carols sounding and the mismatched crew of clowns, pirates and elves waving from the decks. Once secured at the dock the ship disgorges its crew with clowns making balloon animals, pirates challenging children to sword fights and the eight-person choir, dressed in red shawls and top hats, provide caroling entertainment. Santa and Mrs. Claus then disembark to meet with the island children to hear their Christmas wishes, get their picture taken and receive a small gift from the elves.

Once again, this year, come rain or shine, the ship will arrive at the San Juan County Public Dock at Orcas Landing on Dec. 11. The crowd starts arriving at 11:30 a.m. and the ship should arrive at noon. It will only stay for about one hour, so arrive on time so you don’t miss the fun. Refreshments will once again be provided by the Orcas Village Store. Parking, always a problem at the landing, will be available in the upper ferry lot, at the Post Office and along the road, but arrive early to get a spot.

The Orcas Lions Club would like to thank the community for its support during the year, which allows us to bring the ship to the island as well as assist in other community activities. We especially want to thank the Russell’s for their support in providing refreshments for all those that come to meet the ship. The Lion’s Club meets on the second and fourth Wednesday at 12:00 pm at the Senior Center and we invite you to attend to see what the Lions are all about. For more information about the Lions, what we do, how you can help or how to become a member, contact us at 1-888-698-6607 or email