A slap up Christmas lunch and opening presents will be the only concession to the festive season for the 78 hardworking souls aboard the salvage vessel anchored alongside the Rena.
With good weather forecasted to stick around until after Christmas, every fine day was a day not to be wasted for salvage master Drew Shannon and Svitzer Salvage's 38 crew.
"Christmas Day is another day for us," Mr Shannon said during an excursion yesterday out to the Rena stuck fast on Astrolabe Reef.
As usual the salvors took advantage of every hour of sunlight to continue the mammoth task of lifting containers, with nearly 300 expected to be removed by the end of work yesterday since the operation began nearly six weeks ago.
The media contingent aboard the Tauranga Coastguard vessel TECT Rescue were treated to unsurpassed close up views of the doomed ship and the efforts to get as much off in as quick a time as possible in case Rena broke up,
The Christmas tree donated by Tauranga cafe worker Bethany Donaldson brightened up the wreck, taking pride of place at the point of the bow.
There were no noxious smells emanating from the stranded leviathan and when the Coastguard skipper took us close to the exposed port side with its massive crack, eerie creaks and moans could clearly be heard coming from the bowels of the broken ship.
A "lazy swell" at Astrolabe Reef yesterday meant the huge crane on the Smit Borneo had lifted 30 containers off the Rena by 3pm yesterday - the best effort so far.
Mr Shannon would not make an estimate of when all the containers would be off the Rena, saying it depended on the weather. Another unknown was what awaited the container removal crews below decks because none of the hatches had been unbolted.
However, given the inevitable weather disruptions, he said that if they averaged eight to 10 containers a day they would be doing well.
Using this average, the Bay of Plenty Times estimated that if the Rena stayed together on the reef, the best scenario was that all the containers would be off by mid-March.
In the meantime, the salvors and the rest of the crew living on the Smit Borneo kept in touch with loved ones via satellite communication, with Skype's internet live visual connection expected to get a real thrashing on Christmas Day.
The crew comes from all corners of the world including New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Holland and America. They included three industrial chemists who tested the ship inside and out every day for toxic gases before salvage crews were allowed to go on board.
Mr Shannon said that although the Rena posed a lot of challenges, there was nothing unique that Svitzer had not experienced elsewhere in the world. It was the style of each salvage that differed.
The current fine spell has given a welcome reprieve to the most weather prone side of the ship, the listing starboard side. Mr Shannon said it had given the salvage teams a great opportunity to work this side of the Rena.
Meanwhile, the last media conference in Tauranga for 2011 saw Maritime New Zealand's National On Scene Commander Rob Service thank thousands of people, paid and unpaid, that had assisted with the disaster response.
"Without their support and assistance, we would not be where we are today."
With good weather forecasted, Mr Service was optimistic there would be very little work for oil clean-up crews over the Christmas holidays.
National oiled wildlife centre coordinator Helen McConnell said another 25 little blue penguins were released off the west coast of Motiti Island yesterday, leaving 15 penguins and one dotterel still in care. Only three oiled penguins had been captured in the last fortnight.
She said they were now starting to scale down the wildlife centre at Te Maunga. The remaining 16 birds would be transferred to Massey University for Christmas where they would remain for the foreseeable future.
The Rena was being stabilised by pumping seawater into the fuel tanks as the removal of containers lightened the ship. However salvors expected that the ship would still remain quite stable once no more ballast could be pumped on board and the load on the Rena lightened as more containers were lifted off.