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Holiday Boat Parades, from Virginia to California, With Advice About How To Stay Safe

By Peter A. Janssen

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it’s full speed ahead for the holiday season. And for boat owners, that means holiday boat parades, where people decorate their boats in everything from simple strands of lights to Hollywood-like productions filled with Santas and reindeer and almost anything else you can imagine. Most of the parades end, of course, with parties back on shore, which are at least half the fun.

For those of us in the north, it’s getting too cold for much of this, but in Virginia the Alexandria Holiday Parade of Lights will kick off Saturday, Dec. 2, around 4:15 pm when Santa arrives by water taxi in the Old Town waterfront (he goes water skiing later once the parade gets underway in the Potomac). After the parade, prizes will be given for Best in Show and the more creative Best Thinking Outside the Christmas Box.

In Charleston, South Carolina, the Charleston Harbor Christmas Parade of Boats will start at 4 pm on Saturday, Dec. 9. The organizers there have some advice that would apply to parades everywhere: Depart the area slowly once the parade is over, and remember that a combination of night-time visibility and all the lights on the water will affect a skipper’s perspective.

It’s not surprising that Florida is the state with the most parades. See the list below from, with parades listed alphabetically from Apollo Beach to Winter Haven – more than 70 all told, involving everything from kayaks to megayachts. The largest, the annual Winterfest Boat Parade with some 200 boats, will be in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, Dec. 9, starting at 6:30 pm. The route goes from the New River downtown about 12 miles up the Waterway to Pompano Beach; organizers say one million people watch the parade go by. It includes celebrities (Miss Florida and Kim Kardashian) and lots of TV coverage.

Across the country in California, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade (pictured above) starts at 6:30 every night from Dec. 13 to 17, and includes fireworks off the Newport Pier on the opening night and ends with fireworks from the Balboa Pier on the closing night. More than 100 boats take part. What a great way to start the holidays.

To make sure you and your boat stay safe during all these festivities, take a look at some advice below from BoatUS. Try to distribute the weight of any decorations so you don’t get your boat out of balance, and remember to string any lights and decorations inside the lifelines; you do have to tie up again once the parade is over.



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