Wednesday, June 3

Great Holiday Boat Parades, from Coast to Coast

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Now that we’re into December, the holiday boat parade season is well underway. It’s the time of year when boat owners decorate their vessels with everything from simple strands of lights to Hollywood-worthy productions of Santas, reindeer, elves and almost anything else you can think of with a seasonal theme.

Most of the parades, of course, are in the warmer parts of the country, with enormous ones in Fort Lauderdale on the east coast and Newport Beach on the west coast. It’s no surprise that Florida has the most of all; you can see a list of all the parades there at They’re listed alphabetically, from Apollo Beach to Winter Haven, and there are more than 70 all told.

In Fort Lauderdale, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (pictured above) is on Saturday, Dec. 14, and it starts downtown at 6:30 p.m., cruising east on the New River and then north on the Intracoastal, about 12 miles all told, to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. The promoters call it “the greatest show on H2O.”

Across the country, the 111th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is on Dec. 18, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and starts and ends at the tip of Lido Island, cruising around Newport Harbor. The parade includes everything from large yachts to canoes and kayaks; about one million people watch it every year.

The parades are more than about the boats. Waterfront homes, restaurants and businesses along the way also are decorated, and often filled with party-goers; everyone gets in the spirit of the season.

If you’re decorating your boat, make sure you distribute the weight of any decorations so that things don’t get out of balance. Also remember to string any lights and decorations inside the lifelines; you do have to tie up again once the parade is over.

And when the parade does end, leave the area slowly; it’s not a race to get back to the dock and the celebrations on shore. The skipper needs to remember that a combination of night-time visibility and all the lights on shore will affect his perspective.

Here’s just a partial list of holiday parades around the country:

Dec. 7:

Alexandria (VA) Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

Yorktown (VA) Lighted Boat Parade

Jacksonville (FL) Light Boat Parade

31st Annual Fort Myers Beach (FL) Christmas Boat Parade

25th Annual Palm Beach (FL) Holiday Boat Parade

Venice (FL) Christmas Boat Parade

Dec. 8:

Parade of Lights, Santa Barbara (CA)

Dec. 13:

5th Annual Christmas Ship Parade of Boats, Seattle

Dec. 14:

Eastport (Annapolis) Yacht Club Lights Parade

Charleston (SC) Holiday Parade of Boats

Clear Lake (Houston) Christmas Boat Parade

Bonita Springs (FL) Christmas Boat Parade

Key West (FL) Schooner Wharf Bar Lighted Boat Parade

Naples (FL) Christmas Boat Parade

Holiday Regatta of Lights, St. Augustine (FL)

34th Annual Sarasota (FL) Holiday Boat Parade

Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale

Marina del Rey (Los Angeles) Holiday Boat Parade

Dec. 15:

43rd Annual Holiday Boat Parade, Boca Raton (FL)

Dec. 21:

Cape Coral (FL) Boat Parade

Downtown Tampa (FL) Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

Punta Gorda (FL) Boat Parade

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