Holiday Boat Parade Decorations

One of the major benefits of owning a yacht or larger boat in the Southern United States is having the ability to enjoy it all year round. For many, this includes the holiday season. One of the most satisfying boating activities for boat owners during this time of the year is the ability to decorate and enter your boat in a holiday boat parade.

These are flotillas on the waterways of Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the Southern Coast of California. They are designed to share the spirit of the holidays with boats decorated for the season.

aerial view of a boat marina full of boats decorated for a holiday boat parade

Luxury Yacht

If you are the owner of a sports fishing yacht, center console, express cruiser, luxury yacht, or any other large boat and are interested in participating in a boat parade, here are some helpful tips.

Benefits of Decorating Your Boat for a Boat Parade

There are a lot more benefits to joining in on a Christmas boat parade than meets the eye. It spreads holiday cheer to thousands of families who line the shores, beaches, and bridges to witness the colorful spectacles. They often serve as social occasions for the boaters themselves, pre- and or post-parade.

Boat parades often culminate in a larger community or even as a fundraiser in a community. For owners, it can serve as a holiday party and team-building activity for crew, family, co-workers, and friends.

If you are ready to dip your toe into decorating your craft for a holiday parade, here’s what you need to know.

Know the Rules

Boat parades are often sponsored by civic, community, and charitable organizations. They also are frequently organized by yacht clubs and marinas. These organizations will usually have guidelines and rules in place. These guidelines may limit commercial advertising or political messaging. Displays are usually encouraged to be family-friendly. Of course, watercraft must meet Coast Guard standards and safety rules. There may, or may not, be a fee to participate. Once registered for the parade, boaters will get details about their position in the parade and when and where boats will be staged for the event.

Using Your Yacht As A Canvas

Once you are registered and understand the guidelines for the parade you’ll be participating in, it’s time to plan for a memorable display.

It is critical that lights and displays are not placed to impair the view of the captain.

Plan your display and activities to best make use of your boat’s assets. It may be its deck space, width, or height. You’ll likely want your display to take the best advantage of your particular watercraft.

Some parades may request participants take part in a parade theme. Themes can range from colors like red and green to character themes. With or without a parade theme, it will be up to you and your crew to plan your entry.

Decorating Elements

Because most holiday boat parades are evening events, lighting is the primary element in decorating a boat. Check the outlets and the total power available to ensure you can power your lights and display. Sound from live carolers or a sound system is also often a part of the features of a parade boat. Other features can include wreaths, trees, garland, banners, candy canes, and more.

Decorating Tips

Here are some specific boat decorating tips to help assure a successful entry.

  • Consider all your lighting options, including pre-lit signage or displays.
  • Test lighting for lengthy use
  • Chicken wire in a wood frame can serve as a blank canvas for lighting and personal messages.
  • Plan for gusty winds
  • Pay particular attention to the starboard side decorations as most spectators will likely view your yacht from this side.
  • Avoid using older lights as saltwater may deteriorate wiring
  • Commercial LED lighting uses less power, doesn’t generate as much heat, and is brighter than traditional lighting products.
  • Consider computer synchronized sound and lighting to amplify your display.
  • Promote your participation in the boat parade to family, friends, and on your social media.

Safety Tips

As will all things boating, safety is of primary concern when participating in a holiday boat parade.

  • Make sure you have sufficient, working fire extinguishers.
  • Keep sight-lines unimpaired for the captain.
  • Decorations should not impair normal boating activities like docking.
  • Keep suggested and safe distances from other participating craft.
  • Monitor alcohol use.
  • Keep any external generators safe and well-ventilated.

2023 Boat Parade Schedules

Friday, December 8, 2023

  • Boynton Beach/Delray Beach Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • Cocoa Village Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights (December 8, 9, and 10) – California
  • Seattle Argosy Cruise’s 8th Annual Parade of Boats – Washington
  • South Pasadena’s Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – Florida

Saturday, December 9, 2023

  • Boca Ciega Yacht Club’s Holiday Boat Parade in Gulfport – Florida
  • Boot Key Harbor Christmas Parade, Marathon – Florida
  • Cape Coral NW Boat Parade – Florida
  • Carabelle Boat Parade of Lights – Florida
  • Clearwater Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – Florida
  • Cocoa Beach Christmas Boat Parade – Florida
  • Dana Point Boat Parade – California
  • Gulf Shores Lighted Boat Parade – Alabama
  • Huntington Harbour Boat Parade (9-10)- California
  • Kemah Christmas Boat Parade – Texas
  • Key Largo Boat Parade – Florida
  • Key West Schooner Wharf Bar Lighted Boat Parade – Florida
  • La Conner Lighted Christmas Boat Parade – Washington
  • Madeira Beach 56th Annual Festival of Lights Illuminated Boat Parade – Florida
  • Manatee River Holiday Boat Parade in Bradenton – Florida
  • Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade – California
  • Mission Bay Parade of Lights – San Diego, California
  • Naples Christmas Boat Parade – Florida
  • New Smyrna Beach Boat Parade – Florida
  • Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – Florida
  • St. Lucie County Christmas Boat Parade – Florida
  • Swinomish Channel Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – Washington

 Sunday, December 10, 2023

  • Destin Harbor Lights Boat Parade – Florida
  • Huntington Harbour Boat Parade – California
  • Redington Beach and Indian Shores Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • San Diego Bay Parade of Lights – California
  • Santa Barbara Parade of Lights – California

Friday, December 15, 2023

  • Lake Osborne Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights – California
  • Pompano Beach/Lighthouse Point Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights & Fireworks – California

 Saturday, December 16, 2023

  • Boca Raton Boat Parade – Florida
  • Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade – Florida
  • Fort Lauderdale Winterfest Boat Parade – Florida
  • Marco Island Christmas Boat Parade – Florida
  • Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights – California
  • Seattle Christmas Boat Parade – Washington
  • Treasure Island Holiday Boat Parade – Florida
  • Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights & Fireworks – California

 Sunday, December 17, 2023

  • Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights – California
  • San Diego Bay Parade of Lights – California

 Saturday, December 23, 2023

  • Punta Gorda Boat Parade – Florida
  • Tampa Riverwalk Lighted Boat Parade – Florida

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