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Time for the Light Parades - a long yachting tradition

by Lee Mylchreest on 13 Dec 2011
Light Parade - photo by Joshua McKerrow SW

Right across the USA it's time for the iconic boat parades, and it's not only the kids that look forward to it every year. Decorating your sailing boat is not only good fun it can win prizes and accolades and give others a great night out.

Featured here are photos from several of the Light Parades which have put holiday cheer into a time when, particularly in northern climes, there's not much sailing going on.


Some boats parade, others simply add to the festive atmosphere with stationary light celebrations. On the shore, landlubbers answer with decorated waterfront balconies and windows, while fireworks light up the sky.

Sometime the crush is so great to see the light parades that some cities' streets have to be closed, and even rain cannot stop the festivities, which go on, rain or shine.

The nights might be frosty by it doesn't stop thousands from taking to the fresh air to see the dramatic holiday spectacle.

Eastport Yacht Club's Lights Parade in Annapolis, for instance, has been celebrating with lights for 29 years.

More than 40 boats competed in the parade, going for awards like Best Holiday Spirit, Best Illuminated and Best In Parade, plus others based on size and type of boat. However, some favourite lit boats will be absent this year.

For 12 years, a giant angel floated over the Dream Chaser, a vintage Morgan 34. The angel, which fluttered the height of the mast, was preceded for several years by an equally beloved Snoopy dancing under Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. 'We were in 22 parades,' Peter Chambliss said. 'We've retired the boat and the angel.'

Meanwhile, down in South Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, now, impressively in its 40th year, featured nearly 100 yachts.

Thousands turned out to party and enjoy the balmy breezes along the parade's 12-mile route from downtown Fort Lauderdale on the New River, up the Intracoastal Waterway and into Lake Santa Barbara.

The boats glided past downtown's high-rise condos, where people watched from balconies strung with twinkling lights, and a crowd of cheering, hooting and waving spectators. Vendors sold gyros, hot dogs and old-fashioned lemonade.

'The lights and the boats are so beautiful,' said Susan Merritt, of Fort Lauderdale, who came early to secure a good spot along the city's Riverwalk with Annie Esala and Luis Martinez.

'What's not to like? It's 75 degrees and it's December,' said Thom Burkmeier, who was visiting from Minnesota and seeing the extravaganza for the first time.

The grand marshal was Bee Gees frontman Barry Gibb, a Miami Beach resident, who was aboard one of the lead boats with Shireen Sandoval of WSVN-Ch. 7.

Those with a hankering for more holiday fun along the water went out Sunday to view the Pompano Beach Holiday Boat Parade.

It hoisted anchors at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, starting at Lake Santa Barbara and cruising five miles north on the Intracoastal Waterway to the Hillsboro Boulevard Bridge.

The Boca Raton Holiday Boat Parade, in its 35th year, hasn't happened yet. It will start at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the C-15 canal at the Boca Raton/Delray Beach city limits and proceed six miles south to the Hillsboro Boulevard Bridge at the Deerfield Beach city limits

The Annual Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights brought out thousands of spectators once again who lined the shores of Sarasota Bay from Centennial Park to Bayfront Park.

Starting from City Island, cruising across Sarasota Bay, about 25 spectacularly decorated and lighted boats made their way to delight and help brighten the holiday mood of those on shore. (Sarasota photos are by Rachel S. O'Hara)


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