7 Winning Tips on Decorating Your Boat for the Lighted Boat Parade
Shine your way into the hearts and minds of the crowd—and judges—with our advice.
With the holidays fast approaching, all sorts of festive celebrations are in the planning stages, including lighted boat parades. If you’ve ever watched one of these, you know just how much fun they are. Dozens of decorated-to-the-hilt vessels, from small runabouts to large motor yachts and sailing yachts, try to outdo each other.
For those of you who’ve never participated in one but want to get in on the action this year, you’re in for a treat. Decorating your boat for a lighted boat parade adds the “wow” factor to an already-fantastic experience. These tips will get you off on the right foot (or should we say lightbulb?)
- Follow a theme
- Light it up, up, up
- Include motion
- Make some music
- Consider your power source
- Get in costume!
- Operate at safe speed
1. Follow a theme
The good news here is, some parade organizers set a theme for the participants, so that makes it pretty easy. If you’re free to choose, what suits your personality? Are you a jolly elf, for instance, or more like a grinch?
For the wordsmiths among you who consider yourselves pun kings and queens, you could be “in snow business” or “all the jingle ladies.” Another idea: wear matching ugly Christmas sweaters that adhere to the theme. Whatever your choice, make sure the overall holiday décor of your boat conveys it. Let your imagination run wild!
2. Light it up, up, up
When decorating your boat for a lighted boat parade, there’s no such thing as too many strands. Seriously. Some boats have pretty much every square inch of hull and superstructure covered. Run the lights up your mast, wrap them around your handrails, outline your outriggers, and rim the perimeter of your boat, too. Zipper ties are invaluable in holding everything securely in place.
Both sides of your boat should match as well. Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t impede your vision from the helm. Furthermore, test everything at night well before the parade, so that you know the lighting design is bright enough for onlookers to see from shore. This could be a few hundred feet away. Testing also lets you identify any bare spots.
3. Include motion
Some of the most creative lighted boat parade participants incorporate animated figures. Good examples are the inflatable lawn displays you can buy at the big-box stores. Additionally, you can find animated multi-piece lighted displays.
The possibilities range from a colorful Santa train to a snowman juggling presents and to leaping reindeer. Again, just like with the lighted strands, ensure you have clear sightlines from the helm.
READ MORE: Top 5 United States Holiday Boat Parades
4. Make some music
It wouldn’t be a lighted boat parade without some appropriately festive music. Even better: Select music that emphasizes your theme. No need to go buy expensive stereo equipment if your boat isn’t outfitted with an on-deck sound system. A good ol’ portable stereo or Bluetooth speakers linked to your mobile phone can do the trick.
5. Consider your power source
Firstly, use LEDs to minimize the necessary current draw. Secondly, never overload your boat’s circuits, so be mindful of how many strands you connect together and plug into one particular place. If you need supplemental power, never, ever use a portable generator. You risk carbon monoxide poisoning, and burns or a fire if the unit accidentally tips over, especially if a wake hits your boat.
Instead, use an inverter running off your boat’s battery if you’re using AC-powered lights. If your boat already has a permanent generator, you can tap into it. Breakers or ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are good for preventing more current flowing along power cords from exceeding safe levels.
6. Get in costume!
Decorating your boat for a lighted boat parade involves decorating yourselves as well! The above-mentioned ugly Christmas sweaters idea works here, as do Santa and the elves, Frosty the Snowman and family… you name it. Plus, props are always a good idea.
7. Operate at a safe speed
Low or no wake is key. Considering your boat, and everyone else’s, is likely carrying extra weight from the festive displays, stability isn’t the same as it is normally. Moreover, the deck needs to be clear and clean for your family or friends to handle dock lines when leaving and returning to your slip.
What to read next: 6 Best Holiday Destinations in the US
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A journalist with more than 30 years’ experience, Diane M. Byrne is the owner
of MegayachtNews.com, a daily website educating American superyacht owners, buyers, and
their circles of influence about the leading builders, designers, cruising destinations, and more.
She founded the website in 2007 as the first, and still the only, American-focused online media
outlet exclusively covering this market. It features all-original content, for real stories of real
Diane is additionally one of the most-sought-after journalists for expert editorial coverage and
commentary about not only superyachts, but also general boating and yachting. Her byline
appears in Boatsetter.com, DiscoverBoating.com, and the magazines Luxury Guide, Ocean,
Yachting, and Yachts International.
Additionally, Diane is the Chair of the U.S. Superyacht Association, having been on the Board of
Directors since 2015. Outside of yachting, she’s a trustee of Sempre Avanti, a non-profit
resource supporting Italian and Italian-American individuals, businesses, and organizations in the
United States and Italy.