Running Lights and Then Some for the Boat Parade

Share this:


It is time once again for all you boaters to start planning your vessels’ decorations for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which starts Dec. 14.  This year’s theme “Feelin’ Christmas-Sea in Newport Beach,” gives a lot of options for decorating your vessel.

As you are planning the decorations remember to keep safety in the forefront of your mind, with the utmost importance being that the skipper must be able to see without the decorations impeding the view.  A high percentage of the collisions or near misses I have witnessed are due to the skipper’s lack of visibility all around the vessel, or the skipper simply not paying attention to the duties at hand.  Should the skipper’s view be limited, then have someone be a lookout to watch the blind areas.  On some larger boats I skipper at times, I have had a few lookouts helping me avoid any problem situations.

Over the years, I have seen some very hazardously decorated boats, and on a couple of occasions, I have been zapped touching the metal railings by a wet extension cord grounding out to the metal.  All of the exterior electrical cords should be for use outdoors with all the connections wrapped with electrical tape to prevent grounding.  We will experience dew point during the parade and, in some years, it has rained, so plan ahead now to prevent electrical hazards.

The decorations cannot obstruct or prevent the deployment of any safety device aboard your vessel, including ring buoys, life rafts, life jackets and fire extinguishers.  For example, do not wrap a string of lights around your throwable ring buoy, making that lifesaving device useless if someone falls overboard.

Furthermore, the decorations cannot interfere with the vessel’s navigational lights.  An easy solution is to enhance your navigational lights by putting red light bulbs in by the port light and green light bulbs in by the starboard light.  Technically, unless you are in a sanctioned parade route, it is not proper to display your Christmas lights if the lights distract from the navigational lights.  However, the Harbor Patrol and the Coast Guard are using their discretion in enforcing this regulation during December, so cruise safely.

Also, boaters not familiar with the parade route or skippering at night should cruise the Christmas Boat Parade’s route to get familiar with the turns.  Remember, at nighttime your visibility is decreased and landmarks may not be visible in the dark.

Let me suggest what you need to do and look for when you are running the course as practice.  First, observe the distances between the moorings and the shoreline and how you can safely navigate around the bends.  Make note of the unlit yellow racing markers, and other markers that are in the course.  Also, note where you can drop out of the parade if you boat starts to have mechanical problems.

Can you stop your boat and hold position anywhere along the route?  Close quarter maneuvering is the name of the game when skippering in the parade, and remember to constantly look behind you before you turn.  Lastly, speed kills so you want to cruise safely and slowly, and remember to follow the directions of the parade control volunteers when you are actually in the parade.

And even if you are on the water for only one night, register for the parade with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce at to show your support and help keep this tradition alive.  In an upcoming column, I will have tips for skippering in the parade and parade etiquette.

Tip of the week is that the Rhine Channel dredging is wrapping up and the channel will be back on your itinerary for bay cruising.  It was recommended for boaters to stay out of the Rhine during dredging operations.

However as the dredging operations move to the American Legion, boaters need to be cautious when cruising between 15th and 18th Streets in the bay.  Remember to slow down so as to not cause a wake and watch out for the dredging equipment, barge, and any anchor lines.  You can avoid the area by cruising on the north side of the mooring field along Lido Isle.

The docks at the American Legion will be temporarily relocated to the mooring field during dredging operations.  Afterwards, the docks will be floated back to the marina and secured with new piles.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell, Craig Carpenter, and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at or

Until next week, Safe Voyages!


Share this: