Getting Set for Holiday Fun on the Water

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Only five more days until the start of the 102th Annual Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade, so time for more of my tips on seeing the parade and skippering in it.  Believe me, I have gathered these tips from years as a professional captain participating in this and many other parades across the nation.

I like to start with some common sense for skippers: strive to be boat smart, using prudent seamanship, and be extra courteous and mindful of boater’s etiquette, especially in the close-quarter situations you’ll encounter.  Everyone needs to follow the directions of the parade control boats, and use the inland rules of navigation.

The parade officials will be monitoring working channel 68 on your VHF marine band radio, and you can contact parade control on 68 with any questions.  However, for emergencies use channel 16, not 68, to hail Newport KDG (Newport Harbor Patrol).

At all times, skippers should monitor channel 16 so that other boaters can contact you, and remember, all the commercial vessels will be monitoring channel 16 as required by the Coast Guard.  Do not hesitate to hail a larger commercial vessel to let the skipper know you are passing close, for example, on the starboard side or you are not certain of the larger vessels intentions.

Also, you cannot interfere with the parade to leave your slip or to dock, so, before you leave the dock review a copy of the parade map and estimated time schedule.  This applies to those boaters going under the PCH Bridge to the Back Bay, too.

Once underway, always follow the flow of traffic keeping your starboard side nearest to shore and passing oncoming vessels port to port.  Who are the idiots that always cruise up the wrong side of the channel causing chaos as boats are shifting out of the way?  Do they drive the wrong way on the freeway too?

Travel slowly when cruising around the harbor.  If you are speeding up to close a gap in the parade route, keep in mind that you are responsible for any damage created by your wake to the docks or other boaters, proceed with caution and look back to be certain you are not creating a wake.

I have mentioned this many times in my columns, but one more reminder: you need to be aware that how you handle your boat will affect all the boats around you!  Therefore, before you turn your boat, look around and behind you to see if it is clear to turn.  Also, do not stop in the middle of the parade or a channel unless, of course, it’s for safety reasons.

You will notice that most of the larger boats will cruise mid-channel at slow speeds, and please give these vessels a little room.  At a slow speed, the wind and current will have a noticeable effect upon these vessels that will take time to counteract.  Observe the wind and current (tide changes) to try and calculate any effects that a larger vessel may be experiencing.  This will help you control your own boat, and also give you an idea of what the other skipper is planning.

Cruise safe and have a great time. I will see you out there.

Tip of the week is that the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum/ExplorOcean lights up the Holiday Season with events.  During the month of December, the museum has a full calendar of festive special events and programs for the whole family to enjoy.

You can join me with a front row view of the annual Christmas Boat Parade on the museum courtyard Wednesday, Dec. 15 through Sunday, Dec. 19.  The iconic annual parade of lights will float by the museum every evening just around 6:40 p.m. where I will be announcing nightly.

“The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum/ExplorOcean is delighted that Capt. Mike Whitehead is bringing his velvet voice once again, to broadcast the 102nd annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade,  His color commentary is just luminous as the boats themselves and we are thrilled to host his show,” says Rita Stenlund, Acting Executive Director of the Museum, and didn’t I just have to quote her.

Children can visit with Santa, adults can browse discount offers from the Balboa vendors and the whole family can enjoy the exhibitions at the museum.  During the festivities on Thursday, Dec. 16, the museum will host a Holiday Open House. Light refreshments will be served and the galleries will remain open until 8 p.m.  For more information and details on the events at the museum, visit, and I hope to see you there.

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.  Join Chandler Bell 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!


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