Tips for a Safe Christmas Boat Parade

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Believe it or not, it is time again for all boaters to starting thinking about how you are going to decorate your boat for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, scheduled this year from Dec. 15 to 19.

You can begin planning your vessel’s decorations for this year’s theme.  In an upcoming column, I will give you safety tips for operating your boat during the parade especially at night.

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Commodores Club, of which I have to declare that I am a proud member, organizes the parade.  The theme this year is “Lights … Camera … Christmas in Newport Beach.”  Very fitting for our area with our ties to Hollywood, and this theme allows enormous room for creativity for you to decorate your boat, and for the homes around the harbor to decorate for the Ring of Lights.

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 – the decorations cannot impede the view.  A high percentage of the collisions, allisions and near misses I have witnessed were due to two primary things: a skipper’s lack of visibility all around the vessel and/or the skipper simply not paying attention to the duties at hand.

I suspect that most of you do not know what an allision is, versus a collision.  Well, a collision is when two or more moving vessels hit each other; an allision is when a vessel hits a stationary object.  In the words of Homer Simpson, “D’oh!”

However, I digress.

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.

Both the boats and the homes are judged for the numerous awards to be given out Jan. 28 during the Boat Parade Awards Dinner and Auction.  The dinner is open to everyone and will be held at the Balboa Bay Club, but you will need reservations as the event sells out.

I call on all the boaters to sign up for the boat parade, whether your boat is actually in the parade.  The nominal $25 fee helps to pay the expenses of hosting an event of this caliber and gives us a more accurate count of boats on the water.  Businesses and the public alike can help the parade continue year after year by sponsoring either the parade or the awards dinner.

You can contact the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce for any of your questions about the parade at (949) 729-4400 and online at

Tip of the week is that you can join me nightly during the parade when I return as the parade announcer at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum in the Fun Zone.  Great to bring your out-of-town guests and see the boats float by at 6:35 pm while I give live commentary.  There is ample room along the seawall and many viewers bring lawn chairs, camping out hours in advance.

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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