Thursday, October 22, 2009

Join The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade! - Sat. Dec. 12

The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade is a great, social way to start off the holiday season and here’s a glimpse of what it is and how to prepare and participate. It is on Saturday, December 12, from 6-8pm, after the fireworks, in the main channel of Marina del Rey Harbor. Like any large event, the earlier you come here the better, so tell your friends and plan ahead!
The official parade website is and you’ll find everything you need there, from great pictures to the entry form and instructions based on many years’ experience. It is non-profit, entirely volunteer-run and you’ll be very welcome however you want to participate – From watching to sponsoring and, of course, the best part is entering your boat! The staff is amazingly supportive to everyone and I have increased my business and had a blast creating much community goodwill in helping this parade. Please join me and sponsor!
The parade is in the early evening and the boats are decorated with holiday lights; many have elaborate, themed sets like a float in a regular parade. Entries range from kayaks to small ships and the majority are decorated with just strings of holiday lights: It’s amazing how beautiful your boat looks lit up! Decorating usually takes one or more people a day or two to put up and a few hours to remove. Entering the parade is easy, with very little paperwork and just one mandatory skipper’s meeting, where you pick up your boat parade display number, get the parade route and instructions and get to know the other skippers. It’s a fun, welcoming and highly supportive group.
I have enjoyed seeing the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade for years and have driven my boat in it for the last three. It’s a ton of fun either way and if you’ve got kids, you’ll see them as happy and excited as they can get! It’s great seeing friends I don’t often come across, too. I was stunned at how many fans came to see the parade my first time and it’s a rush getting cheers! The best way to get a lot of cheers is to make the fans happy – Get your whole boat singing carols, waving and calling out – The good cheer is returned literally a thousand times over! Boats tend to clump together and I’ve found that looking for a place in the parade far from other boats and puttering along slowly not only gets me much more attention but more importantly entertains the crowd during an otherwise dull spot and that keeps them from drifting away, thinking the parade’s over.
Here’s what is needed to basically decorate a 30′ boat:
* 10 boxes of dangly icicle lights: Eight for lifelines and two along the boom or cabin (They come in very short lengths of just nine feet!): 10 x $10 = $100
* 6 boxes of regular colored lights (62′) for rigging or shapes and 2 for toerail and the boom or cabin: 8 x $25 = $200
* 1 – 3000-watt gasoline generator. I rent mine at Home Depot for $52 for a day
* 2 – 25′ 20-amp extension cords and 3 power strips: If you don’t have them, borrow them – Everyone’s got a spare!
* 200′ of rope or very strong cord for lighting sailboat rigging or 80 wire hangers and 50′ of strong cord and a 1,000 count bag of small zip ties ($3/100 at Culver City Hardware (310) 398-1251 & Home Depot)
My budget for the parade is $450 for my Catalina 30. For every ten feet of boat, add or subtract 50% in supplies you’ll need for a typical entry. Larger, more sophisticated and much more attractive displays cost more but can often be easily reused every year, with modifications and improvements. Holiday lighting and decorations are drastically reduced in price after New Year’s and that’s a great time to buy masses of lights!
Lights are fragile, so they need to be tied to something strong to take any forces, like someone grabbing them for support when they stumble on the boat. Fasten the strands firmly with white zip ties (that won’t show up), every three feet and before the end of each connection. Leave a little slack in the strand and enough slack (1/2″ per foot of lifeline or rail and 4″ per three feet of rope) so forces are taken up by the rail or rope, instead of the lights. I also bundle all lines, electrical cords, power strips, etc. and tie them neatly out of the way, leaving a clear path and an entirely clear port side.
Powerboats have great spaces to create scenes, with reindeers, shapes, lit flags and more. There is a lot of usable space on the side of the cabin and don’t forget to be creative with your freeboard and bow! Making and wrapping wire frames with light strings is a lot of fun and making them is an excellent excuse for a party.
Here are some ideas to get you started for lighting a sailboat’s rigging: Lay lines (rope) along your dock, tied together to look like an octopus, tie lights on and raise that, for an easy way to light rigging. You can tie the ends to lifelines for the best look. Wrapping lights around your jib, initially using the roller furler and halfway down, wrapping the strands by hand gives a huge and beautiful candy cane look!
If you have a sign, it needs to be well-lit: A border of white strand lights gives great illumination and is easiest to rig. Winds and sometimes rain can come up unexpectedly, so don’t put up anything that can turn into a sail, such as a large sheet or plywood. The harbor will be crammed with everything from large boats to a host of rowers and many can barely operate their boats, so please be extra polite and give everyone the benefit of the doubt – They may well need it!
There are two things I must warn you about, with generators: Rentals are first-come, first-served, so if at all possible, pick up your generator near your home, early in the morning and away from Marina del Rey in case they’re out. Also, generators must be securely lashed to your deck in a place where no exhaust fumes can collect (Don’t open a hatch behind them!).
Any questions? I give free professional advice here and am available to help, too!

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