Decorating for a Lighted Boat Parade Hints, Photos, Video

Decorating for a Lighted Boat Parade: The holiday season is upon us but instead of thinking about putting your boat away for the season; consider decorating and participating in a lighted boat parade. Here are some how-to hints, decorating ideas and pictures to help you along. The pictures come from our sailboat, Wine Down. We have won the sailboat division in the Hampton Lighted Boat Parade for the past two years. The 2017 Hampton parade is scheduled for Friday night December 8. There are many more parades scheduled throughout the Chesapeake Bay area.

The most difficult part is selecting a theme for the overall decorations. We came upon an idea with toasting glasses that fit our boat name perfectly. Ideas abound on Goggle and Pinterest. An advantage with a sailboat is the vertical mast will give you plenty of space to create decorations but how to get them up there and how to get them spread out. In our first few attempts we tried various methods of pulling things up the mast with the halyards until we discovered an easy way. By placing all decorations on chicken wire, you create a rigid design that is easy to create, hoist, lower and pack away when you are done.

For the major design elements, you can use four foot high fences and then zip tie two fences together along the long end. The length used can vary based on your boat length. We use two pieces about 25 feet long and put together are then eight feet high. It easily folds in the middle and then rolls into a small bundle for storage.

Spread out you have an area that is easy to attach decorations to and if you use a rigid pipe through the top of the fence the entire set of decorations can be hoisted up the mast and you can attach guy lines to the bottom of the fence to stabilize it in place.

To create the design elements, we just draw the design on the garage floor using chalk, and when satisfied we lay the chicken wire down and attach lights according to the chalk lines. The outline of the glasses was created using LED rope lights. The wine was filled inside the glasses using regular Christmas tree lights strung back and forth.

This year we are adding sets of animated dolphins using wire two feet tall. The pictures detail drawing the outline in chalk, stringing the lights along the chalk line and then testing the design. All the basic design elements were created in exactly the same way. These dolphins will be zip tied to the toe rail and lay along the hull so they look like the are jumping out of the water and following along with the boat.

For the port and starboard Merry Christmas, we laid out chicken wire just as tall as the lifeline rails with each around 30 feet long for our 31-foot sailboat. Red and green rope lights were placed by hand incursive and zip tied in place. The design could have been traced out in chalk as well but for the letters it was just as easy to place them by hand.

For the animated dolphins that were added last year, we bought decorations already made. The decorations were then zip tied to the same chicken wire that would be hoisted up the mast. An animated light controller was provided with the decorations and it was used to make it look like a dolphin jumped out of the water, up though the wine glasses being poured down and then back in the water. This same controller is used for the added dolphins this year.

A double string of lights was hoisted up the mast to outline the entire sailboat and provide even more presence for the entire design. There is nothing complicated about this process. If you thread the rod used for hoisting the wire into six foot parts, the entire design will break down and fit into a standard car or SUV for transport to the boat for decorating and it will significant ease the storage problem. The design is scalable and used to create height on the boat and to decorate the lifelines and each side of the hull.

The author and master decorator.

You are only limited by your imagination and the size of your boat. Enjoy the holidays!

~by Tim Etherington