Ahoy!

The Fourth of July falls midweek this year, on a Wednesday, which might help to lighten the crowds on the waterways.

The Fourth is known as one of the busiest boating times of the year on our waterways across the country. Whenever the weather is picture perfect on Independence Day, the numbers increase and boating organizations, harbor patrols and the Coast Guard remind boaters to boat safely and be courteous to fellow boaters.

However, in Orange County's three harbors, there will be annual events for boaters and landlubbers. The first events are in Newport Harbor, starting with the American Legion Post 291's Boat Parade, and then after dark comes the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort's popular fireworks display.

"It Stands for Freedom" is the theme of this year's annual American Legion's parade, which begins at 1 p.m.

"Every year, you are in for a patriotic surprise as all kinds of boats try to outshine each other, waiting for the loudest ovations from onlookers," parade Chairman Jon Reynolds said.

The crowds are always thrilled as the Newport Harbor patrol fireboat leads the parade, with water shooting out of the forward-mounted fire monitor. Then, the brightly decorated boats with guests aboard dressed in costumes line in behind the fireboat to progress throughout the harbor as spectators watch from boats and the shore.

After dark in Newport Harbor, boaters can watch the Newport Dunes' fireworks display. The fireworks start at 9 p.m. and typically last for 21 minutes.

Boaters entering the Back Bay at night are cautioned, as you must follow the unlit channel markers or risk grounding. Also, boaters need to know the tide levels for clearance under the Coast Highway Bridge. Actually, my favorite spot to watch from a boat is in the large turning by the anchorage area.

In South County, you can watch Dana Point's July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza that is scheduled to light up the harbor's sky at 9 p.m. The fireworks will be shot off a barge that's anchored offshore of Doheny State Beach. Doheny is adjacent to the south of Dana Point Harbor, so boaters will have an excellent view from their boats whether underway or relaxing in a slip.

Finally, to our northern harbor in the county, Huntington Harbour (this harbor includes the "u," so no emails) with the theme "Celebrate Huntington Beach." Their fireworks display will be launched from the end of the pier at 9 p.m. Boaters cruising out to see the display need to watch the sea conditions and be careful heading back into Huntington Harbour with the unlit channel markers.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Tip of the week is for you to enjoy barbecuing aboard your boat this week and on the Fourth. I love barbecuing aboard, whether I am throwing a freshly caught yellowfin tuna or a nice, thick steak on the grill. I skipper many larger yachts that are equipped with a large built-in electric grill on the fly bridge, and other boaters can mount a portable grill on their gunwales. Gas has become the choice of fuel, thus eliminating the smoldering coals — a safer choice when the boat is swaying.

However, the debate goes on: Which makes the food tastes better, gas or charcoal?

I want you to enjoy barbecuing by using a few precautions and common sense. I have seen the aftermath of a sailboat's melted foredeck after the owner set the hibachi on the deck. Remember, you must have adequate distance and protection from the radiant heat that the barbecue will emit when cooking.

I have seen cockpit decks pitted after burning charcoal was flipped out and I have seen grills flipped on their sides from the wakes of passing boats. So, secure your grill. Enough said.

Additionally, carbon monoxide is known as the deadly, silent killer, therefore only grill outside in a well-ventilated area. Watch the fumes that might drift into the enclosed cabin area and, of course, your cabin has CO detectors.

Lastly, watch out for the seagulls, as I have seen them scoop food directly off the grill. You also might have an unexpected visitor if I happen to be cruising by your boat to officially sample your barbecuing skills.

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 at noon every Saturday and replayed at 10 a.m. on Sunday. You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now apps are available to listen to the show for your iPhone, BlackBerry, iTouch, Android, Palm and Windows Mobile at http://www.BoathouseTV.com.

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to mike@boathousetv.com or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.