East Coasters might be clucking "only in California," but boaters at both ends of the county put in serious time Friday decorating their yachts for two holiday parades this weekend.
"I'm doing something for Christmas, getting into the spirit," said Oxnard resident Howard Anderson as he and his wife gussied up their 40-foot motorboat with raspberry chiffon, gold ribbons and other holiday touches for tonight's Channel Islands Harbor Parade of Lights.
On the edge of Westlake Lake, Ron Hine finished fashioning more than 40 snowflakes out of plastic, Styrofoam and paper to adorn his boat for Westlake Village's Parade of Lights on Sunday evening.
The 69-year-old retired financial executive planned to spend today transforming his boat into a giant electric snowflake with lights and cut-outs.
"We'll have Christmas music playing on the tape deck and some coffee and cookies," Hine said. "It's just a lot of fun and kind of challenging."
Channel Islands Harbor parade sponsors say their 30th annual event is expected to draw more than 30,000 onlookers to see the flotilla of about 40 yachts festooned under this year's "Victorian Holidays" theme.
A much smaller affair, the Westlake Village Parade of Lights is expected to draw an audience of fewer than 500 for the colorful melding of lights, water and music called "Snowflake Fantasy."
In Oxnard, members of the Channel Islands Yacht Club spent Friday attaching panels to a 46-foot boat that will become a floating replica of the Victorian homes in Oxnard's Heritage Square.
Meanwhile, rival Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club members worked all day to transform their 62-footer into an old-time, New Orleans-style steamboat.
"We get the camaraderie of putting it all together," said Ken Collin, a 60-year-old retired engineer from Ventura, who was assembling a frame for the riverboat's paddle wheels with his Pacific Corinthian buddies. "The thrill of going out the night [of the parade] is great."
Beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting through the day, the Channel Islands Harbor will buzz with activities, including a dinghy race, a chance for children to play in fresh snow and a performance by the Oxnard Youth Chorus.
The parade officially begins at 7 p.m. with a flyover by Santa and his reindeer, courtesy of a local helicopter charter company. Temperatures during the parade are expected to hover in the mid-60s, with a typical sea breeze and a slight chance of fog.
"It will probably be the best weather we've had in years," said parade coordinator Susan O'Brien. "Last year it rained, and the year before it was windy."
At the Channel Islands club, where boat decorating is serious business, about a dozen people sawed poles, strung lights and screwed in panels while the oldies song "Blue Velvet" blared over a radio.
Bob Ross, the designer responsible for the ketch's makeover, said that turning a boat into a cluster of houses has its challenges.
"I've put more than 100 hours into it personally," said Ross, a 74-year-old retired graphic artist from Oxnard.
Tonight's entries will circle the harbor twice, and judges will award prizes for boats in three categories--commercial, individual and yacht club--along with an overall winner.
James Donlon, instrumental in establishing the Channel Islands Harbor 30 years ago, will be the parade's grand marshal, leading the flotilla aboard the 52-foot "Terrible Terri."
The Westlake Village parade starts at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Westlake Village Yacht Club, and the number of entries will not be counted until that morning.
"People come up with such unusual things that it can be hard to describe," said Wilma Rosenberg, a parade organizer.