From the Boathouse: A safe holiday on the water


The boat parades start next month in December, and as I promised in last week's column, I have some tips for those skippering in a parade. But first: Did you know that during December, sailors can receive a discount price for the 2013 Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race?

The entries open on Dec. 1, with an early entry discount of $50 for the April 26 start date. A majority of boaters take advantage of this special offer, and they also make their reservations at the Hotel Coral and Marina, where all the festivities will be held once again. I will have further details in the upcoming months, but go to for registration and race information.

However, I digress. Back to my tips for the holiday and Christmas boat parades. I have generated these tips from years of experience as a professional captain participating in numerous parades.

Let's start with everyone striving to boat smart and remembering prudent seamanship while underway. A little boater's etiquette can go a long way to keep peace on the water, especially in those close-quarter situations. Always follow the directions from the volunteer-operated parade control boats while using the inland rules of navigation.

The parade officials will be monitoring one of the VHF marine band radio's working channels, so find out which channel is being used by your parade and you can contact parade control with any questions. However, for all emergencies, use channel 16 to hail the local harbor patrol.

Additionally, do not hesitate to hail a larger vessel to let the skipper know your intentions. Because whether it is a recreational or a commercial vessel, the larger the vessel, the less maneuverability and the less visibility for that skipper.

You cannot interfere with the parade to leave your slip or to dock, so before you leave the dock, review a copy of the parade map and estimated time schedule.

On a recreational boat without professional crew, I always designate someone who will help with the lines and fenders and is able to assist, should a situation arise onboard. Find out who in your group has any boating knowledge and can keep a level head in a crisis. That person must be able to understand your requests, but do not confuse your mate by using only nautical nomenclature.

Once underway, always follow the flow of traffic, keeping your starboard side nearest to shore and passing oncoming vessels port to port. Who are the idiots who always cruise up the wrong side of the channel, causing chaos as boats have to maneuver out of the way? Do they drive northbound in the southbound lanes on the freeway?

Travel slowly; there is no hurry to cruise around the harbor. If you are speeding up to close a gap in the parade route, keep in mind that you are responsible for any damage to docks or other boaters created by your wake. Proceed with caution and look back at your wake.

I have mentioned this many times in my columns, but as a reminder, be wary that how you handle your boat will affect all the boats around you. Therefore, before you turn your boat, look behind you to see if you are clear of any vessel abeam or abaft your stern. Also, do not stop, blocking traffic in the parade or in a channel, except for safety reasons.

You will notice that most of the larger boats will cruise mid-channel at slow speeds. Please give these vessels a little room. At a slow speed, the wind and current will have a noticeable effect upon these vessels that will take time to counteract. Observe the wind and current (tide changes) to calculate the effects on all the vessels. This will help you control your own boat and also know what the other skipper might be planning. Cruise safely and have a great time. I will see you out there.

Special tip of the week is a reminder to join me at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Holiday Parade of Lights in the city of Rolling Hills Estates this Saturday. I will be co-hosting the parade with announcing veteran Michelle Swanson for the live TV broadcast airing on Cox Communications.

The parade begins at 6 p.m. with the route along Silver Spur Road up to Deep Valley Drive, through the Promenade on the Peninsula, finishing at Norris Center Drive between 7:30 and 8 p.m. This is a marvelous family event. Please remember to dress warmly, and stop by to say hi at our broadcast trailer in front of the library on Deep Valley Drive.

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 Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sundays.

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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