From the Boathouse: A season of lights


Tis the season and the boat parades are underway in our local harbors and across the nation. For those living in southern Orange County, you have two more chances to see the 38th annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights. This year's theme is "Lights … Camera … Action! — A Hollywood Holiday." Dana Point provides many great spots from which to watch the parade, but remember, parking will be difficult if you arrive late. The parade begins at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday; go to for more information.

Next week is the start of the 104th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which was rated number two in the "Top 10 Destinations for Holiday Lights" by Yahoo! Travel last year. The number-one destination was New York City, and in third place behind Newport's parade was Walt Disney World.

After all these years, I am still amazed at the number of people who think that the City of Newport Beach manages the parade. The Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts, organizes and manages the parade and many other events throughout the year.

This granddaddy of all parades could not happen without all the volunteers, and most are Chamber members. Approximately 100 people volunteer their time and knowledge to make this wonderful parade possible year after year. Also assisting with the parade are the Newport Beach Police, the Orange County Harbor Patrol, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the yacht clubs with patrol boats and many others.

The goal is to produce a fun, safe and enjoyable parade for both the boaters in the parade and the spectators. As I mentioned in my column last week, "I do have an issue with Bob McCaffrey and his Stop the Dock Tax organization boycotting the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade."

I continued, "By boycotting the parade, Bob and his group are hurting the homeowners and businesses that this very tax is hurting. The parade is an economic shot in the arm to local businesses and a wonderful event for people to watch and enjoy. Why would this organization attack the parade to make a statement to the city? You are only hurting your allies, and maybe decreasing, a little, the sales tax revenue to the city."

Politics are not part of the parade, and the parade only helps local businesses.

You may not know that the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is also hailed as "one of the top 10 holiday happenings in the nation" by the New York Times, and this is the oldest parade and most elaborate holiday celebration on water. The parade began in 1908, and now attracts more than 1 million viewers. Additionally, this parade is older than holiday events such as the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Newport Harbor's parade officials will be monitoring channel 68 on your VHF marine band radio, and you can contact parade control on 68 for any questions. However, for all emergencies, use only channel 16, not 68, to hail Newport KDG (Newport Harbor Patrol).

Then we have the spectacular decorated waterfront homes in Huntington Harbour. The parade was last weekend, but the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Committee has four 45-minute narrated tours nightly from Saturday through Dec. 23 that leave hourly beginning at 5:50 p.m.

The Cruise of Lights tours the harbor where you can view the homes and boats. This is an annual fundraiser for the Philharmonic Committee, with tickets only $17. You can read all the details at

Tip of the week is the parades located outside of Orange County that you still have time to watch. The Port of San Diego's annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes place from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Also, the Naples Island Annual Holiday Boat Parade, which is closer than San Diego, will be at 6 p.m. Saturday. A little further to the north is King Harbor's Christmas Boat Parade at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jumping further north is the Ventura Harbor's Parade of Lights starting at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with the theme "Jingle Jungle," which should stir up one's imagination for decorating.

We will conclude this year's list by flying across the country to Key West for the 22nd Annual Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley Lighted Boat Parade and the Harbor Walk of Lights to celebrate the Christmas holiday. There is an official judge's stand, along with a serious competition for the Best Nautical Holiday Decorations in Key West. You can see the parade at 8 p.m. Saturday. The judge's stand is located at the Schooner Wharf Bar & Galley, while the lighted boat parade travels through the Key West Bight.

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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