The Harbor Report: 104 years and counting

Only one real topic on the harbor this week, and that's the 104th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade with the theme "Surf, Sand and Santa" going on from the 19th to the 23rd. I had a chance to sit down with this year's parade chairman, David Beek, who is the third generation of Beeks to chair the parade, at the Balboa Yacht Club last weekend.

David explained, "Over the last 104 years, the spirit of the parade has not changed. It's always been about Newport Harbor coming together for the holidays, using their boats, singing, expressing holiday greetings across the water, and passing the tradition down to the next generation. There is nothing better than hearing that 4-year-old with the boat's open intercom wishing everyone Merry Christmas from across the harbor."

The parade was first conceived in 1900 by Italian gondolier John Scarpa and Balboa Island developer Joseph Beek. By 1908, Scarpa light up his gondola with Japanese lanterns and was followed by eight canoes that lighted their boats in the same manner. Now, more than a century later, the parade has grown to close to 100 boats entered, plus all the boats observing.

"This year, we are trying something new in the form of speed brakes," David told me. "We have assigned designated locations for the parade to slow down and close up again."

For my readers who will be operating boats this year, if you do not already know, the parade monitors VHF Channel 68. For all parade-registered boats, Sea Tow, the AAA of the boating world, is available at no charge to help you out of a problem. For example, if you get pushed into the mooring field and wrap your props, or one of your engines overheats and you have to shut down, Sea Tow is available to help you out.

I also feel I need to point out the obvious, because I was guilty of this in my youth: Never wander into the mooring fields or drive against the traffic flow of the parade in an electric boat. For you electric boat operators, make sure you keep in mind, when traveling next to the docks, larger boats' bows will overhang, and it's very easy not to see their anchors, which can tear up the tops of your boats. Not that this ever happened to me.

The harbor's dredging gear will be at its mooring by 4 p.m. each day and the scows will be lit up by the starting point of the parade. There is also a smaller barge in the H mooring field between Lido Isle and the peninsula.

If you are looking for the best locations from which to observe the parade, my favorite is to arrive on Balboa Island by 5 p.m., walk down main street, find something for dinner, then walk down the south Bay Front by 7 when the parade should be passing by. If you cannot make it down to the harbor by 5 p.m., my backup plan is to drop off the family on Bayside Drive, just past Jamboree Road, then drive up to Irvine Terrace and find a parking place. I bring my bike in the back of the car and ride that back down to the harbor.

Other places to watch the parade from are the Balboa Island bridge, Pacific Coast Highway bridge, 15th Street beach and Balboa Fun Zone. I do my best to avoid traffic by staying off the 55, Jamboree, Mariners Mile and the peninsula. I use 17th Street and Dover Drive in Costa Mesa and try to stay on the east side of the harbor. For those of you driving home from holiday parties, Costa Mesa is known to have a checkpoint just before the 55, so be sure to check.

David wanted to give a big shout-out to the parade's presenting sponsors, Simple Green and Meguiar's. These folks are a big part of making the parade happen and are truly giving back to our harbor.

Another big shout-out needs to be given to Don Lawrenz and the Chamber of Commerce staff for all their help. The weather appears to be cooperating this year, so gather your family and friends and enjoy our harbor. Dave tells me there will be fireworks on the 29th at the closing of this year's parade. He said, "If you have never seen fireworks going off with the holiday lights reflecting off the water on a crisp winter night, then you have to check it out, because there's no better feeling in the world."

Looking for some gift ideas to bring to the holiday party this weekend? Then go to my blog at

Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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