Lighting up the Boat for Christmas!


If you haven’t joined one of the many Christmas boat parades in December I highly recommend giving it a try! It’s a lot of fun to be out on the water with your boat lit up and a big group of friends and family onboard. But first, you have to get your boat decorated with all those lights. This task can be a lot of fun or a total pain in the butt. It can take a few hours on a sunny afternoon or span multiple days in the pouring rain. As with most projects, the key to success and happiness is in the preparation.

Ready to decorate with lots of lights and zip ties

Ready to decorate with lots of lights and zip ties

I like to do the lights in November so that I have time to wait for a sunny day. I get all the lights out of the garage and test everything. I’m at the point where I will only buy LED lights but even those can have problems because the zip-ties can damage the wiring. Always be sure to check the entire string of lights. This year, I had a string of lights wound up in a ball and it looked like everything was working when I plugged it in for a quick check. However, after I started putting them on the boat, I realized that one section was completely out–but I had missed that while it was wound up in a ball from storage. Which leads to another tip: always have a few strings of extra lights!

When you’re putting up lights along the bow, be sure to allow room for the crew to get lines on cleats and adjust fenders. If the lights are in the way, the lights could get damaged or worse, you could have an unhappy crew member. If you do big decorations on the bow, remember that the wind does pick up at times so they’ll need to be strapped down. Be sure to warn crew members of potential trip hazards that may be harder to see at night if someone needs to go up to the bow.

The prize-winning Santa-copter on the bow!

The prize winning Santa-copter on the bow!

This year it took me about 4 hours to decorate the boat. It was really cold but at least it wasn’t raining (I’ve done that in previous years and it sucks). My fingers got really cold since I don’t wear gloves because I need good finger control when dealing with all the zip-ties. I buy the 8″ zip ties in packs of 100. You’ll want at least 100, but I’ve gone through more than that in previous years when we went all out for the contest at Carillon Point marina back when we kept the boat there (see above photo for prize-winning form…we won two years in a row!)

Although it’s a lot of work to decorate the whole boat, it’s also very rewarding–especially if you’re able to go out on multiple nights and be a part of the parades. I’m always looking for tips to make the job of decorating a little easier…what tips and tricks do you use when decorating your boat?

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you in the locks or at the docks!
-Boatnut Brian

December 5, 2015 |

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