Entertaining guests and enjoying the weather aboard your boat for the holidays

SAN DIEGO — Aren’t we fortunate in our wonderfully mild Southern California climate, which enables us to enjoy our boats year round? Even on a cold-for-SoCal winter day or night we rarely need more than a jacket, though I admit to dragging out an old down jacket and mittens for chilly boat parades.

Those temperatures compared favorably to the first Parade of Lights I experienced in Annapolis, Maryland, where boat owners had to de-winterize their boats to participate. The mercury dipped into the teens on the night of the parade. Everyone viewing the parade sported heavy parkas, hats, scarves, gloves and boots and was necessarily well-fortified with spirits. Cold as I was, I forever fell in love with holiday boat parades.

Now, as we enjoy balmy November weather, it’s delightful to contemplate inviting friends to the boat over the holidays, whether for viewing the boat parade, local holiday lights or simply socializing.

If you’re decorating your boat and bringing a tree or freestanding decorations on board and plan to go out for a run, be sure to tie down your decorations securely so they won’t roll on deck or interfere with your boat’s operation.

For boat lighting, ensure you have adequate onboard power and aren’t overloading your circuits. Improper wiring or overloaded circuits cause most boat fires, according to maritime firefighters. You can always add extra portable generators to power your lights, but know their capacity and don’t overload them as well.

Several years ago a 50-year-old wooden cruiser caught fire after participating in the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. The boat’s holiday lights burnt bright until the fire quenched them. Unofficial reports deemed the fire likely electrical in origin, from overloaded circuits, with other secondary causes.

If you’d like to participate in your local boat parade but don’t have the inspiration or time to design and decorate your boat yourself, throw a party for your most creative friends. Invite them to develop a design for your boat’s decorations fulfilling the parade’s theme. Then invite them back to execute the design once you’ve secured needed decorating materials. By then they’ve earned a spot under the lights singing and prancing during the parade itself.

In planning a holiday meal for guests, it’s best to keep it simple. Most people don’t expect elaborate fare aboard a boat, but simple food can be delicious if you start with good quality ingredients. For sandwiches, visit a favorite sandwich shop or, for DIY sandwiches, visit your market’s deli section to assemble an appetizing spread or order party trays. Be sure to add a few interesting garnishes and condiments, such as flavored mustards or, for something different, hummus of any flavor plus a selection of breads or rolls.

For drinks, consider spiced cider or wassail, both available at stores including Trader Joe’s, which you can heat in the microwave on a cool day as a warming drink and, if you choose, spike it with rum or brandy.

Even with limited cooking capacity in your galley, you can still offer hot food, with the trick I discovered a few years ago when my microwave-convection oven died just before Thanksgiving, with guests expecting a feast. I drove home to cook my turkey and side dishes and loaded everything into towel-lined insulated bags. Four hours after the food left the oven it was still the perfect serving temperature. You can use this technique to keep any food warm for an extended period, including hot holiday fare ordered from a restaurant, caterer or grocery’s store service deli.

With a little planning, it’s easy to organize a pleasurable holiday gathering on your boat, delighting friends and family alike.

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