Sailing 101: ‘Tis the Season to Decorate Your Boat

Ahoy sailors, last issue, we discussed affordable DIY projects to upgrade your boat’s interior. Now that you have that ability, it is time to address the season of decorations and lights. With all the bright Holiday boat parades coming up, you don’t want to be out-shown. So let’s get some decorations on your boat! Stay tuned for our next lesson, where we will discuss installing a boiler for cold-weather sailing. 

The Holidays mean it’s time to sail-abrate, so let’s talk about decorating your boat so you can sleigh all day. So, your neighbor to the left got the extra-large snowman with the light-up carrot for a nose. Then the neighbor to the right bought the giant inflatable Santa with a full-size sled and a bunch of reindeer. So now, you have to figure out how to decorate your boat so that you can win that Holiday parade!

Good news, sailors. Your neighborhood boat-decorating helper elf has arrived. Follow these simple tips when decorating your boat for your local holiday boat parade.

How to Decorate Your Boat for the Holidays

  1. First, do your research and find out this year’s parade theme and related rules.
  2. Determine whether you need to decorate one or both sides of your boat.
  3. Determine what you are going to use as your power source.
  4. Deck the hulls—decorate your boat with lights, inflatable figures, and other festive decor.
  5. Test your lights—and then test your lights again.
  6. Add music to your display.
  7. Think small when you start, and always work with the boat’s shape.
  8. It might be helpful to draw out your ideas beforehand. Make a list, and check it twice.


Check with the Parade Committee 

Firstly, check with the parade committee or browse the parade website for the theme. Some boat parades change their theme yearly, while others have the same theme each year. Knowing the theme will help you focus on your ideas so you don’t spend all your shopping money buying all the lights and decorations on the shelf.

Then, figure out whether you need to decorate one side of the boat or both sides. The parade route may only show off one side of your boat, so you can concentrate all your budget and attention on decorating that side. On the other hand, some parades instruct that both sides of the boat be decorated, and sometimes even decorated the same way; check with your local parade committee for rules and instructions.


Design & Power Source

Determine what your power source is going to be. Lights need power, which means you have to think about power options. Find lights that can be powered directly from your boat’s starting battery, or extra batteries can be used. Boat lights can be powered with this method as well.


Test Your Lights

Test your lights. One of the biggest problems boaters have are lights that don’t shine brightly enough when the sun goes down and the parade begins. Light up a test area on the boat, walk up the dock, and look from a reasonable distance to see how bright the lights are. You may need larger bulbs or stronger lights if they are dim and fuzzy instead of brightly twinkling.


Lighting & Decor Options

There are many options for rope lights. Spotlights are also great attention-grabbers to spotlight people in costume, singers, dancers, or giant foam cutouts. In addition, be sure to mount all lights at least a foot above the waterline so they won’t get hit with wakes and waves.

Think small when you start. You and some friends in a couple of Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elf costumes, and a spotlight can go a long way if you’re cheerful and waving to the crowd. Give each person a battery-powered LED string to hold, and then the public ashore can see everyone waving.

If you plan to use inflatable displays like the ones made for home lawns, tie wraps and bungee cords are necessary. Make sure you tie everything down so that it doesn’t impede the skipper’s sightlines and doesn’t go flying, becoming a hazard on the water for other boaters in the parade.


Add a Soundtrack

Water is excellent for many things, including carrying sound over long distances. So bust out your waterproof speaker and crank up your Christmas tunes. There is even technology out there that will synchronize your lights to each song, and they will perform their own show.

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