Boating Life

Preparing for the Annual Holiday Boat Parade

November 20, 2021
Ingman Marine
How To Guides
November 20, 2021
Ingman Marine
How To Guides

The year is coming to an end and what better way to celebrate and ring in the holidays than with an extravagant boat parade? If you own a boat, now is the time to start planning and preparing in anticipation of this glorious event for boaters and spectators alike.

Why Decorate Your Boat?

Decorate your boat for the holiday parade because you can! Of course, it is also a lot of fun. The holiday parade is filled with exciting and beautiful displays of water vessels, to the delight of the locals. Decorated with amazing light displays and embellishments demonstrating pure ingenuity, the parade is always one to talk about for days.

The parade is always full of people who come out to appreciate all of the exhibitions, ranging from families with children, holiday lovers, boat aficionados and people that just love the boat parade. It is a magical festivity, instilling holiday cheer in the audience and participants.

An intriguing facet associated with the holiday boat parade is the freedom given to the imagination. This means you are allowed to decorate your boat in any way and manner that pleases you. Be it to depict Santa or whatever unique theme you have in mind – it is a go.

Ready to get to work on decorating that boat?

Tools to Decorate Your Boat

If you have decided to decorate your boat, it is important for you to know which tools to use. After all, we want our boats to stand out all through the holiday boat parade, while also maintaining a safe environment for all aboard.

You will need the following tools, especially when you need to make signs and add lighting:

  • Corrugated Plastic (most popular) / Coroplast / Foam Board
  • Sticky Back Paper
  • Tape Measure
  • Tempo or Marker
  • Power Drill
  • Light Sockets
  • PVC Pipes
  • Zip Ties
  • PVC Cutter
  • PVC Glue or PVC Screw
  • Corner Pipes
  • Scissors
  • Metallic/Vinyl Floral Sheeting
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Christmas Twinkle Lights / Big C7 Lights / Big C9 Lights / Rope Lighting
  • Glue Gun

Also, you will need a large format printer to print on the sticky back paper.

How to Decorate Your Boat

This section will guide you on how to decorate your boat using signs, letters, and lighting; however, the general principles mentioned here are also adaptable in several ways based on your preferences. Feel free to decorate in your unique way.

Design your preferred sign

First, you will want to print or cut out the sign you wish to mount on the sides of the boat. For printing out a pre-made sign, make use of a large format printer to print onto sticky back paper. Once that is done, attach the sticky back paper to corrugated plastic (or the material of your choice, although corrugated plastic is recommended).

Another other option is to cut out individual letters from the corrugated plastic or another sturdy material.

The Lights!

A popular way to set lights is to poke holes in your corrugated plastic sign that are just big enough for the light and socket to fit together on either side. The socket will be pushed through the back just a hair and the light bulb screwed into it from the front. Start by marking a starting point with a marker. The markings will be the points at which you will drill holes for the lights. Measure and mark 1-2 inches from the first mark, repeating this with each mark all the way around your sign.

Now, it is time to drill holes through the marked spots; use the power drill for this step. When you are done drilling, attach the light sockets to the holes from the back. A useful tip is to apply a little blob of glue using a glue gun on the back where the light socket meets the plastic. Next, screw in the light bulbs from the front until they are firmly secure. If you are using Christmas twinkle lights, you would just poke them through the holes in the plastic from the back and add some glue as described above.

If you are using chicken wire, you will just be able to attach the lights to the wire fairly easily using zip ties.

Craft the framework

To make a frame using PVC pipes, measure the pipe to fit the corrugated plastics overall size. Then, cut it accordingly using the PVC cutter and insert the tubes into the corner pipes. To make sure the tubes stay in, screw them together at the section where the pipes fit into the corner pieces using a PVC screw and power drill. You can also opt for the PVC glue; both are acceptable. Then, attach the frame to the sign itself using zip ties by poking holes along the edge of the plastic, making sure to distribute the zip ties evenly. For a neat look, trim the tails of the zip ties once you are done.

If you are using pre-cut letters instead of one big sign, you will first want to drill two holes side-by-side, every 2 inches or so, along the letters’ perimeter around the outside and inside. After that, pass the zip ties through the drilled holes starting with the right hole, going in from the front and out the right hole from the back. Attach rope lighting to the letters using the inserted zip ties. Remember to secure them tightly. Finally, fill the blank insides of the letters using any floral sheeting (or material) of your choice to make it stand out.

Wood can also be used as a framework or you can create shapes, letters, designs, etc. using chicken wire. Using chicken wire often makes it easy to attach your decorations to many different places on your boat.

Add the Dazzle

For adding some embellishment to your signs, metallic or vinyl floral sheeting is the way to go. Floral sheeting comes in many different styles, so you’ll have your pick. You can add floral sheeting to the letters themselves, to the outer edges of the sign, or however you wish.

First, measure the length of space you need to cover at each section of your sign so you can cut the correct amount of sheeting. After cutting, attach the floral sheeting to the sign or word using spray adhesive, such as Supper 77 made by 3M or Spray Adhesive made by Gorilla Glue. Spray the back of the floral sheeting, then attach it to the appropriate areas by merely placing it on the surface.

Staying Safe While Lit

Before mounting your lights, always check for frayed wires or exposed naked cables. Test all lights on land during the day and at night to check for any issues and to assess visibility. Group the wires by wrapping them together using electrical tape to ensure neat wiring. Another good idea is to have a chat with your local electrician before doing your wirings. The electrician will guide you on how to do your wirings safely.

The chances of electrical shock or even fire are greatly increased when adding all these lights and energy consuming decorations. To minimize power consumption, trying using LEDs. If you need a source for AC-powered lights, a inverter may be a good option if you have an inboard engine; this will allow you to invert from DC to AC. Avoid the use of a portable generator; use a correctly installed marine generator set instead, if an inverter is not an option. With a portable generator, you are exposed to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. The hot exhaust can also start fires or cause burns. Remember to make use of fuses or breakers, especially if you are using 12-volts or AA battery-operated lights.

Be sure to keep connections between light strands within reach and away from the water, metal rigging and metal support structures. Ensure that the navigation lights are not obscured, and the skipper’s visibility is not impeded by any decorations or lighting. It is best practice to have fire extinguishers and flashlights on board.

If you are using any chicken wire decorations, be aware of the risks of large pieces being suspended to high. If the piece is too large or heavy and/or the wind is strong enough, this can destabilize the boat. For any other large decorations, remember that people on board will need to move around easily.

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Local 2021 Boat Parades

Below are some local boat parades coming up:


Date: Saturday, December 11, 2021

Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location: Marina Jack | 2 Marina Plaza Sarasota, FL 34236

More Details:

History: The Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights started in the year 1986. It has been known ever since to bring out thousands of spectators. People line the shores and fill the space between Sarasota Bay’s beaches, all through Centennial Park to Bayfront Park. The parade attracts people who even arrive before time to get the best viewing spot.

Fort Myers

Date: Saturday, December 4, 2021

Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location: Salty Sam’s Marina | 2500 Main Street Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931


More Details: To enter a boat for this parade, you can register online through the link provided. However, you will have to download, fill out, and submit the application to the organizers. You can also apply with cash, check, or credit card information for payment. The cost is $25 for a non-sponsored boat and $50 for a sponsored boat. The application can be downloaded here.

For more information, call 239-454-7500 or email

Punta Gorda/ Port Charlotte

Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021

Time: 6:00pm

Location: Santa’s Cove


More Details: The Saturday Night Before Christmas Eve Boat Parade has adjusted its route to prevent boaters from getting lost. Also, the course allows more people to spectate the parade. The route features a simple one-way route, with no two-way traffic, and more viewing areas. Arguably the best viewing spots are along the water off Almar Drive. Boats joining the parade assemble at Santa’s cove.

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