How to Decorate a Boat for a Christmas Boat Parade

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Christmas boat parades are integral to the holiday season. If you're a boater and own a small sailboat or power boat like a pontoon boat, read on for inspiration for boat decorating ideas.

Most importantly, remember that this is a learning process. People who win top honors in holiday boat parades usually have years of experience, including a lot of trial and error.


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Decorating boats for Christmas

To participate in a holiday parade, you need to register before you do anything else. At that time, you find out the theme and rules, such as whether you need to decorate both sides of the boat instead of just one. Some parades only make one pass in front of their audiences.


Be sure your light strings are draped high enough on the boat hull to avoid having them drag in the water. A minimum of 1 foot of clearance is recommended.

The next step is to determine how the lights need to be set up. Never mount lights too close to the water; otherwise, they could become submerged. Keeping them 1 foot or more above water guards them against waves and wakes. Also, be sure not to exceed the number of light strings that the manufacturer recommends, and use LED lights wherever possible.


Use lights that are rated for outdoor use and marine-grade 10- or 12-gauge extension cords. Use a separate breaker for these as well as water-resistant, compatible sockets and connectors. You also need to test out the lights before the parade to make sure that they can be seen from a distance.


Christmas boat parade decorating ideas

Experts advise first-timers to start small with boat decorations. After you gain experience, you might consider doing 4th of July boat decorations in the summer.

Wear Santa and other holiday costumes

Dressing up like Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and having your friends join in as elves with spotlights on all actors is a great crowd-pleaser for holiday parades. Everyone can also hold battery-powered LED string lights as they wave to the crowd.

Inflatable lawn displays are easy additions to your boat. Look for snow globes and snowmen and use bungee cords and tie wraps to secure them out of the skipper's sightlines.


You can also use those cords and wraps to put up illuminated store-bought decorations. To make your own, draw a design with sidewalk chalk and build a mesh or chicken wire frame. You can make a frame with cut pieces of PVC pipe and attach rope lights with zip ties.

Making boat holiday decorations

Christmas decorations can also be made from foam core board and painted plywood or covered with plastic sheets, Mylar or aluminum foil. If the decoration is large and flat, cut in some flaps or holes. Otherwise, they will act like sails, which could be dangerous.


You can also aim spotlights on these items, but aim them away from the helm. If you want music playing in the background, test your speakers from a distance because you may have to buy stronger waterproof speakers and adapters. Before buying anything, read all the parade rules thoroughly (and follow them) because you don't want your boat to be disqualified.



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