Bundle Up for the Parade of Lights

Charles and I sailed in our city’s Boat Parade of Lights as rookies and we quickly learned that some salty sailors are after $7,000 in cash prizes in a take no prisoners 100,000 watts kind of way.

Mandatory Captain’s Meeting two days prior: Imagine a large group of boaters and sailors in santa hats drinking free booze, eating catered appetizers and getting the low down on how to get themselves organized into a parade, win a boat load of cash prizes (See what I did there? Boat load! We’re on boats! Hahaha!), all while possibly having or not having a drinks to stave off the chill. We learned that out of sixty boats, we were only one of eleven sailboats.

The swag bag included some pretty cool boat stuff and we won a gift card to a sail-up restaurant  about a 4 hour sail from home, close to one of our favorite anchorages where we ran out of gas in the dinghy and we discovered that Charles is an exceptionally good swimmer. 

Parade Day: We don’t have enough lights! I braved the crowds at Home Depot and did a bit of humble bragging to the guy standing next to me at the giant lawn reindeer display. “Hello, are you decorating your yard? That’s nice, but we’re decorating our boat.”

A few more lights and lots of food.
With the sun going down and a sailing deadline to meet, we scrambled to get the new lights set up and make sure the new generator was running properly.
Almost ready to sail as soon as inflatable Santa is secured.
Almost ready to sail as soon as inflatable Santa is secured.
Unfortunately the parade judges were not judging how well the lights looked with the sunset.


Before sunset we motor sailed to the meeting spot and mingled at engine idle with dozens of boats who had done this before, to the tune of lighting up part of the river. Our boat was terribly underdressed in the lighting department. Clearly, this was our first rodeo and clearly, $7,000 in prizes is a serious business.

Our old DuFour was sailing behind us in the parade.
Our old DuFour was sailing behind us in the parade.

The parade is a huge  tourist draw but we weren’t prepared for thousands of spectators along the entire city waterfront and we felt a little famous as the flashes went off and the crowds waved. We waved back because everyone in a parade waves at their fans.

Cheers to the dinghy with one string of lights and a bundled up captain making the trip in the cold December night. Cheers to the powerboats with generators and so many lights we’re not sure how the captain could see to steer the boat. And cheers to the three other sailboats we sailed with as each powerboats passed us, some with more wake than others. After leading the three sailboats on the two hour sail, we were happy to see the lights at our destination marina.

The After-Party: Our docking adventure at the destination marina started with the wrong marina entirely and ended with more line handlers than we’ve ever had. Crowds of sailors and boaters at the after party. Live band. Costumes. Snow machines and drink tickets. We took it all in and ended up back onboard Chiron. Shortly thereafter we collected our generous participation prize. In cash! Let’s just say our new generator became a little cheaper.

If you own a costume, the after party is the perfect place to wear it.
If you own a costume, the after party is the perfect place to wear it.

Sailing Home the Next Day: After brunch onboard and no check out time we explored the destination marina and discovered a liveaboard paradise. Amenities galore, houseboats, floating cottages and some the best names we’ve seen in a while. Someday Came. How perfect.

I wish I'd thought of this name.
I wish I’d thought of this name.

With Chiron and Charles in my life, someday has come for me. Here’s a bit about gratitude- I recently listened to an NPR special on gratitude and if you have it in your daily life it makes you a happier person. Almost every single day I feel lucky to have Charles and Chiron in my life. Without Chiron this blog would not be possible but without Charles, my life would not be possible.








5 thoughts on “Bundle Up for the Parade of Lights

  1. I was there. I was on the dock halfway between the river boat and the radio announcer on the loud speaker. Some of those light displays were quite elaborate. My dad was visiting from out of town and he enjoyed it too. Certainly didn’t expect to see how many people on the waterfront. Now, I’d like to visit the area again when it’s not so crowded. My phone doesn’t do so great with nighttime photos but I got plenty of grainy shots of most of the boats. At least until the battery died. It was interesting to see some with the French flag theme in their light displays.

    At least you didn’t have to try driving out of Alexandria afterwards. I heard there was a Scottish parade earlier in the day so some people were dressed in kilts and colonial outfits. As the night continued, the temp dropped and the wind picked up. Still, it was a good time.

    Good to see you had fun too. 🙂


    1. You all were probably colder than we were! None of us could believe how crowded it was along the entire waterfront even down to the townhouses close to the Wilson Bridge.
      It was a lot of fun seeing what everyone else did- ideas for next year!
      One of our marina neighbors won first place a few times with dancers on the bow. Again, ideas for next year!


  2. “See what I did there? Boat load! We’re on boats! Hahaha!” Yup. When it comes to an appreciation of fanciful word play, I guess we’re in the same boat. (See what I did there?)

    It sounds as if you guys had a great time from beginning to end with this event, even if you weren’t challenging the diehard competitors for the $7,000 prize. Just as well. The winners probably needed it to reduce their light show outlay by half.

    And gratefulness is a wonderful quality to nurture in one’s life. I’ve come to believe joy comes more readily to those who can sustain it.

    Happy holidays, Tiffany and Charles!

    Liked by 1 person

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