DO’s and DON’Ts




Be different

•Use light patterns vs. lining your rails  •Use animation

Be colourful

•Deck displays and light with a lot of variety and colour that demand attention

•1,2 or 3 colours in specific patterns can be eye-catching

Be bright

•The more lights, the better impression

•Light the objects (Santa, elves etc.) you want your props to be seen from a distance

Be visible

•Can your decorations be seen clearly from 300’ – 400’?

•Make things BIG. Place your ID number on the starboard bow.




•Don’t pass other boats, stay in formation

•Don’t make your ID number hard to find. Judges cannot judge you until they find your number. If they see your number as you approach, the judges have sufficient time to look you over

•Don’t travel at 8+ knots. We cannot see the details of your decorations at that speed. Follow the lead boat.

•Don’t follow the boat in front too closely.



Start early - As soon as the theme is announced, assemble your planning committee. Planning and design can be a lengthy process

Picking a design - start with something simple. Remember the boat provides your mode of transport, if you are designing a float, the more extravagant your plans, the more crew you will need

The execution - make sure your decorations do not impede your ability to see where you are headed or to maneuver the boat. Everything must be firmly attached.  Have sufficient electrical power. Have a sufficient number of fire extinguishers in proper working order in case of fire

Gathering materials - before you start building your display, try to develop a list of materials you expect to use and then buy them all in one trip

Special effects - animation can be complex and expensive or as simple as a crew member pulling a line to make something move

Adding sound - music is key. Record some music that fits your theme or the season

Follow the Rules - make sure to comply with all the rules and regulations that are spelled out by your parade organizers

Safety first - be alert at the helm and maintain an adequate distance between you and the boat ahead.  Leave the partying and drinking until you are back in the slip




Parade ID Nos. - must be displayed on port beam & starboard and be well-lit for judging and emergency identification

Judging - Judges will be stationed on board a boat in the parade and will be moving about to see your boat at all angles.

Design - a good simple idea effectively carried out will have the most impact on judges and spectators. Many colours of lights can be used but a single colour or white is most effective.

Consider the number of crew aboard and make their costuming an integral part of your design. Costumes can be rented, or made simply of muslin or cotton and painted. What can really work well is to have all members dressed in a single colour, white or black, and use accessory items like hats, vests, large ties, belts etc., to match your theme.

Decorations - decorations do not have to cost a lot but they must be fire-retardant. Although plywood is best, heavy cardboard reinforced with wood stringers, or foam core can be used for signs, props or backgrounds. They can be painted with non-soluble paints, glittered or covered with decorative sheeting, aluminum foil, mylar or plastic sheets.  Under good floodlights these look spectacular.  Large flat areas should have holes or flaps cut in them so they do not act as sails. Sailboats can make use of their rigging to haul displays and light strings aloft. A sample materials list might read as follows:

4 2x2s for Outriggers; 5 25’ Extension Cords; 1 50’ Extension Cord; Several “T” Plugs; Rolls of Duct Tape; Rolls of Nylon Line; 4 Spots or Floodlights - 150 watts each - 600 watts; Twinkle Lights, 50 bulbs = 408 watts; 3 strings each 25’ red, orange, yellow, green, blue = 3000w

Safety tips - check your boat’s ballast weight when fully decorated and with crew aboard and balance accordingly. The use of a walkie-talkie is advisable from deck to skipper. Have one person in charge of the CO2 fire extinguisher by the power plant

Generators - determine how large a generator you will need. Do not underestimate the wattage as your lights will dim. Rentals are available, pay in advance if necessary to reserve yours. Place on a piece of carpet and hold down with 2x4’s to help deaden the noise. Pre-measure the fuel for the generator and have 3-4 cans ready with the pre-measured amount of gas in each, so that there will be no spillage while refilling during the parade. Use 3 people to refill the generator while underway in the parade; one to hold the funnel, another to pour the pre-measured amount into the generator, the third to carry the CO2 extinguisher

Lighting - place your lights out from the side of the boat. 2x2’s can be used as outriggers to carry flood  lights secured at one end and extended approx. 6’ from the hull. Strings of lights and other decorations can be easily and safely fastened to rails, deck fittings, etc. Make sure that none of your lights shine directly on the skipper. The glare might make it difficult to see other boats

Special effects - can be as varied as your budget will allow but you might consider the following:

•Balloons  •Fog machines  •Colour wheels for spots  •Bubble machines

•Ideas without motors or power requirements: Kid power •A crew member pulling a rope, block and tackle, lifting a lever, turning a crank that moves props etc.

Music - carefully select music to suit your theme/mood. To avoid a dead lull between loop the music continuously.