2015 Newport Harbor Christmas Light Parade Slightly Soggy Edition

  • Updated: December 19, 2015
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

Each year Newport throws a Christmas Light Boat Parade for a few nights around the holidays.  Boats get decked out with lights and decorations and cruise around the harbor while the unwashed and slightly tipsy holiday masses watch from the shore.

I'd seen before but the crowds and general pain getting in and out of the area meant I usually either went towards the end or would do something different like the year I joined a bicycle tour of the parade.  Then last year we'd been paddling out in the harbor after work and I had the brilliant idea of going out to see the parade from our kayaks.  

We all had a blast and found it far less terrifying than we'd imagined to paddle along with the parade so we promptly made plans to do it again this year.

This year we tried to make it so even more people could come switching it to a Saturday and advertising it far in advance.  But after my knee surgery put my own attendance in jeopardy and a storm came in we ended up with 5 hearty souls unloading boats after dark in the rain...

The weather forecast had changed a few days ago and we were looking at an increasing chance of "light" rain.  Sure enough as I was driving towards Newport to pick up the boats I could see the storm coming in.

Since I'm still restricted as to what I can do post knee surgery it was up to Kristen and Jen to load the boats while I supervised.

The rain started while we were driving from Kristen's to our launch spot at the Newport Aquatic Center.  By the time we got there it looked like this...

We all met at 5:30 pm and after a brief delay waiting to see if the rain was going to stop (it didn't) we unloaded the boats and headed down to launch.  Enthusiasm was somewhat mixed at this point but we were determined.

No other paddlers were there beside our group for some reason...

It was still raining and windy after we launched and it took a bit of work to make it out to the main channel.  It was also the first sizable amount of exercise I'd managed since my surgery so I was feeling great.

With the smaller group we made good time and we ended up in position about an hour before the parade actually started.  We found a empty dock and spent a while enjoying coffee and a thermos of hot gluehwein as the rain came down off and on.

It did finally taper off enough that we could get into our proper harbor parade costumes.

Not pictured: The animated LED fireplace on the belly of my awesome Christmas sweater
The hardest part (other than staying warm in the rain) was trying not to drift into the boat traffic due to the wind and current.  We'd raft up and a few minutes later be paddling back out of the way of boats.  Anchors would have been helpful

Finally the parade started and we had boats heading our way.  We started paddling as they approached and rode along side the parade.  Unlike last year where we were able to stay ahead of them this year they were going a bit faster than us.

I don't have many pictures of the parade just because it's difficult to take a clear one at night with my waterproof (-ish) camera in the middle of a choppy harbor and because we were all paddling like mad as boat wash sent us back and forth.  It's less scary than it sounds though.

This float made me want pyrotechnics for my kayak next year
We did get nice up close views of all the boats including shout outs from the announcers and lots of cheering from both the boats and people along the shore.  They seemed about evenly mixed between "Oh my GOD THAT'S AWESOME" and "Ooooooh that looks scary"

We were with the parade from where we usually make our right turn towards Pizza Nova until a little past the Pizza Nova dock.  At that point we carefully crossed the harbor, ducked under the bridge, and met the parade a second time this time head on along the south side of Lido.

The hardest part was getting back across the main channel from the south end of Lido.  We managed to cross along with a few small duffy boats which helped our visibility a bit.

Boat traffic dropped off once we were past the bridge and in the upper bay again with just the occasional boat cruising through the channel.

As far as takeaways from this year and plans for the next:
  • We'll certainly be doing this again.  
  • Doing it Saturday instead of after work seemed to work well though we'll likely adjust the timing a little.  
  • Light up hats seem to be something we really want to encourage since it makes us show up more.
  • Battery powered Christmas lights work great and are inexpensive from Amazon.  These in particular.  But the salt water really does a number on them and you can't count on them from year to year.  Next year I'll probably do 4 of those strings on the boat running along the sides of the boat on either side front and back of seat well and another on a hat.
  • I'm probably going to try for some sort of light up gloves next year so people can see me wave back better.
  • Bring more gluehwein.
  • Kayak based pyrotechnics would be amazing.

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