2016 Newport Harbor Christmas Light Parade Paddle

  • Updated: December 18, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 18th, 2016

The Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade is a Newport Beach tradition that runs for 5 days every December.  Boats decked out in lights and cruise the harbor while people watch from the shore or other boats.

I used to watch from the shore which has the advantage of letting you roam around and see all the houses many of which are decorated to excessive amounts as part of neighborhood competitions.  Then a few years ago we start paddling in Newport Harbor after work.  This became the monthly Pizza Paddle and when December rolled around we decided why not paddle out and watch the parade from the water.

The first year we tried to go Wednesday (the first night) and ended up delaying it until Thursday due to rain.  We had fun and didn't get run over by yachts.

Last year we planned Saturday (giving friends from others areas the chance to join us)  Rain was forecast and we went anyway.  Despite a rough launch and getting out there a bit too early we had fun.

This year we decided to try Sunday the final night of the parade.  And for once there was no rain forecast!

We adjusted the schedule after last year to start later.  According to the official map we could expect the parade to pass Bay Shores Community Beach at 7:47 pm so we decided to meet at 6:30 pm at North Star Beach with the goal of being in the water at 6:45 pm.

Jen, Kristen, and I actually showed up at 6:15 pm since we had a lot of new lights.  The small are all ordered off Amazon and run off battery packs or USB plugs which we attach to batteries inside ziplock bags.  They don't really last very long due to the salt water but they're inexpensive and look rather nice.  The figures are just cheap battery powered things we found at Target which were either already lit or we added strings of lights to.

New this year was a christmas present from Kristen which was something I'd been drooling over for years.  A NOCQUA Spectrum!

It's two battery powered LED bars with straps and a rechargeable battery.  They strap around the boat or SUP and light up the water all around you.  This was the first time I was going to get to try them out.

I had it a little too high on the sides this time but that actually helped make me more visible in the crowded harbor.  Next time I'll adjust them lower.

They caused some noticeable drag but we had enough tide and wind action going on I'll have to get a few more night paddles under my belt to really decide what I think of them.

Initially though I really like the effect especially once I switched them to rotating color mode.

We had 8 people cancel last minute and this year it ended up being Kristen, Jen, and fellow WTC staffer Sharon Moore.

We ran a little latr getting into the water but arrived at turn into the main channel across from Lido with maybe 15 minutes to spare which gave us time to enjoy some of the mulled wine we'd brought along.  We'll likely start at this time again next year.

When the parade reached us we picked up with the lead boat and paddled along side keeping up with only moderate effort.  This entertained the person on the megaphone to no end declaring us the official kayak team of the parade and cheering us on.  People on the boats found us even more entertaining which was a lot of fun.

We stayed with the parade to the turning basin near Pizza Nova.  Up until this point it was a little chaotic but we generally had a clear area between the docks and the parade boats to paddle.  Here we had to cross the basin and we were a lot smaller than a lot of the traffic.  We stuck to the side of the parade as they turned and only had one or two incidents where we had to hustle out of the way.

Due to the amount of traffic in the turning basin we dove under the Lido bridge rather than sit and watch the parade go by.  We should have stayed out there a little longer as we had a good half hour of waiting until we finally saw the lead boats again.

Staying warm was easy while we were moving but once we were sitting still it got chilly.  We ended up paddling around in circles to warm up.

Finally we saw the lead boat again and charged straight at them which alarmed a random duffy boat we passed.  This let us see the entire parade while before we'd stuck by the front 3 or 4 boats.

The parade seemed to have gotten much shorter and we were past the last boat before we were even halfway back across Lido.  We all commented the parade seemed a bit quieter than the previous years and I'm not sure if that is an effect of the cold weather (the wind had picked up by now and it was quite chilly) or if Sundays are usually smaller.

They did have fireworks a few times through the night which was neat but they were always off in the distance.

The paddle back from the western shore of Lido was straight into a cold wind we we ended up working hard to make it back to North Star Beach.

We were back at the cars at 10:30 pm and went through the usual ritual of stripping the lights and loading the boats before returning to Kristen's house nearby to hose them off.  Sometime after this Kristen realized her purse was missing.  And her sunglasses.  And her credit cards.  And her passport which had been in her purse because she was leaving for London to visit a friend in less than 24 hours.

As near as we can tell she must have left her car unlocked and someone came by and stole things out of it.  She soon started to get fraud warnings as the cards were used at Taco Bell, Walmart, and other fine establishments around Irvine.

After spending most of the night up and on the phone Kristen drove up to LA the next morning and spent pretty much the entire day at the passport office pleading her case.  By some miracle she managed to get a replacement passport issued just before 6 pm with plenty of time to get back down to LAX and leave for London.

So overall a fun year though we may try Wednesday night next year to see if the parade is a little more exciting.  And we're all going to remind Kristen to lock her car.

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