The Boating Community Celebrates the Holidays

With Halloween in the rearview mirror, I guess it's fair to say that the holiday season is upon us.

The Oakland/Alameda Lighted Yacht Parade takes place in the estuary, providing plentiful viewing points from Alameda and Oakland. Photo courtesy Fred Fago, Maritime Photographer Extraordinaire


Published: December, 2018


With Halloween in the rearview mirror, I guess it’s fair to say that the holiday season is upon us. As I write this in early November, we are looking forward to (in chronological order) Thanksgiving on November 22, the start of Hanukkah on December 2, Christmas on December 25 and the first day of Kwanzaa on December 26.


For some these are religious observances, for a lot of us it is all about friends and family, and for many it is both. There are certainly plenty of ways to celebrate: family and office parties, decorating trees and homes, caroling, services at your place of worship, the giving and receiving of gifts—not to mention family feasts!


The boating community has a unique and very colorful way of doing its part during this season of celebration. Sailors adorn their boats with lights, decorations, costumed people and pets, and go on parade. I’d like to tell you about four lighted boat parades that are happening here on San Francisco Bay so that you can add one (or more) of them to your schedule of holiday celebrations.


On Saturday, December 1, the first of these parades, called the Oakland/Alameda Lighted Yacht Parade, will take place in the Oakland/Alameda Estuary. It is the 42nd anniversary for this event. It starts just after sunset, about 6 p.m., and Jack London Square and Wind River Park are excellent viewing sites. Another attractive alternative for viewing the parade is to reserve a window table at one of the estuary’s waterfront restaurants—dinner and a show without having to move!


On the next Saturday, December 8, there is the Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade. This will be the 31st year for the Sausalito parade and you can expect to see about 40 decorated vessels. The parade will start at 6 p.m. just north of the Bay Model and proceed south. The best outdoor views are from the Bridgeway Promenade and the ferry pier in the downtown area. Several restaurants, including Spinnaker, Trident, Barrel House, and Scoma’s Sausalito offer great indoor viewing. As an extra added attraction, this boat parade will also include a fireworks display at 7:30 p.m.


The following Friday, December 14, is your next opportunity, this time at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. This year marks the parade’s 24th anniversary. There will be about 60 boats this year from the Fisherman’s Wharf fishing fleet and the Sea Scouts as well as the St. Francis and Golden Gate Yacht Clubs. Starting at 5:30 p.m., boats will parade from Pier 39 west to the St. Francis Yacht Club and back, ending about 8 p.m. Great viewing locations can be found at Pier 39, Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, the Marina Green and Crissy Field—and of course from the restaurants on the wharf.


On December 15, another parade is happening on the San Rafael Canal. This one starts at 5:30 p.m. and is sponsored by the San Rafael, Loch Lomond and Marin Yacht Clubs and the Classic Yacht Association. With support from local business partners, the group plans to give San Rafael residents one of the largest lighted boat parades ever witnessed in Northern California, with the tradition entering its 11th year. The number of lighted boats participating each year has grown from a few in the early years to approximately 90 lighted boats in recent years. The number of spectators viewing the parade has also grown—from a few hundred to several thousand.


So, pack a picnic or make dinner reservation and go enjoy a unique way to celebrate the season!


When I started writing this column, I thought that I would be able to do it for a year or two. Suddenly, it’s been 10! But, it’s now time for me to bring it to a close—so, this will be my last column. I want to thank Bay Crossings, its publisher, Joel Williams, and all my readers for this opportunity to express myself and, hopefully, entertain and inform my readers.


Captain Ray, out.


Bay Crossings would like to thank Captain Ray Wichmann for providing us with insightful and entertaining articles covering the sailing community for over 10 years. We learned many things and we wish him well.


Ray Wichmann is a US SAILING-certified Ocean Passagemaking Instructor, a US SAILING Master Instructor Trainer, and a member of US SAILING’s National Faculty.  He holds a 100-Ton Master’s License, was a charter skipper in Hawai’i for 15 years, and has sailed on both coasts of the United States, in Mexico, the Caribbean and Greece. He is presently employed as the Master Instructor at OCSC Sailing in the Berkeley Marina.