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Captain’s Log: Boat Parade of Lights, Abaft the Beam

The annual Santa Barbara Parade of Lights is a show, a celebration, a contest and, most important, a chance for the good people of Santa Barbara and visitors alike to party like sailors and enjoy our waterfront.

There is so much to see that a person can run around the waterfront and have a blast, from the Maritime Museum to Stearns Wharf. This year, the Parade of Lights will be Sunday, Dec. 9, with the festivities beginning at 3 p.m. The theme will be “Starry, Starry Night,” and that’s what I’m hoping for.

For some inexplicable reason that appears to defy logic and perhaps even common sense, the Parade of Lights Committee has again asked your faithful captain to be the master of ceremonies at the Judging Party on Stearns Wharf. They are trusting me with a microphone and thousands of people. All I can say is, they sure are a courageous lot.

So if you came down to the wharf last year to watch the boat parade and fireworks, remember that voice bellowing like a pirate captain on the quarterdeck? Well, guess what? I was only warming up for this year.

Besides having more fun than a salty ol’ skipper should probably be allowed to have, I will be taking my duties seriously and announcing the boat names as the parade hauls up and tacks alongside the wharf. I’ll also be talking up the generous businesses and individuals who make this event possible.

Here is the best way to enjoy the entire event. Head on down to the harbor at 3 p.m., when Santa’s Village opens up atop a mountain of snow on the city pier right near Brophy Brothers. Santa will be there, and we may even be visited by a contingent of his helper elves.

There is plenty to do at the harbor for a couple of hours, then mosey on over to Stearns Wharf for the best viewing of the boat parade and fireworks show. Here’s a helpful secret: When the boat parade begins at 5:30 p.m., be on the west side (the side toward the harbor) of the wharf to watch the boats steam out of the harbor. Then hang out and enjoy the wharf and each other for a spell while the boats make their rounds, then move over to the east side (the side away from the harbor) for their return. On this return leg, they cruise close up alongside the wharf so the judges can get a good looksee and cast their ballots for best boat in each of several categories. Your cheers may help them decide.

Finally, head back to the west side of the wharf for the climactic fireworks show. I love that part because it reminds me of firing broadsides.

Much more information to help you plan your evening is available on the city Waterfront Department website by clicking here.

A part of the helpful and informative verbage on that website is, “The 27th Annual Parade of Lights will be held Sunday, December 9th. Festivities will begin at 3 p.m. with a Santa’s Village event on the City Pier which featured a visit from Santa, ten tons of snow and the K-Lite holiday music mobile van. At 5:30 p.m. the Boat Parade begins. Deep Sea Tasting Room will host a private Judging Party on Stearns Wharf as thousands of spectators cheer on dozens of boats decorated to the theme “Starry, Starry, Night.” A spectacular fireworks display by Bay Fireworks will immediately follow the boat parade. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony and by MC and POL Chair, Skip Abed at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.”

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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