Lighted boat parades bring Christmas cheer to waterfront crowds

BREMERTON — Everybody’s familiar with the concept of parades: groups of people from various organizations throughout the community gather together and walk down the street, often with a musical background or handing out candy or toys to children, while onlookers enjoy the spectacle.

What’s not so common, however, is a nighttime parade of boats lit and decorated to celebrate the holiday season, passing by waterfront parks and homesteads.

In Kitsap County, lighted boat parades are a common feature, held annually by various yacht clubs and ports.

On Friday, Dec. 16, both the Brownsville Marina and the Bremerton Yacht Club staged their lighted boat parades, despite below-freezing temperatures and faster-than-expected winds.

“It’s what we provide for the community every year,” said Carolyn Thomas, commodore of the Brownsville Yacht Club.

She said the number of boats participating in the Brownsville parade this year was smaller than usual due to the 20-knot winds (about 23 mph) on the water. But some were bound and determined to participate.

Thomas said not all participants are part of the yacht club.

“We have a lot of boaters that just like to decorate their boat and be in a parade,” Thomas said, referring to boaters who use the docks at the Port of Brownsville.

Of course, the annual event is a huge draw for the community. Thomas said that people who live on the waterfront have said they “plan their Christmas parties around the event.”

“It’s lighted boats,” she said. “Probably the biggest (draw) is that we live on the water, and those families and homesteads that live on the water look forward to seeing this parade go by them … in the evening.”

She said it’s nice to get to watch a parade in the comfort of your own home instead of having to drive downtown, fight for a close-enough parking space, and stand in a crowd to see a parade pass by.

Indeed, Bremerton Yacht Club’s Vice Commodore John Burwell said that there are “usually pretty good gatherings at the various parks and boat fronts” when the Bremerton Yacht Club’s lighted boat parade passes.

Their parade was actually a two-day event, passing through different parts of Puget Sound on the evenings of Dec. 16 and 17.

Burwell said the appeal is mostly for kids.

“To be able to see Santa go by, have him call out their names and wish them a merry Christmas (is appealing),” Burwell said.

The Bremerton Yacht Club website had an option for people to submit the names of who they wanted Santa to call out to and greet during the parade.

Santa’s greetings were met with cheers at parks where people braved the cold, windy night just to watch the boats pass by.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Thomas said. “It really is. It’s at night, with sparkly lights and decorated boats … it’s fun.”

See photos from the Port of Brownsville and Bremerton Yacht Club lighted boat parades online at

Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at