Lighted Ships Parade set to spread holiday cheer Dec. 11

Poulsbo Yacht Club has been putting on event for over 50 years

People often give a shoutout to Santa – mostly what they want for Christmas.

But at a Poulsbo event, you can make sure Santa gives a personalized shoutout to you.

The Poulsbo Yacht Club will be putting on its 52nd Lighted Ships Parade Dec. 11, where holiday-decorated vessels will slowly make their way through the waterways of North Kitsap for about five hours spreading Christmas cheer.

A big component of the parade, especially for kids, is the shoutouts Santa gives from the boats. Text “SANTA” to 360-297-8600 to send a personalized greeting for Santa to shout out. Messages need to be sent by 5 p.m. Dec. 10.

“A lot of the same people each year call in for Santa call-outs,” said Bill Whiteley, longtime chairman of the event. “Some of them were doing it when they were kids, and now their kids are doing it. It’s multigenerational, which is really fun.”

Whiteley said 11 boats have signed up but he expects that number to increase to the typical 15 to 20. Many new boats are making their first appearance. Whiteley said he’s had his boat in the event since 2005.

“The 50-year (anniversary) that we did a couple years ago had 43 boats,” he said. “That was a big special push. Some people have moved out of boating or left the area. Of the boats that were doing it 10 years ago, there are very few still going, and new people are stepping in.”

The parade begins at 5 p.m., starting outside the PYC marina and proceeds to downtown Poulsbo. Then, the boats will head south through the west side of Liberty Bay before passing Keyport and crossing to Bainbridge Island’s Manzanita Bay and through Agate Pass on the east side. The next stop is the Suquamish dock and then returning back down the west side of Agate Pass. Finally, the route goes through Point Bolin and north to Lemolo on the east side of Liberty Bay to end the parade.

Whiteley said there are a few gathering spots for people to view the festivities, such as Waterfront Park in downtown Poulsbo, Keyport marina and the Suquamish dock, among other smaller locations. Boats not involved with the PYC can be included but they need permission beforehand.

Other areas in Kitsap County also hold holiday-themed boat parades, like the yacht clubs in Bremerton, Port Orchard and Brownsville. But nationally, Whiteley said he doesn’t think the events are as popular, aside from places like the Great Lakes area. Puget Sound is the perfect location to hold such events, Whiteley said.

“Maybe our area’s a little bit special in that we have really unique inland water,” he said. “It’s ideally suited for cruising in the dark very slow.”

While the event description says “weather permitting,” Whiteley said the boat parade has never been canceled, but they did have to reduce the route one time due to choppy water.

“There have been some years where the weather hasn’t cooperated, but it takes a pretty bad year to knock us out… A couple years ago we were getting knocked around so bad that we went an hour earlier than projected. Some people onshore missed it because we were already gone. We were in four-foot waves off of Manzanita.”

PYC members are invited to vote for their favorite lighted ship in various categories such as best theme, best use of lights, etc. After the parade, members will gather at the PYC clubhouse to present the awards.

“We feel like this is an important contribution we can make to the community,” Whiteley said. “We really enjoy the response and the joy that it brings the kids. Some of the emails we get back are incredible. That’s the part that makes it all worthwhile.”

The Christmas lights reflect nicely in the water on this boat.

The Christmas lights reflect nicely in the water on this boat.