Although the air is getting cooler and our nearshore ocean waters are too, the Santa Cruz Harbor will soon warm to the holiday spirit. Harbor staff will be putting up decorations and the Crow’s Nest plans to erect a Christmas tree between its flagship restaurant and store near the east jetty.

From 5-6:30 p.m. Dec. 3, the fourth annual Lighthouse Lighting ceremony and celebration at the Crow’s Nest restaurant’s Harbor Room will illuminate the Walton Lighthouse to benefit O’Neill Sea Odyssey, the free, ocean science and environmental program that I’m privileged to run.

Two nights later, at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 5, the Santa Cruz Yacht Club will host its 30th Annual Lighted Boat Parade.

The parade’s theme is “Moonlit Starry Night.” If you are a boater who wants to enter your decorated vessel into competition, contact the yacht club. If you want to just watch and enjoy the parade, make sure to get to the harbor early and find a good spot to view the show. Bundle up, it may be a cold evening.

Boats that participate will be judged in the categories of theme, lights and music.

There are six categories that judges will review: power boats that are less than 31 feet, power boats longer than 31 feet, sailboats less than 31 feet and those that are longer, “people powered” craft including kayaks, rowboats and inflatable boats, and boats that are stationary but decorated, either in their harbor slip, or in the Santa Cruz Yacht Club’s dry dock area.

The Lighted Boat Parade is organized each year by a volunteer committee of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club with support from the Santa Cruz Port District.

Parade organizer De Schuyler told me that while 25 or so boats have participated in recent parades, the club is hoping for 30 boats this year.

The harbor first opened for business at the former Wood’s Lagoon, which along with Schwan Lake had constituted Twin Lakes, in 1964.

The first Lighted Boat Parade was held in 1986, with only five vessels participating. A decade later, there were 45 boats on parade.

As in past years, parade observers are encouraged to bring canned foods for Second Harvest Food Bank’s holiday drive. The Santa Cruz Harbor’s Marian Olin told me: “Typically, we put two barrels at 2222 E. Cliff Drive, upstairs and in the bakery, one at the harbor office which is put outside during the parade, and one at Aldo’s, which is also outside during the parade.”

Come on down to the Santa Cruz Harbor, and enjoy the fun.

To learn about the Lighted Boat Parade, click here.

To learn more about O’Neill Sea Odyssey, click here.

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