Don’t miss the 2016 Portland Harbor Boat Parade of Lights

As the sun continues to set a little earlier with each passing day, Portland shows off it’s snowy brick charm with colorful lights throughout the city. It’s a joy to walk around the old port and take in the bright blues and greens, alongside sparkling white and magenta. Illuminated trees are joined by a variety of light sculptures hanging from buildings above the street. But the festivity doesn’t end at the streets.

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Along the waterfront you will see several boats decorated for the holidays. Tugboats, lobster boats and sailboats are often decorated for the season. To add a little cheer to our shrink-wrap tent, we use lights to transform it into a festive snow globe. If you haven’t seen holiday decorations afloat you are in for a treat. They are beautiful as they sparkle in the waves and rustle in the breeze.

So what is the best way to see a nautical light display? The annual Portland Harbor Boat Parade of Lights will put the cities best-dressed vessels on display. The event will take place at 4:30pm on Saturday, Dec 17th. Since our boat is already wrapped up for the winter, it will not be in the parade. Maybe in future years we will delay our winterization so we can take part!

farley bow

The parade began in 2001 when Chris Keane and a few other liveaboards decided to show off their holiday decorations. It has grown into a wildly popular event with participation from all forms of mariners. The tugboats are spectacularly lit and provide a firework display to punctuate the festivities.

Casco Bay Lines provides a special cruise for viewing the parade, but it sells out quickly each year. Chris tells me that they sold out within 3 days, filling two entire ferries for the event. A portion of the ticket proceeds will go to Sail Maine, a local nonprofit providing access to sailing for children and adults alike. Put it in your calendar now to look for tickets to become available after Thanksgiving in 2017.

snow angel

Even without tickets for a ride with Casco Bay Lines, there are lots of ways to see the parade along the shore in either Portland or South Portland. The Maine State Pier, which offers public access, will have an unobstructed front row view. Waterfront restaurants such as Dimillo’s in Portland and Saltwater Grille in South Portland will keep you well fed and warm while you enjoy the parade. A well-timed walk across the bridge would offer a lofty view of the lights below.

Matt Garand

About Matt Garand

Lifelong Mainer, and professional mariner, Matt Garand is the creator of A Life Aboard, a look at year-round living on a sailboat in Maine. Matt and his wife, Skye, live aboard in South Portland and use every available chance to throw off the lines and explore the coast.