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Christmas on the water

Parade of Lighted Ships December 5th and 19th

The “Calista,” shown here, is a 48’ Stephens, owned by a Tacoma Yacht Club member Chris Mack. Photo credit: Alan Rencowski

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There are many beloved traditions within the community this time of year. Families are often busy decking their halls, trimming the tree, and decorating their house in the spirit of the season. While many Christmas traditions include family gatherings inside the home or visiting with Santa at special events, some annual Christmas events take place out on the water.

For over 20 years, the Olympia Yacht Club has hosted the Parade of Lighted Ships. On Saturday, Dec. 5, this fun event will again set sail. This family friendly event welcomes the community to come down to Port Plaza on Budd Inlet to see the sailboats completely decorated and ready for the holiday season. The parade will begin at 6 p.m. with the boats heading out towards Puget Sound, up to Boston Harbor and back down passed Cooper Point. "Everyone loves lights," said Susie Zuelke, coordinator of Parade of Lighted Ships. "The lights reflecting on the water are absolutely spectacular."

The Parade of Lighted Ships is open to both members and non-members. There will be a friendly contest with prizes going to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. The boats will be judged as they sail passed the official judge's boat with guest judges Mayor Elect Cheryl Selby and Port Commissioner Elect Joe Downing. With the boats cruising at a leisurely five knots, the parade will move over the span of about two hours.

"It is not only a great way to kick off the holiday season," said Zuelke, "but it is a fun event that not every community is able to have."

The Tacoma Yacht Club will host their annual Lighted Boat Parade event Saturday, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. The event that began over 45 years ago continues to remain a holiday favorite for Tacoma Yacht Club members and the community. Anyone is welcome to register to be a part of the Lighted Boat Parade, and registration is free. "Some people decorate their boats in fun, crazy ways," said Tim Hummel, general manager of the Tacoma Yacht Club. "They get creative and use all sorts of decorative props."

A variety of 40 different power and sail boats will line up at the Tacoma Yacht Club's Guests Docks to glide towards Thea Foss Waterway in downtown Tacoma.  After the boats turn around near Johnny's Dock, they will cruise back to the Tacoma Yacht Club. Once back at the club, there will be chilidogs, beer and live entertainment. Dave Calhoun, a Jimmy Buffett tribute show, has performed for this event for the past several years and is always a crowd favorite.

"Many of our members and the patrons of Ruston Way restaurants look forward to this event every year," said Hummel. "Celebrating the Christmas Spirit out on the water is a great way to communicate that to all who see it." For more information on the Tacoma Yacht Club's Lighted Boat Parade, please call: 253.752.3555 and for more information on the Olympia Yacht Club's Parade of Lighted Ships, please contact Susie Zuelke at

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