Newport RI’s Illuminated Boat Parade…an insider’s view.

Newport Harbor, RI: Lights on the Water

Boat Parade by Sea

Years ago, I was invited aboard a friend’s boat participating in Newport’s Annual Illuminated Boat Parade. It was cold that night…VERY cold. Bundled up in our warmest gear we headed out, excited for the adventure, thermoses of hot beverages in hand. We climbed aboard and started decorating stringing lights from bow to stern; with holiday music emanating from the speakers, we were ready for our first floating parade! The boat we were on happened to be the last in line which gave us a good view of the boats ahead and the spectators lining up along the harbor.

And then…just before we were about to motor forward, the lights on our boat began to dim and the music began to fade.

The battery on the boat was dying.

But, as they say, the show must go on! With lights now darkened, we ventured on….We may have been invisible, but we were definitely audible belting out Christmas Carols as we motored past the docks teaming with cheering crowds. Looking back now, there is nothing I would change about that night…but for the frigid temperatures.

Boat Parade by Land

In recent years, with children by our side, friends and family have chosen to experience the boat parade from by shore instead of by sea. It’s become a tradition to stroll through the shops on Bowen’s Wharf, pop into Saltwater or the Wharf Pub for a bite and a beverage. We then gather together along the docks of to watch as Newport Harbor comes to life with colorful lights. So my thanks goes out to all those hearty souls who brave the elements to bring us such a beautiful displays of warmth and good cheer to kick off another Yuletide year.

Awards and Honors

Each year prizes for “best decorated” and “most team spirit” are awarded in a variety of categories from sailboat to Coast Guard vessels and everything in between; even prizes for most festively adorned dock or porch. With the mild weather this year the number of boats participating and the crowds on the wharfs seemed to be at an all time high. The honor of Grand Marshal was awarded to George Crowninshield, the Assistant Harbormaster and Retired Navy Captain. Donations of non-perishable items were collected at the Newport Yacht Club in support of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

How can you participate?

Contact the Newport, RI Harbor Master at 401.845.5815 or Visit the Annual Parade of Lighted Vessels Facebook page.

 Photography by local Newport Photographer/Artist Cahill Taft