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The Harbor Report: 104 years and counting

December 20, 2012|By Len Bose

Only one real topic on the harbor this week, and that's the 104th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade with the theme "Surf, Sand and Santa" going on from the 19th to the 23rd. I had a chance to sit down with this year's parade chairman, David Beek, who is the third generation of Beeks to chair the parade, at the Balboa Yacht Club last weekend.

David explained, "Over the last 104 years, the spirit of the parade has not changed. It's always been about Newport Harbor coming together for the holidays, using their boats, singing, expressing holiday greetings across the water, and passing the tradition down to the next generation. There is nothing better than hearing that 4-year-old with the boat's open intercom wishing everyone Merry Christmas from across the harbor."

The parade was first conceived in 1900 by Italian gondolier John Scarpa and Balboa Island developer Joseph Beek. By 1908, Scarpa light up his gondola with Japanese lanterns and was followed by eight canoes that lighted their boats in the same manner. Now, more than a century later, the parade has grown to close to 100 boats entered, plus all the boats observing.

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"This year, we are trying something new in the form of speed brakes," David told me. "We have assigned designated locations for the parade to slow down and close up again."

For my readers who will be operating boats this year, if you do not already know, the parade monitors VHF Channel 68. For all parade-registered boats, Sea Tow, the AAA of the boating world, is available at no charge to help you out of a problem. For example, if you get pushed into the mooring field and wrap your props, or one of your engines overheats and you have to shut down, Sea Tow is available to help you out.

I also feel I need to point out the obvious, because I was guilty of this in my youth: Never wander into the mooring fields or drive against the traffic flow of the parade in an electric boat. For you electric boat operators, make sure you keep in mind, when traveling next to the docks, larger boats' bows will overhang, and it's very easy not to see their anchors, which can tear up the tops of your boats. Not that this ever happened to me.

The harbor's dredging gear will be at its mooring by 4 p.m. each day and the scows will be lit up by the starting point of the parade. There is also a smaller barge in the H mooring field between Lido Isle and the peninsula.

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