Jingle Boats

November 13, 2013 | By Sarah Pacheco

Here comes Santa in a red canoe, Paddling on a magic sea of blue, With a stocking full of joy for every girl and boy, Here comes Santa in a red canoe!

Just as children in the song “Here Comes Santa in a Red Canoe” look expectantly to the horizon for Jolly Old Saint Nick’s arrival on a glossy red canoe gliding over the ocean waves, each December, excited revelers set their focus to the waters just off Waikiki to watch as dozens of bedecked and bedazzled boats take part in the annual Hawai’i Yacht Club Christmas Boat Parade.

What started in 1994 as a way for club members to raise funds for the United States Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign has grown into a festive tradition both participants and spectators eagerly look forward to each holiday season.

“This will be the 19th year, and I think it’s a real novelty for locals,” says Linda West, HYC vice commodore for the year 2013. “It’s like a huge moving toy set when you see it at night; it’s something to be in awe of.”

According to West, participants go all out for this friendly competition, trimming their boats with strings upon strings of lights and all manner of decorations guaranteed to light up the night—and the faces of those watching from the shore.

“It doesn’t matter the size of the boat—whether it be a yacht or a motorboat—they’re all decked out,” West says. “And when you see the boats have that many lights on and sit in the darkness of the ocean … it’s part mystical, part magical story come to life in front of you. I never get tired of it, and I participate every year.”

The parade begins at Ala Wai Harbor and maneuvers between HYC and Waikiki Yacht Club so that judges stationed on the dock can get a good look at the decorated boats.

The route then heads west, passing Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park and Kaka’ako Beach Park before turning into Honolulu Harbor, where boats make a couple of passes by another panel of celebrity judges at Aloha Tower Marketplace before making a return voyage to the Ala Wai basin.

“Magic Island would be a really good place to watch the parade from,” West advises. “In fact, from all corners of Magic Island and Ala Moana Park are really great for viewing, and, of course, Aloha Tower, too.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus will make their grand arrival at HYC’s Aloha Dock following the flotilla of floats to visit and take photos with good little boys and girls (and parents!) on the upper-deck dining area of the club.

Other treats include live music and a wonderful buffet for parade participants and guests, along with prizes for the top winning boats in several categories.

“The captains of the boats put a lot of effort into their boats and spend a lot of money to put this show on,” West notes. “It’s the participants who really make this show, not just the boats and the lights.”

The 19th annual Christmas Boat Parade begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 14. As in years past, all attendees are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to support Toys for Tots.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the buffet, visit HYC online at www.hawaiiyachtclub.org.