The first time I participated in The Parade of Lights on Lake Mead was in 2018. I was decorating a Catalina 27 that I was “partnering” on. It wasn’t my boat, but my partner/owner said go for it as long as he was on the helm during! I had a particular design in mind, and with a friend’s help and his fancy candy cane lights, the completed design awarded us the first place trophy in our boat size category! Yay!
While the trophy was still hot in our hands, I was dreaming up my 2019 design. And, then when I got my own sweet little sailboat a Coronado 25 named “Swingin’ Dixie”, she told me she would settle for nothing less than first place in 2019. The pressure was on!
The Holiday (Competitive) Spirit
Those who know me on the race course, know that I have a healthy competitive spirit. Always wanting to push the limits and strive for excellence and achieve a personal best no matter what boat I am on. But, it is always with a smile and a good sense of humor as I have an underlying desire for all competitors to feel like they have finished well and that they have learned something new about sailing and about themselves!
Swingin’ Dixie is not necessarily a competitive race boat. She is an old girl with old sails. Although, when I re-did her bottom, she reached hull speed often! She loves hosting lady sailors and getting dressed up for dock parties, raft-ups and birthdays! Including her own! She dawned yellow and blue balloons at her 47th birthday dock potluck party! And she insisted that all the guests pay homage to her birth year by dressing in bell-bottoms and hippie paisley prints!
Inspiration Behind The Design
So, the two of us agreed that The Parade of Lights would be her chance to dress up and show off and get all eyes on her. She is a little vain.
The great thing with decorating a sailboat with Christmas Lights, is that we can take advantage of the height factor of the mast which allows for some great light design possibilities especially when one is designing elements to be seen from a beach 100 plus feet away! But how to get away from the traditional “tree” design and do something different from the previous year?
Dixie and I brainstormed months. Aquarium theme… underwater aquatic theme… Water World… Scuba World… moving mechanical elements, glowing orbs, floating globes, flying fish, neon streamers, twinkly things and flowy things rising up and down…. a Cirque Du Soleil inspired extravaganza!!
“Woah! Hold on their Dixie! We need to get a couple of reefs in on your imagination! My wallet is only so big and we need to be practical regarding cost of materials, build time, weather and navigation logistics? Let’s just look at what we have already from last year and go from there.”
Dixie finally concurs, but reminds me that she dislikes the word “practical”.
Green Anahata: Heart Chakra
Dixie: We have red lights?
SD: We have green lights?
M: Yes. (Dixie loves red and green light strands. She says it’s because they go with her port and starboard “eyes”… vanity again.
SD: We have that long green garland and those IKEA snowflake light strands?
M: Well, of course, I’ve had those snowflake lights for over 20 years and they MUST always be included in any holiday decorating!
SD: You love yoga, the 7 chakras, you love sailing, and we both love ME! So, let’s make a big green heart to remind others to LOVE each other!
M: Dixie, you’re brilliant! I see it! A HUGE hanging green heart at the mast! But, how did you know green is the color of Anahata, the heart chakra?
SD: I didn’t. I just knew that green is the color of most of our strands of lights in that Christmas Light Bin and we’re going to need a lot of them to fill that heart!
Me: And you say you don’t like the word “practical”.
Tent Poles and PVC Pipe
It’s one thing having an image in your head of a design and another thing making it a reality! With my background in theatre set design and home renovation projects, and with my Dad’s engineering genes bubbling around in my blood, I was confident, I knew what was needed. With a bunch of sketches in my sketch book guiding the way, and multiple trips to the home improvement store, I tested the construction of the heart design part on my driveway first in order to make sure it worked. The day before the Parade, my husband and I went to work assembling the PVC pipe and tent poles on the dock, then wiring up the heart with all green strands radiating from the center, and garland and red lights outlining the heart. Nothing was permanently attached. Loose joints were secured with fabric tape. Lights with taped up too.
Luckily we had a very calm day to raise the “wobbily” heart up the mast. We used the Main halyard. We also secured the bulbous parts of the heart to the back and fore stays with extra line. The center of the heart was lashed to the mast, and good thing, because on Parade Day, the wind picked up to 18 plus knots and the heart started to collapse at one of the PVC joints. We could not reach the compromised joint, so we had to lower the entire thing down, secure it with more tape and then hoist it back up again. For added security we also attached the jib halyard forward to keep that part from swaying too much. The heart was becoming a sail!
The final result was very effective! Dixie was thrilled! She had her heart with its glowing star center and its trailing white lights beneath, evoking an assent upward. The final icing on the cake were motion snowflake gobo spotlights on her bow deck and her cockpit. Swingin’ Dixie was ready to strut her stuff down the water catwalk!
A Holiday Family Tradition on Lake Mead
The Parade of lights on Lake Mead in 2019 was organized by boatinglakemead.com, the same folks who run Lake Mead Marina and The Las Vegas Boat Harbor. The Lake Mead Boater’s Association had been running it before, and it is an event that has been an annual family outing tradition for 43 years. It all happens just down the road from Boulder City, Nevada, the home town of the Hoover Dam. Spectators line the chilly shores of Boulder Beach huddled on blankets, roasting marshmallows on campfires, drinking eggnog, and no doubt lots of “adult” eggnog is consumed, as the spectators, and People’s Choice Award voters cheer enthusiastically at the boats plodding stern to bow, stern to bow on a course of about 5 miles long before passing by the Dock of Official Parade Judges.
In 2019, there was a record number of boats participating (27 in all) ranging from 45 foot house boats to 20 foot skiffs. One little boat not only took home the best in their boat size category, but they also won Best In Show, which they have done every year since they started building this masterpiece! Swingin’ Dixie definitely had eyes on this one and was very impressed with how all the wheels on the little boat choo-choo rotated!
The weather was definitely NOT ideal for a Parade of Boats with Christmas Lights! Sailboat lights dangled and tangled in the 20 knot gusts. House boats with their 2 storey frames fought their windage forcing some to “crab” along to keep in line or zig-zag upwind then down wind across the parade course. Halfway along the course, the sailboat ahead of Dixie lost all power and was sucked into the dark desert abyss. A collision was a possibility especially with the challenging maneuverability due to our own windage from our Heart, and the fact that my night vision was completely destroyed by its glowing rays!
It took every ounce of concentration at the helm and my brave (very cold) crew keeping watch on the bow to feel confident to proceed. The noise of the generator, the howling gusts didn’t help me hear “you’re good, keep going” or “I don’t know, I can’t see it!” so we resorted to hand signals and smiles!
Suddenly, like a multi-dimensional time traveler teleporting back into our continuum, the ghost ship re-appeared. The horizon lit up with the white and blue 30 foot triangle of lights. Collision averted… fingers crossed their generator would not konk out again as we rounded the turn-around buoy to reveal our “decorated side” to the audience!
As we passed by the beach, we could hear faint cheers, but the wind continued to blow and the generator continued to asphyxiate us as we were now downwind of its exhaust.
As we passed the Judges lined up on the dock on the final stretch, Dixie proudly strutted her stuff and the crew hollered Merry Christmas! Over and over to the waving crowds!
Heart still in tact, fingers a little numb, noses very red, we all breathed a sigh of relief for having arrived safely back home. No bumper-boat scenarios, no banging into course buoys or tire breakwaters, and no failed outboard engines or generators! All calamities other participants endured during the Parade! Dixie and her glowing green heart kept us protected and the crew decided that along with love, compassion and acceptance, Anahata should also include bravery.
First Place for Swingin' Dixie
When the trophies were being handed out, Swingin’ Dixie and her “Brave Heart” was awarded first place in the category of boats 27 feet 6 inches and under! She and her crew were thrilled!
That night after celebrating with my beloved crew, I snuggled in Dixie’s V-berth for the night and she whispered:
SD: So, I hear there’s another competition across the lake next Saturday.
Me: Ya. The Callville Bay Dock of Lights. And this year they have an official sailboat category.
SD: Ya wanna go?
Me: What do you think?
OR SCROLL TO THE END OF THIS BLOG FOR BOTH VLOGS!
Double Dipping at The 2019 Callville Bay Dock of Lights
Left to Right
3rd (“Against The Wind” Hunter 33)
1st (“Swingin’ Dixie” Coronado 25) and
2nd place (“Moana” Santana 22)
winners in the sailboat category at the 2019 Dock of Lights at Callville Bay, Lake Mead Nevada.