Decorating Tips for Christmas

By Hollie Misztak December 11, 2015


Decorating your vessel for Christmas is fun and festive! But as always, safety first. Here are some great decorating and safety tips for decking your vessel out for the holidays.

Methods for decorating:

  • The most aggressive method for powering your lights is to lash a gasoline generator to your deck. The advantages of this is that the generator will power any number of lights and decorations, considering the size of the generator. The disadvantages to this method are the loud noises from the generator, other than that you’re good to go with this method!
  • The next method involves the use of an inverter if you have an inboard engine.  Inverters invert the power from your engine’s DC current to AC. If you have an outboard engine without electric start, an inverter probably will not regenerate the on-board batteries. Inverters can be purchased at local marine suppliers. This is a great method opposed to the generator because it is considerably quieter than a generator. The disadvantage to this method is that inverters can be pricey, and the more watts you’ll need to deck out your boat, the more money you will have to pay. Twelve volt lights can be powered directly from your boat’s starting battery or extra batteries can be used. Boat lights, automotible, flashing lights, etc. can be powered with this method
  • Another method involves the tradition Chinese lantern method of decorating. This method involves flash lights as a power source for your lanterns. Stringing these around your vessel will create an impressive display. This method is also great because it is easy on the budget, and you can still create a fabulous festive display as long as you’ve got some creativity and imagination!

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to power up your display, let’s talk decorating!

Look at your boat and work on its strengths. Power boats are longer than sail boats. They can support horizontal displays better, opposed to a sail boat that can support designs with some height to them. Simply outlining your boats frame with some lights can be a great start to designing a great display. It will highlight your vessels shape and you will be able to make a better design this way.

Decorate with two or three color combinations only. If you use too many colors, the whole boat will become a blur to the spectators because of the reflection on the water.

Use bright colored or white lights because the lights will be the background for the rest of your decorations. People watching the boat parade are usually far away and can only see decorations that are brightly lit.

Household decorations such as blow up lawn decorations are perfect for boat decoration because they are often very big and will be easy to see for the viewers.

Getting it all up there :

The easiest method is to use duct tape to hang lights and decorations on your vessel. The tape will not be visible to the viewers on the shore, and this will make for an easy clean up/take down!

Attaching decorations without having walls to tack things to can be tricky. A simple method involves attaching lights with wire ties or duct tape. To make words or pictures from lights, use chicken wire. String the lights to the wire, and then staple it to wood frames, which are then secured to the boat using halyards, lines, blocks, and integral boat structures such as outriggers, masts, booms, and spinnaker poles.

String lights above the deck level, inside boat lifelines, in case docking or assistance is needed. Keep connections between strands close to the deck for easy access but high enough that seawater from waves or wake can’t reach them. Make sure to keep connections away from metal rigging and metal support structures.

Safety tips :

  • Be careful not to obscure your navigation lights. Don’t decorate so bright lights fall within the skipper’s line of sight, as that will destroy his or her night vision, and designate someone to stay out of the glare who can keep watch for obstructions and help navigate.
  • Decorators should also consider how displays affect the boat’s performance and overall stability, especially those using chicken-wire frames, because the extra weight of the structure can upset the balance of the boat.
  • Don’t decorate in a way that interferes with safe boat operation. Double check the weather forecast before leaving the dock so that you can ensure that your boat and your decorations will weather the elements well.
  • If the weather is too windy, or the frame too big, it can dangerously destabilize the boat. Keep in mind the crew will still need to get to dock lines and cleats at the slip. Remember, crew will have to be able to move about and perform jobs, some perhaps on an emergency basis.


Now that you’ve got some decorating ideas and safety tips it’s time to get crackin’ on your Christmas displays! Get creative, have fun, and most importantly be safe!

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