Marin’s Annual Lighted Boat Parade Is Back

Lighted Boat Parade (photo by Gary Ferber)

With Covid-19 restrictions still in effect, many holiday events are being canceled all over Marin. But one end-of-year celebration promises to bring a little light to the evening sky over Richardson Bay and some firework oohs and aahs to boot. Climb aboard your boat or claim a spot on the shoreline, because the community favorite Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade is back for its 33rd outing on December 12.

“We just came to that decision last week,” says Captain Lisa Scopazzi, who runs and organizes the parade and is also the co-owner of the 75-foot Five Stars yacht. “We are going to go ahead and go for it because we feel we all just need the joy and cheer that it brings to so many. Our little community down here really depends on it.”

Scopazzi says organizers are making a few tweaks to the event this year, which should bring in more than the usual 30 boats and offer more ways to watch, including a planned live feed to be broadcast online and on cable TV. She also says that due to Covid safety concerns, the usual after-party and the next day’s Jingle Bell 5K run are canceled. Fans of the event can watch from almost anywhere in Sausalito or from their homes in the hills and, for the first time, enjoy bites from food trucks sprinkled along the shoreline. “I think we are going to have more boats than ever this year,” Scopazzi says. “People are so tired of being cooped up and want to get out and do something fun, where they can be socially distant.”

The event covers the entire Sausalito waterfront, starting north near the Bay Model and moving along the waterfront, past Bridgeway, all the way to Travis Marina near the Golden Gate Bridge. The boats move in a parade-like fashion with Bay Area icon and Sausalito resident James Gabbert (former owner and manager of KOFY-TV and numerous Bay Area FM and AM radio stations) leading the way and setting the pace. Vessels include everything from kayaks to boats as long as 100 feet. Judges at the Sausalito Yacht Club evaluate the boats and issue awards in various categories.

“Some boats just go nuts with lights and decorations — the more lights the merrier,” Scopazzi says. “People love themes; if it is clear and can be seen from land, people love that. Some boats even have music and sync it to the lights.”

The only downside this year is that in years past, the event helped pack Sausalito’s many waterside restaurants, and that won’t happen in the same way this year. “We are trying to encourage the restaurants to get some more outdoor seating,” she says.

Getting her boat ready for the judges brings out the competitive spirit in Scopazzi. “We are proud winners eight years in a row. I always like to win,” she says. “It’s so fun, and it’s become our personal family holiday tradition. We don’t really decorate our house, but we go completely crazy with the boat.”

lighted boat parade
Lighted Boat Parade (photo by Gary Ferber)

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