You can’t keep a determined boater down. The official Christmas Island Style boat parade was cancelled, and wintry winds whipped down from the North Pole on Saturday evening, but a hardy group of mariners “decked the hulls” and headed out onto the Marco River to bring Christmas lights and Christmas cheer to the island anyway.
The abbreviated boat parade, organized by Pete and Peggy Frazier, skipper and first mate of Grand Pelican, mustered between the Marco Island Yacht Club, where most of the vessels parading were docked, and the Jolley Bridge, just as darkness set in. Approximately 10 vessels participated, from the massive Marco Island Princess captained by Cedric Davis, down to open pontoon boats whose crews were fully exposed to the elements on a raw evening, by local standards.
It was cold, but at least it wasn’t wet.
“Thankfully, my rain dance worked, and we got a rain-free, relatively calm window,” said Peggy Frazier. Also, after she worked frantically just before the parade, she and Capt. Pete got the decorations and lights working on the boat. With the wet weather, the GFI circuit kept popping off, until Peggy realized the blower fan for the inflatable Santa in his helicopter, sitting atop their dinghy on the trunk cabin, was sitting in a puddle of water.
The MIYC had a sellout crowd dining and taking in the parade from their second floor perch, and turned the event into a fundraiser for the Marco Patriots group. By the time Santa Claus disembarked from Grand Pelican and “ho-ho-hoed” his way into the club, those inside raised over $3,000 to help with the work of the Patriots, helping neighbors still recovering from Hurricane Irma.
There were numerous holiday parties in full swing along the parade route. Many opted to stay inside in the warmth as the boats cruised by, but some spilled out onto lanais and balconies to cheer the crews.
On board the Grand Pelican, Capt. Pete handled his trawler with the aplomb of an experienced helmsman, not to mention a former military helicopter pilot who flew combat missions in Vietnam in his Huey. Santa Claus stood on the fly bridge, waving lustily to all the spectators on shore, and in between times texting on his cell phone.
In deference to the even more difficult conditions created by Hurricane Irma at the Collier Creek entrance, the parade did not tour through interior waterways, but stayed out in the river, passing by Rose Marina and the Snook Inn before crossing over to the Isles of Capri side and returning to the yacht club.
A partial listing of boats – some jumped in late, and at least one picked up some passengers halfway through – includes Bodacious, Lady B, R. Wellington, and James Blonde 001, along with the Princess and Grand Pelican. The Marco Island Fire-Rescue boat and the MIPD marine unit also participated in the parade.
A number of the Marco Island boats will be crossing the river this Saturday evening to be part of the Isles of Capri boat parade, which was postponed, and now allows boaters to do it again, and get maximum use out of all the hours needed to rig Santas, wreaths, trees, reindeer and all those Christmas lights on the boats.