Holiday boat parade lights up the Marco River

Lance Shearer

Christmas Island Style finished up with a splash on Saturday night. In the last public event of Marco’s extensive holiday celebration, the 32nd Annual Boat Parade lit up the Marco River. A flotilla of over two dozen colorfully illuminated craft delighted thousands of spectators on shore.

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The fleet mustered in Factory Bay, north of the Jolley Bridge, as the official CIS judges gathered on the second-floor balcony above the Snook Inn. As the boats began cruising the parade route, all lights (on shore) in the area were suddenly extinguished, for only a couple seconds.

CIS officials said that the mast of one of the sailboats in the parade touched the Lee County Electric Coop power lines stretching across the river, momentarily interrupting power to the island. Thankfully, no one was injured, and the parade continued a few minutes later.

Ken Bardon, captain of “Moonbeam,” confirmed it was his vessel, with its 65-ft. mast, that struck the line – or grazed it with his whip antenna, or possibly just came close enough for electricity to arc between the two.

“It became quite an adventure. At first, we thought someone was shooting fireworks at the boat,” he said. Bardon is an experienced skipper with tens of thousands of sea miles, having circumnavigated the globe in “Moonbean.” With a crew of nine, he was grateful that no one was hurt, he didn’t lose any of the boat systems he was using, and even the multiple strings of lights up his mast continued to shine.

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“Moonglow” won an award for Most Entertaining among the sail fleet, perhaps for the “spark” they provided to the proceedings – although Capt. Ken said their award was due to his crew whooping it up as they passed by the judges.

In addition to the first responders on the police and fire/rescue boats that led and trailed the parade, there were 25 boats entered. Leading the fleet was the largest vessel, the 90-ft. excursion boat “Marco Island Princess” captained by Rodger Parcelles.

The boats that followed, each with its own array of lights and enthusiastic crew, were grouped for purposes of judging into three categories. In addition to “Moonbeam’s” award, “Euphoria,” a 35-ft. catamaran sailboat captained by Mike and Kathy Rushalk, won for most creative, perhaps due to the complete Santa, sleigh and reindeer display in the rigging, and was awarded Best in Parade overall.

In powerboats 30 feet and under, “Sophie” won for most creative, “No Worries” took most entertaining, and a tie in the best holiday spirit category was declared between “Papa’s Playpen” and “Wet Bar.” In powerboats 31 feet and up, “NorTech” won for most entertaining, “Mutual Fun IV” won best holiday spirit, and “Karine” won most creative.

Judges were Tom Morr, Neil Snyder, Ruth McCann, Don Condee, and Frank Mulligan, and Wanda Day and Barbara Dasti co-chaired the event. The Snook Inn donated the balcony, buffet and bar to the judges and CIS officials, and fed the first responders when their boats completed the parade route from the Marco Island Yacht Club, down the Marco River, through Collier Bay and Smokehouse Bay to the Esplanade, and then back again.