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If you like decorating your home, you may also enjoy embellishing your boat. Whether you have a powerboat or a sailboat, figure out what decorations you want to use and how to power them. Consider if your audience will be viewing your display at the dock or in open water. It may be seen best from one side of the boat versus another.

Lighting Tips:

Outdoor-rated LED lights last a long time, use less energy and minimize heat. Use yard decorations that are graded for outdoor use.

  • Check your lights for worn wires and loose bulbs.
  • Wrap plug connections between strands with high-quality electrical tape.
  • Make sure the lights, wiring set, and power source being used on the boat meet capacity requirements.

AC-powered lights can be converted to run off a boat battery using a pigtail with a GFCI as close to the source as possible. AA battery-operated lights and 12-volt lights plugged into an outlet on a fuse or breaker system are other options. You can also use a properly installed marine Genset. Always have fire extinguishers and flashlights working and within reach.

Never use a portable generator as there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and tipping can create fire hazards.

Test all the decorations and power sources on land during the day. It’s easier to replace bulbs, check circuits, and add or remove lights before you hang them on the boat. Attach lights and decorations with duct tape or wire ties. String lights to chicken wire to make words or pictures. Larger displays can be stapled to wood frames and secured to the boat railings, outriggers, booms, masts, or spinnaker poles.

Leaving the Dock:

  • String lights above the deck level and inside boat lifelines.
  • Keep connections between strands close to the deck for easy access, high enough to avoid wakes or waves, and away from metal rigging and support structures.
  • Remove bright lights from the skipper’s line of sight.

Be aware, the extra weight of a decorative structure can upset the boat’s balance and doublecheck the weather forecast for windy conditions. Have a safe and happy holiday!


Source: Leonard, T., 2013. Designing a Holiday Lights Display for Your Boat, https://www.boatus.com/magazine/2013/december/designing-a-holiday-lights-display-for-your-boat.asp  

Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/anij18/christmas-boats/?lp=true, Indeeddecor.com