Deck the Hulls

It is now the festive time of year, the time of open bars and buffets, visits and vacations, decorations and decadence. In Phoenix and Houston and Chicago and Atlanta, in the deserts and on the plains, deep in the valleys and up on the mountains, all across the nation the holidays are being enjoyed by the masses, mostly in groups. In South Florida that means boats.

From the bay to the backwaters, flotillas will once again distinguish this subtropical hub of all things aquatic. We here are so boatcentric we actually parade our vessels: A press release for the Miami International Boat Parade is headlined "A Holiday Parade — Miami Style." At the very least, boats don't tend to bump into light poles and cause heavy pieces to crash onto the heads of people in the crowd. At the very most, the parades offer a spectacular phantasmagoria, with the boats decked out in all sorts of decoration, many blasting music, their colorful lights reflecting and refracting and generally freaking us out.

The shallops — mostly sailboats, powerboats, and yachts — highlight Miami's world-class skyline as they mosey past downtown for the tens of thousands who annually gather to watch from Bayfront Park. Themed "Holidays Around the World," this year's 'rade celebrates cultural diversity. (Cool trivia: A 200-foot barge from China will be included.)

The affair begins with the arrival of Santa Claus, subbing a hovercraft for the traditional sleigh. In the park, attendees can enjoy food and activities such as Snow Mountain, the Family Fun Zone, and the World Showcase. This is definitely the best place from which to view the vessels. A fireworks show will cap off the evening.

The Keys will host several more oceanic processions for those who just can't get enough. Also on Saturday, the ninth annual Boot Key Harbor Christmas Boat Parade lights up the waters of Marathon. The draggers with the best decorations in various categories will win cash and prizes; raffles and live entertainment sweeten the pot.

On Sunday, check out the Key Colony Beach Lighted Boat Parade, which snakes through canals, passing city hall three times. The following Saturday, December 17, the Holiday Boat Parade lifts anchors in Key Largo. This one, dubbed "Winter Wonderland," also offers cash prizes. The same night, the unfortunately titled Schooner Wharf Bar/Captain Morgan Lighted Boat Parade brings seafaring showmanship to Key West. Clarence Clemons and the Gerald Adams Elementary School Steel Your Heart Band will perform, and $14,000 will be awarded to the most creatively bedecked baiters.

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Greg Baker