Portland Christmas Ship Parade

Portland Christmas Ship Parade
Photo: christmasships.org
The city of Portland, Oregon is located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. No wonder that there are quite a lot of boat owners in the city many of whom are members of the Portland Yacht Club. Every year, many local boat owners participate in the traditional Christmas Ship Parade that kicks off the holiday season in Portland. The parade lasts for two weeks, attracting thousands of spectators, locals and tourists alike.

Portland’s Christmas Ship Parade was founded in 1954. The first parade featured one lone sailboat from the Portland Yacht Club. The boat was decorated with bows of green with some ribbon, it paraded on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, bringing holiday cheer. Despite the rather modest scale of the first parade, it was decided to make it an annual event. The parade has grown over the years, becoming one of the most anticipated events in Portland. Today, it features about 55 to 60 boats every year.

The Christmas Ship Parade lasts over two weeks. The ships parade every day except Mondays on both Portland’s rivers, each river has its own parade schedule. Regardless of the weather, thousands of spectators line the banks of the Willamette and Columbia rivers to watch the parade. There are no tickets required to view the parade, you can just come to either of the rivers and enjoy the show.

The Portland Christmas Ship Parade is an all-volunteer event. All boat captains are free to join, there is no membership fee. Each boat owner designs and builds their unique Christmas display. Some displays can be seen each year, but new boats join the parade each year, bringing new lighted displays. Most boats make it out every night, although the schedule is flexible and each boat owner is free to choose their parade nights.

For many boat owners, annual participation in the parade is a long-time Christmas holiday tradition. Before the parade, new skippers learn maneuvers with the help of experienced boat captains. Each ship captain is responsible for all operating costs, but there are fuel discounts and reduced rates for repairs, electricity and moorage during the parade season.

In general, the general public are not allowed to come aboard the boats which participate in the parade. However, some captains auction off a ride on their boat for a charity event. Many of the boat owners host small private parties for their nearest and dearest.

Portland Christmas Ship Parade

Photo: Dick Thies




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