More than 70 boats took part in last night's parade. *Photo by Tony McWilliam
More than 70 boats took part in last night's parade. *Photo by Tony McWilliam

SATURDAY, DEC. 10: More than 70 boats decked out with Christmas lights and a fireworks finale thrilled thousands of onlookers at the Christmas Boat Parade tonight.

Hundreds lined the waterfront in Hamilton, while more enjoyed the spectacle from the Harbour Road, Paget, side of the harbour.

Craig Burt, of Warwick, watched the fun with wife Laura, daughter Yasmin, 9, and her friend Jessica Simmons, 10, in Hamilton.

They saw brightly-lit boats decked out with movie and cartoon themes, as well as more traditional Christmas messages circle the harbour and a spectacular fireworks display.

Yasmin said: “I really liked the Star Wars one – but I liked the mermaid one as well and the one with the dragon on it. The boats are all beautiful.”

Jose DeSousa watched from Front Street with wife Karen, and boy and girl twins Sage and Nadia, 4, and daughter Sierra, aged 6.

Mr DeSousa, from St David’s, said: “We wouldn’t have missed it for the world – we’re here every time the Boat Parade is held and it’s been really good this year.”

One boat was decked out with Santa and his sleigh running its entire length – complete with Santa Claus in traditional red suit and white beard.

One motor yacht, Bravo Zulu, spelled out “Peace on de Rock” along its hull and attracted a large round of applause at it did the circuit.

The Star Wars boat played the iconic theme tune and trailed smoke as youngsters dressed as characters from the film wielded light sabres.

Another featured cartoon star Charlie Brown. Even a four-man rowing shell was lit up and joined the other boats.

The Bermuda Police Service got into the Christmas spirit – one of their Marine Section patrol boats carried a massive Christmas tree in lights and Santa Claus sitting in the stern.

Hamilton began to fill up with spectators well before the 6.30pm start of the event, staking out the best spots along the waterside.

One staff member at the Hamilton Princess, where the parade started, said the car park was filled to capacity shortly after 5pm.

He added: “This is a great spot to watch the parade and the commentary on it is here as well. It’s a spectacular event and the Princess Terrace is the perfect setting to enjoy it.”

Kemar Maybury, who works at the Smokin’ Barrel food wagon on Front Street, said: “It’s just crazy – we’ve been extremely busy. It’s been non-stop.”

Shane Tucker of Bermuda Wines and Spirits on Front Street, added: “It’s been really busy this evening. It’s been great for business generally in the city. There are lots of people about.”

Police mounted a massive operation, with road closures and officers on duty all around the harbour.

St John Ambulance Brigade also sent a volunteer team.

Jeffrey Borges, a human resources manager at a reinsurance company and volunteer medical first responder and driver, said: “It’s been very quiet for us.

“But that’s a good thing – we’re here just in case. We were here at the beginning and we’ll stay beyond the end.”

A police spokesman said: “It went off very well – there was a substantial police presence because of the road closures and to ensure public safety.

“We hope everybody enjoyed it and that Bermuda has a very happy and safe Christmas.”

The Boat Parade – which has become one of the biggest events in Bermuda since it was founded in 1998 – attracted a near record number of entries this year.

The event was founded by Guatemalan-born Norma Thomson, who missed the boat parades in her former home of California.

The first event attracted a total of 92 entries, but numbers dropped off in successive years until sponsors became involved and offered incentives to participants. It has gone from a yearly event to a biennial one.