Santa sets sail on Friday, Dec. 1.
That's when nearly 15 brightly-decorated boats launch from Port Moody's Reed Point Marina to deliver the Christmas spirit to residents along the shores of Burrard Inlet, including those looking from Barnet Marine Park in north Burnaby.
Mike Girard has been part of the seasonal flotilla that sails on Friday and Saturday evenings right up to Dec. 23 for more than 20 years.
He said it's hard to imagine a holiday season without stringing lights along his boat and heading out into the inky night.
"Everyone involved contributes to making our Santa Ships event successful, inspirationally bringing in the Christmas spirit among crews decorating their vessels as well as shoreside communities," he said.
Think of the cruises as floating Christmas parties that can be shared with people on shore.
Girard said many skippers invite guests and residents on shore will schedule their own holiday house parties to coincide with the sail pasts.
"Flashing their lights draws our ships in for a closer light show," he advised.
But safety always trumps levity.
Planning for the cruises begins in November and participants meet to go over safety procedures and lighting protocols to ensure everyone can navigate the darkness and return to the marina safely. If it's foggy, windy or snowy, the craft stay tied up.
"If we can’t see the shoreline, the shoreline residences can’t see us," Girard said, adding an annual highlight is the sail into Bedwell Bay where a fireworks show and shore visit by Santa adds special pizzazz.
Here’s when and where you can see the cruises:
- Dec. 1 = Rocky Point Park and Ioco
- Dec. 2 = Dollarton, Belcarra Bay, Barnet Marine Park
- Dec. 8 = Deep Cove
- Dec. 9 = Camp Howdy, Farrah Cove
- Dec. 15 = Woodlands, Brighton Beach in North Vancouver, Barnet Marine Park, Belcarra Bay
- Dec. 16 = Bedwell Bay with Santa visiting children in Belcarra Regional Park and fireworks afterward
- Dec. 22 = Belcarra Bay, Deep Cove, Dollarton
- Dec. 23 = Belcarra Bay, Deep Cove, Dollarton
Cruises begin at 7 p.m.