About Us


A message from SOWF’s president, Merv Regan

In 1989 Robert Squires and Barbara Ross invited me to the Sausalito Yacht Club for lunch. I had been very active in the community serving on the Board of Directors, as President of the Chamber of Commerce and the Art Festival Committee. During the course of the conversation I asked why Sausalito didn’t have a lighted yacht parade because I really enjoy the holidays. They said no one had ever organized one. I asked if they wanted to come and play. They did and we have. The first parade was the largest yet with nearly 70 boats. Over the years we average 25 – 40 boats. And it is still FREE!

In the planning I thought we should have the largest yacht in town as the Grand Marshall. I went along the boardwalk and saw Defiance. I went to the Sausalito Yacht Harbor Office and spoke with Herb Madden. He told me Jim Gabbert was the owner. At the time Jim was the owner of TV-20. We played phone tag for days. I was on the waterfront one Sunday and they were on the boat. I introduced myself. He asked what I wanted. When I’m told him, he looked at me like I was a bit crazy and then agreed he could do that. I am happy to say Jim and the 85’ Defiance has been the Grand Marshall 16 of the 19 years. He was out of the country 3 years. Scoma’s Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf fishing boat Skipper Mark Magner came over from San Francisco to lead the parade. They have participated a number of years, when not out fishing. Coquette twice led the parade. Then in 2005 Invader was in town so Jim led the parade with his 165’ yacht. It was over the top! Jim says it is back to Defiance this year.

In all the years weather has threatened several times but we were only rained out twice. However we did have one brave soul, Bill Evans and his buddy who saw a break in the weather and motored Lono past the yacht club to the delight of the crowd the first time. We gave him the special Ensensperger Award. The second time we had five brave souls come out; Amici, Grizzly, Lono, Mystic and Tambadil. Scoma’s chided me for calling it on such mild weather.

After the first parade was over a CHP officer came to the club and inquired who was responsible for the event. He was directed to me. He asked if I had considered informing the CHP of the parade. I was puzzled and responded no why would I? Apparently the parade was such a spectacle that not only was the Yacht Club and waterfront jam packed, drivers stopped on the Waldo Grade to watch the parade. The CHP is now on our list of agencies to notify.

A number of participants have entered nearly every year. There have been several multiple winners. After winning three times, Annie Sutter decided to retire and give others a chance.

Awards: There are burgees for first second and third places in power, sail, and open class boats, the Ensensperger’s Flag for the “People’s” choice, a plaque for every entry and the Robert G. Squires Trophy for the overall winner. Robert may have gone on the great yacht in the sky but his memory will always be with us.

People don’t realize the effort it takes to decorate a boat. One year the Business Women’s Committee of the Chamber of Commerce got together, +/-30, and decorated the 125’ recovery vessel moored at the Schoonmaker Marina. They did such a wonderful job you couldn’t recognize the boat at night. Another year patrons of one of the local restaurants donated the use of their boat and the staff of the restaurant decorated and crewed the boat for the parade.

There are dozens of great stories. Rodger March, Dieter Rapp, Walt Wester entered their boat Lola twice, winning in 1991. They sold the boat but enjoyed the parade so much they rented the boat the next year and entered one more time. A couple new to Sausalito was just sitting down to their first dinner in their hillside home as the parade passed by. She remarked “ how wonderful to have a parade welcoming them to town.” A regular participant called to ask if we had a category for model boats. He and his son had built a replica of the family sailboat. He said they could tow it behind in the parade. They did and we presented his son with a special award. Another family was having a party in the hillside home. When one of the guests asked if the music could be turned down, the host realized the music was coming from Defiance. Of course he had no control over the music.

Judges: Hosted by the SYC Commodore-include the County Supervisor McGlashan, Mayor, City Manager Adam Politzer, Chamber of Commerce President, Chief of Police Scott Paulin, Fire Chief Denis Walsh – Keeper of the Light.

Parade Route: Sausalito Waterfront, off the pier at the Bay Model, passing the judges at the Sausalito Yacht Club and aboard Bob Wilson’s Grand Banks, Mystic, at the south end of the route passing Gaylord’s Restaurant, off the Cote d’Azure and returning north along the waterfront.

lighted boat parade mapViewing: All along the waterfront, Spinnaker Restaurant, Gabrielson Park, Ferry Landing, Yee Tok Chee Park, Angelino Restaurant, Horizon’s Restaurant, Gaylord’s Restaurant, Paradise Bay Restaurant, Scoma’s Restaurant, and the hillside.

After Party: Sausalito Yacht Club, members and guests and participants and crew. (Sorry, not open to the public)

Awards Luncheon on Sunday, 1:00pm at Sausalito Yacht Club.

The parade has become the outstanding event of the Holiday Season.

Sponsored by the Sausalito Yacht Club, Sausalito on the Waterfront Foundation, a 501c3, Sausalito Chamber of Commerce, City of Sausalito, Local Merchants and Residents

Co-Founders: Merv Regan, Chair, Barbara Ross-Conroy, Co-Chair, and Jim Gabbert, Grand Marshall