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Fireworks on the Water

Tips for the perfect viewing party
By David G Brown
Published: July 1, 2009
Francis Scott Key was on a ship when he wrote about “the rockets' red glare.” So, it follows then that fireworks displays are more intense when viewed from the water, where colorful explosions overhead become sparkles of reflected light all around your boat. When conditions are right, the effect is like being in mid-air, right in the middle of the show. Thousands of boating families take to the water every Fourth of July to enjoy fireworks displays. Knowing a few tricks can make this outing both safer and more fun.

Prime Picking
A week or so before the holiday, visit waterfront locations where there will be fireworks shows. Look for protected water: Rivers and enclosed bays don’t get riled up as much by wind, which means they produce the best water reflections. Plus, riding at anchor is more comfortable in calm water.

Most fireworks shows begin after 9:30 p.m., but you want to be anchored and ready at least two hours prior to that. Early arrival allows you to choose your viewing spot. Kids love to be as close as possible so the explosions seem to be right over the boat. For better adult viewing, move back so that the tops of the fireworks will just be overhead.

Make it a Party
It’s great fun to raft three or four boats together for a waterborne potluck picnic at twilight before the show. The center boat of the raft puts out its anchor and the other boats tie off on either side. Use plenty of fenders between boats to prevent chipped gel coat.

Hot dogs and baked beans are the traditional Fourth fare. Beans are good cold or hot, but not so for hot
dogs. To serve “hot” hot dogs, put the the dogs into a wide-mouthed thermos. Fill the bottle with boiling water and cap. The wieners will be warm ‘n tasty when serving time comes.

For your side dishes, stick with pretzels and corn chips, as potato chips tend to blow around and get soggy in the moist night air. In my opinion, the best snacks are things like carrots or crispy celery sticks filled with cream cheese or peanut butter. Trail mix is another favorite “finger food” with kids.

Be Prepared
The “Rules of the Road” require small boats to display a single all-round white light when at anchor. But, since it's the busiest boating night of the year it probably wouldn't hurt to make yourself as visible as possible by turning on some more lights.

Meteorologically speaking, the Fourth of July is not mid-summer, but an early summer holiday. Nights can still get chilly on the water. Be sure everyone in the crew has a jacket or sweater just in case.

Finally, when the show is over the other boats will want to get away as quickly as possible. For your own safety, stay put until the mob disperses. And, don’t forget your life jackets!


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