The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla had a humble beginning on the evening of Saturday, December 5, 1992 with seven boats cruising down the Beaufort Waterfront.

William Prentice, former manager of the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, was in one of those seven boats.

“We gathered at the end of Radio Island and circled there for a while,” according to Prentice. “When it came time to start, John Warrington peeled off and the rest of us fell in line taking his lead,” he said.

“It was clear and calm that evening and the crowd along the waterfront was a bit sparse, compared to recent flotillas, but still a good gathering as we made our way down Taylor’s Creek,” Prentice recalled.

That first year the judges viewed the Flotilla from the upstairs porch of the Dock House. The awards ceremony was held in the North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Harborside Annex next door to the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center; awards were gift certificates donated by several Beaufort businesses.

Twenty-five years later, the tradition continues.

The Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla takes place on Saturday, December 2, 2017 featuring boats, yachts, oars, kayaks and commercial vessels decorated for the season.

The decorated boats can be seen at 5:30 p.m., on the Morehead City waterfront and at 6:15 p.m., on the Beaufort waterfront. All decorated boats are judged and prizes for excellence and creativity are awarded at the festive Awards Party after the Flotilla in the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center located across the street from the museum. Cash prizes will be awarded!

Looking back at previous flotillas…

In 1993, the Morehead Beaufort Yacht Club started sponsoring the “Annual Christmas Boat Parade” with prizes donated by Beaufort retailers and restaurants. A tradition began with free dockage for the fifteen boats in the parade provided by the Beaufort Town Docks, support that continues each year.

The YP 701, a Marine Corps yard-patrol boat of the Aerial/Surface Target Department served as the judge’s platform and was open for tours during the day. The Carteret County News-Times became the media sponsor in 1993 and has helped spread the word about this popular holiday tradition ever since.

In 1995, the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority came aboard as co-sponsor and the name of the event changed to the “Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla.” The East Carteret High School Chorus provided Christmas carols on the Beaufort boardwalk and the judges were in the North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Watercraft Center, with the Awards Party at the Museum.

It was in 1995 that the art by Joe Purifoy was first used on the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla program and is still used to this day. Eastern Offset Printing has provided ongoing printing services as a sponsor.

In 1996, proceeds from the Flotilla started going to support the Junior Sailing Program administered by the Friends of the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Proceeds from the Flotilla over the past 20+ years will top $35,000 in 2017.

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