The Big Bobber

Santa’s Sleigh, aka Big Bobber

He was to have had a place of honor aboard the ship, to soar with the stars, and be a shinning beacon of Christmas cheer. Alas, the winds could not carry him, nor could his tiny legs bear the turbulent waters. The Christmas Frog did not survive. Neither did the reindeer.

The End.

In search of Christmas shenanigans, and not just another dog in the manger photo bomb (though I’m quite sure there was a dog in the manger), I began to ponder what holiday adventures Henri and I should pursue. Scheduling being what it is this time of year, we couldn’t go far. As I racked my brain for something fun to do, I remembered hearing about a lighted boat parade on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. Consulting The Googles, I discovered that indeed there was a boat parade and this just happened to be the 25th anniversary.

Like the Grinch pondering Christmas in Whoville, I puzzled and puzzled ‘til my puzzler was sore. Surely I knew somebody, who knew somebody, who had a dog-friendly boat in that parade. As it turns out, I did. My buddy Marshall had a friend named Troy, who had a friend with a boat, and I finally scored with the crew of the Big Bobber!

Again, I say to you, “I love boat people!”

Regardless of where they’re from in the United States, they’re all friendly. Of course, Southern boat people are the friendliest (unapologetic bias) and when I found out the captain’s name was Jimmy, I knew we’d be OK. Henri and I have great luck with guys named Jimmy and boats.

Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum!

Ms. Claws & Santa Paws

Ms. Claws & Santa Paws

I made plans to meet Troy at a bar named Pickles. It was near Cherokee Yacht Club and Marina, where the parade staged, and Troy knew a short cut from there. Pickles doesn’t allow dogs, but it was just our meet-up place.

I arrived dressed in my Santa suit: skirt, vest, fishnet hose (Santa girls wear those), striped socks, and black boots. Henri had a hat.

After introducing ourselves- I was easy to spot- we headed to the marina.


The first thing we did was grab a drink at Hookers, the yacht club bar. They don’t allow dogs inside the bar area, but on nice days- it was 60 degrees- the windows open to create a bar with exterior seating.

With red solo cups in hand, we headed to the dock.

Costumed crews were putting the finishing touches on themed boats, as captains and first mates passed out Christmas goodies. I met the Big Bobber’s first mate, Stephanie, with a plate of cookies in her hands. Yes, I will have a Snickerdoodle. Thanks!

I would later discover a merry little concoction called ‘Jingle Juice’ made with Bud Light Cran-Brr-Rita and red moscato wine.

The Big Bobber was ‘dressed’ as Santa’s sleigh. Giant presents sat on the aft and the forward sported a team of flying reindeer. The crew was outfitted in Santa suits and/or gift wrapped like presents. Even the two dogs, Bikini and Bandit, were in costume. We fit right in!

Other decorative themes included a locomotive with real steam, Christmas Vacation with ‘Audrey’ passing out cat chow and drinking from a moose cup, Snoopy chasing the Red Baron, and the Polar Express.There was even a parasailing Santa.

This was a competition with a year’s worth of bragging rights and these guys were serious!

He's a ladies' man

Henri with the Polar Bear Girls

Somebody ditched their costume

Somebody ditched their costume










Every year the Cherokee Yacht Club and Marina members deck their boats in Christmas lights then cruise the lake spreading Christmas cheer. Crews spend weeks decorating and preparing. On the Friday night before the parade, the yacht club hosts a wine dinner for the captains and their first mates. After dinner, many of the crews return to the docks to put the finishing touches on their boats. The crew of the Big Bobber worked until 4 a.m. on Saturday morning.

With the celebration of the 25th Anniversary comes bigger and better. This year’s boat parade, filmed by Discover Oklahoma, was approximately 2 miles long with watch parties at various marinas and lake houses along the route, a bonfire watch party on the beach in Disney, and everyone shouting “Merry Christmas!” and cheering as their favorite boats passed. In addition to the boat parade, there is a land parade across the dam and every effort is made to time it so they pass simultaneously.

It was all fun and games until the cannon fired to start the parade. Poor Henri hit the deck, literally, and trembled for an hour. Then we lost a transmission. The Big Bobber, a 52’ Harbor Master, requires two transmissions but Jimmy is a good enough captain to make due with one. He got us situated and we brought up the rear.

Santa on sax.

Santa on sax.

As Santa began playing his saxophone and the crew began practicing carols for the judges, out came the Christmas Frog.

The Christmas Frog, named such by Heather, was a kite. The intention was to attach a lighted star to it and fly it over the boat. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough wind to fly the kite, much less the star, and the Christmas Frog met a watery death.

All was not lost, however. Stephanie held the star above Santa’s head as he played and it made an awesome photo prop.


As best I can tell, we cruised Grand Lake for almost three hours. You always loose time on the water, so who really knows?

Sometimes you loose your reindeer, too.

We were almost back to the marina when some unlit jackwagon in a speedboat came flying past us throwing a wake large enough to rock the Big Bobber and snap our reindeer pole. Seriously?! You didn’t see us?! Potty words. All of them. Fortunately, we’d already made it past the judges and TV cameras.

Once back at the dock, we all headed up to Hookers (I love that name for a marina bar) to celebrate another successful cruise and wait for the announcement of the winners. Santa played his sax as friends old and new hugged and sang.

You can check out the parade on KTUL Channel 8 Oklahoma on December 20th at 11:30 a.m., and on KSN Channel 16 Joplin, MO on December 21st at 5:00 p.m. Look for the winners. The Polar Express (Forever Young) took first place, and the Big Bobber took second with Santa’s Sleigh. I don’t know who won third because I stopped listening when we started celebrating.

Special thanks goes to Captain Jimmy and Stephanie for welcoming two strange pirates aboard their ship. Merry Christmas to Bikini and Bandit, and all your friends and crew!