TREASURE ISLAND - Steve Wacker gathered up the youngsters, made sure the gates were zip-tied shut and then shoved off the dock.
"This is how we celebrate Christmas in Florida," the avid boater explained. "We decorate our boats and cruise the Intracoastal."
Wacker, whose Thunder Marine crew won last year's Treasure Island Boat Parade, takes the competition seriously.
"We have been decorating all day," Wacker said. "We live for this. We are a boating family. That is what we do."
Clad in flip flops and a loose, button-down shirt, Wacker didn't seem to mind the cool breeze drifting down the Intracoastal Waterway. There was plenty of popcorn, juice boxes and the kids were cranking up the karaoke.
Kicked back in a captain's chair, he honked the horn at a gang of boat parade groupies yelling his name from a nearby dock and then primed his crew for a big, loud holiday cheer.
"Here comes the judge boat," he whispered. "Now everybody yell 'Merry Christmas.' "
Party boat on salt
The 44-year-old St. Petersburg resident grew up on fishing boats, but in recent years the die-hard angler has turned his attention to a craft most don't associate with ocean use.
"I love my pontoon boat," said Wacker, who owns and operates a boat dealership on Tyrone Boulevard. "People used to think these were only for lakes and rivers, but today's pontoon boats are built for saltwater."
The advantage for families is the obvious room, comfort and stability a pontoon boat provides. These bulky boats are not known for their rough-water handling ability. But most parents don't want to take small children out on the water during a small craft advisory anyway.
Read more at http://www.tampabay.com/sports/outdoors/pontoon-boats-and-lighted-boat-parades-you-could-even-say-they-glow/1206483