Make smart DOCK decorating decisions

Make smart DOCK decorating decisions

Decorations are a fun part of the holiday season and for those living on or around the water, decorating boat docks has become part of the tradition.

Whether you and your family have decorated the boat dock for years, or this is your first time extending your decorations that far from the Christmas tree, there are important safety precautions worth remembering when working around water. 


Bringing a bunch of festive items to an area surrounded by water can lead to mishaps if one is not careful. Not every strand of holiday lights are meant to endure the weather.

Lights are labeled for indoor or outdoor use and it’s important to distinguish between then two when placing décor. When packing up lights at the end of the season, be sure to label whether they are indoor or outdoor lights for next year as indoor and outdoor lights are similar in appearance. The same goes for extension cords. Ensure each extension cord is outdoor rated, whether if it’s for lights against the house, or to run lights out to a boat dock.

Don’t forget about the outdoor lights on days the weather forecast is calling for rain. An easy way to protect a light display is to cover the lights, whether with a tarp or garbage bag.

Unplug and turn off a light display if the weather looks bad.  Outdoor light displays plugged into outlets inside the home or garage do not guarantee they are safe from the outdoor elements. Check for leaks or pooling water in the case of rain or snow. Also, don’t plug lights in outlets with heavy indoor-outdoor foot traffic as that may be where umbrellas, heavy coats, rain boots or children track in water. 

Homeowners can avoid much of the struggle by investing in decorations fit with solar lights. Solar lights are always an alternative to help keep that electrical bill low and avoid any potential disaster with electrical cords. Designed to go outside, there’s less cause for concern with solar lights around precipitation. 

Tinsel, glitter and bows are great for indoors, but once dragged to a boat dock, the items have the potential to pollute our drinking water. The fish are using moss and rocks to decorate their havens and aren’t interested in pollutants. Secure your decorations properly so they don’t blow off into the water or fall into the reservoir. However, when fastening lights, take care not to attach them in any way that could damage the cord’s insulation.

Family and friends may not be used to traveling along the boat dock when they visit. So ensure strands of lights or other holiday decorations are not placed as obstacles for those visiting for the holidays. An unexpected trip into the water by children or adults could be fatal.  


The holiday season brings family and friends together in what’s supposed to be a joyous occasion. Help make that possible with some of these tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International:

  • Inspect all lights, decorations, and extension cords for damage before using.
  • Make sure spotlights used to illuminate decorations are well-ventilated, protected from weather, and a safe distance from flammable items.
  • Inspect ladders for loose or missing screws, hinges, bolts, and nuts before using.
  • Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when decorating outdoors.  Metal ladders conduct electricity.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.

Maybe you want to go a little farther and decorate the boat as well. Just remember a lot of the same concepts still apply. 

Boat US recommends you look at your boat and build on its strengths. While choosing decorations, ensure the displays don’t affect the boat's performance and overall stability. Don't decorate in a way that interferes with safe boat operation.

“Be careful not to obscure your navigation lights. Don't decorate so bright lights fall within the skipper's line of sight, as that will destroy his or her night vision, and designate someone to stay out of the glare who can keep watch for obstructions and help navigate,” according to Boat USA.

Stay safe this holiday season.