James Dean Lucas is truly ready to launch at his second Christmas Ship Parade — but he's not talking about his 24-foot Bayliner, Cuddy.
This year, he plans to launch the merry old elf, Santa Claus.
Into the air. Over his boat. On a Harley.
The Christmas Ship Parade website at www.christmasships.org has routes, schedules and more information on the 59th annual event. The parade runs through Dec. 21.
"Last year, we had so much fun," The 45-year-old Vancouver native said. "We had friends and clients out there with us. It was a great time. So I want to ramp it up this year."
That said, there's no real danger to Kris Kringle.
Lucas' Santa is a big inflatable replica that will decorate his boat, "Aquahaulic."
For the 2012 parade, Lucas, a realtor and motorcycle enthusiast, created a display with Santa riding a Harley-Davidson on the deck of his boat. This year, Santa gets some Evel Knievel treatment.
"I'm trying to make it look like Santa is riding a Harley over my boat with a reflection of him across the water," Lucas said. "I've spent about $1,500 on it so far, but the kids eyes -- watching them peek out the windows and watch along the river, people waving and screaming? It's well worth it."
Knievel, who rode a Harley-Davidson XR-750 for several stunts, would probably approve of tantalizing the kids with a cool display.
And that's one of the things Lucas loves most about the parade, he said.
"It's for the kids, it's family oriented," Lucas said. "It's a wonderful Christmas season night for many people."
This year, the number of boats in the parade will remain steady, but next year, for the 60th anniversary, organizers hope many more participants will join in, said Doug Romjue, Columbia fleet leader.
The event started with just one sailboat in 1954 out of the Portland Yacht Club. It rapidly grew, and now there are usually 55-60 boats on the water. Those boats are split into two groups, one that travels along the Willamette River in Portland and the other that parades along both sides of the Columbia River.
As Columbia River fleet captain, Romjue leads about two-thirds of the fleet, with the other third heading to the Willamette. This year he's working with about 35 other captains on the Columbia, 11 of which are from Clark County, he said.
"That's almost a third," Romjue said. "That surprises me. That's good representation. There are some nice boats in there, too."
Some of the captains will use hand-me-down displays that Romjue stores from past events. Others have new ones that they create themselves.
This year's event should be fairly straight forward, but planning for the 60th is keeping him busy, Romjue said.
One thought for the 60th is to use some of the classic light displays that have been used over the event's history, he said.
This year, he's using an old display of a leaping gazelle that he considers a classic.
"It's probably going to be the only one that uses real Christmas light bulbs," Romjue said. "We have a lot of classic decorations in storage, so that could make the 60th very bright."