Thousands of us who live in the Marina and thousands more from miles around come to the Marina to see the annual boat parade in Marina del Rey. But very few remember the first boat parade in Marina del Rey. When that first boat parade circled the Marina’s main basin in 1963 there were approximately 100 boats in the Marina and almost no buildings. Twenty of the hundred boats entered the parade.
Margie and Steve Bragg were among the first hundred Marina del Rey Boat owners who formed Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Association. They and the other charter members decided to have a boat parade “because the harbor had nothing at the time,” Margie remembered. “We thought it was a good idea, and the county was delighted. Our boat parade would advertise the Marina when nobody wanted to come here.
“The Marina had just opened and had no breakwater, no nothing except a few docks. And very few boat owners.” “In those days, the surge was so strong that it was frightening,” Margie remembered, referring to the waves of water that would come roaring into the unprotected Marina del Rey harbor, damaging berthed boats. “There were times when it threw boats up on the docks — or threw the docks up in the air and down onto the boats. Sometimes we’d all grab axes we kept handy to cut the dock lines quickly before our boats were beaten under the docks. Then we’d all anchor out in the middle till it calmed down. We were a very close group and we had dinners ashore and sometimes dinner dances at our home.”
At that time, the Braggs lived ashore and had just finished building a 47-foot trimaran that Steve designed. The Tres Leis (Three Leis) was built in their own shop, with professional help from Arthur Piver, a multihull designer, since lost at sea. “Our trimaran was ideal for a Christmas parade float – a 47-by-24-foot platform. All of us got excited about a boat parade, regardless of the size boat.”
“In the beginning, we walked the docks to get parade entries. We asked for a two-dollar donation. I remember talking to a man who wanted to enter but he didn’t have any money and I was so anxious to see his boat in the parade that I offered him the $2 entry fee.”
“What fun it was! Everyone chipped in — and worked!” Donations from merchants and hard work by boat owners put the boat parades together. “For the first few years,” Margie says, “each parade might have cost us $50 or $60. In fact, it may have been less. Everything but printing the entry form was done by donation, and the printer gave us a nice low price on the entry forms.”
“There was only one restaurant open in the Marina when we had the first boat parade. The Pieces O’ Eight was at the end of a little dirt road. It’s hard to believe now, but everyone in the Marina came — and there was room inside for all of us.”