Update for 2019: the Unofficial Topsail Flotilla will be merging with the Greater Topsail Flotilla & Christmas Market. But keep reading for the history of the Unofficial Topsail Flotilla!
Usually the holiday flotillas in North Carolina are grand affairs. Not any person on a boat can throw tinsel on the bow and join the flotilla. There is paperwork, insurance, licenses. Flotillas can’t just sell sail on their own, that would be chaos. Committees form to keep everything legitimate. The bureaucracy can be a drag,
The catch is that Surf City and Topsail Beach used to be the home of pirates. Pirates don’t concern themselves with red tape! That fierce independence guides the unofficial Topsail Island Holiday Lighted Boat Flotilla, presented by no one and sponsored by sea mist.
The Friday after Thanksgiving they set out at sunset. A rag-tag fleet, some are shining with Christmas lights more brightly than others but all of them are full of holiday cheer. More than one captain might have the idea to dress up as Santa. That’ll take some explaining to the kids. There is no contest, no one committed to counting the votes if there were one. No one is in competition or defending a title. The only participants are people who are simply happy to be there.
The information that is written down about the Topsail Flotilla names as many places to not watch the parade as it does good vantage points. Good: Assembly Building. Bad: Surf City’s Soundside Park. The flotilla disembarks at the residential development of Channel Bend and conclude their route at the southern end of Topsail Beach.
This year in particular might have a sparse showing. Hurricane Florence might have left the news cycle but it hasn’t left Topsail entirely yet. The Luther’s were the unofficial Topsail Flotilla directors but lost their boat, the Belle of Topsail, in the storm. David Gardner of the Queen Jean, an unofficial director in past years, only knows of himself and another boat who will be participating.
There will not be vendors or shopping. Santa will not be posing for pictures with children or pets. But if you find yourself at the Assembly Building at Topsail Beach on November 23rd around 6:00 pm, keep your eyes out on the sound. Even pirates can get into the holiday spirit when the season permits.