Lighting Up the Holidays

Where does the only Earth-friendly, $1-a-fill-up fuel in Annapolis come from?

The nearest electrical outlet.

As long as the power cord is long enough, Sally Koch, owner of SJ Koch Duffy Electric Boats, can run not only her boats but also as many electrical appliances as captain and crew can operate.

Power like that comes in especially handy when the “living room on water” — Koch’s name for her quiet, comfortable fleet — glides through the 28th annual Eastport Parade of Lights, December 11 in Annapolis Harbor, where the brighter the boat the better.

Koch’s green team is upping the environmental ante as they prepare Kristen Soars, the red-hulled boat in the Annapolis fleet of three, for their second Parade of Lights.

Michael Julian and Sally Koch aboard one of their Duffy Electric Boats.

Solar-powered and electric-friendly LED lights cover the canvas top.

“Last year there were lights everywhere, and all these people were watching,” Koch says. “It’s a neat way to bring the holidays in, so this year we’re adding even more.”

“We’ll use the boat’s plug for some of the lights, like the blue icicles around the top,” says Koch’s nephew Michael Julian, who — with brothers Matthew and Derek Julian — helps run the company.

“We’re going to use an inverter to make the cigarette lighter another outlet for even more lights,” Julian says. “So the whole boat will be covered.”

Sponsoring Eastport Yacht Club offers prizes for boats in a variety of sizes, power sources and themes, including Best Illumination, Best Animation, Best Holiday Spirit and Best New Boat.

Kristen Soars — and a second electric boat under separate ownership — should qualify for powerboats — as well as ingenuity and artistry — prizes.

Koch would love Kristen Soars, named for daughter Kristen Sohr, who died young, to win a prize. But there’s more motivating her and the parade’s other 33 entrants than glory.

“The parade is a nice way to show people our boats and have fun at the same time,” Michael says. He and brother Matthew dedicated three hours in 43-degree weather to decorating the 20-footer. 

As well as a canopy of lights, there’ll be a windsurfing penguin and stockings, wreaths, an electric red ribbon and a star on top.

For businesswoman Koch, joining the parade is also, she says, “important from a community standpoint as a way to give back.”

SJ Koch rents and sells Duffy Electric Boats in three harbor locations: Annapolis, Washington and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor East. Boats rent by the hour; drivers need no experience except for a 30- to 45-minute orientation to the boat and the rules of the water.

“I think it’s the time for a boat like this,” says Koch, who imported her fleet from California. “It’s such a perfect boat.”

One of the perfect features for winter is the heater, powered by the boat’s stored electricity. The 12-person parade crew is sure to enjoy that warmth as they cruise Annapolis harbor on a chilly December night.

The Duffy’s electric power system does more than light the lights and heat the boat, with the 48-volt electric engine requiring no gas or oil. The battery, with a charge that lasts up to 10 hours at the Duffy’s top speed of six miles an hour, emits no harmful waste.

Compare this to a motorboat powered by an outboard engine: in just one hour, the motorboat emits about as much waste as a car driving 800 miles.

You can’t miss the usually quiet Duffy on parade night. It will be shouting its stuff with its theme song: “Electric Boogie.”

You can’t see it
It’s electric!
You gotta feel it
It’s electric!