Seattle considers itself the boating capital of the world. And it should be, with 200 miles of shoreline on Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Union and Green Lake. If you need proof, come to the Opening Day of Boating Season on Saturday, May 3rd. An annual tradition since 1920, the festival is sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club, with a 2008 theme of “A Three Ring Circus.” The highlights of the day are the Windermere Cup crew races, which pit the University of Washington crew against crews from Australia, Poland, and the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Grand Parade, in which over 100 boats and yachts, many decorated, make a procession through the Ship Canal from Portage Bay to Lake Washington. Boaters can tie up to the log boom, while landlubbers line the shores of the Montlake Cut to watch the action. Also on the agenda for the day are a dragon boat exhibition race, a U.S. Navy band concert, and a U.S. Army drill platoon performance.
To help you get on the water yourself this summer, there are local organizations for every kind of boater – Seattle Yacht Club and Queen City Yacht Club, Seattle Sailing Club and Sail Sand Point, Lake Union Crew Rowing Club and Lake Washington Rowing Club, Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club and Washington Kayak Club, and for traditionalists, the Center for Wooden Boats. Look for my wife and I to be renting canoes from the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center. And the season culminates in the Seafair Hydroplane Races on Lake Washington on August 1-3.
Or to see the city from a different perspective, try riding the Washington State Ferries across Puget Sound, or the Elliott Bay Water Taxi from Downtown to West Seattle (summer and fall only), or taking a cruise on the last of the Mosquito Fleet, the Virginia V. History buffs may be interested in the fact that this 1921 vessel is one of only two operating steam-powered, wooden hull passenger ships surviving in the United States today.
Your neighborhood library has books on Northwest boating for you to check out, such as the Afoot and Afloat series by Marge Mueller, Boatless in Seattle: Getting on the Water in Western Washington Without Owning a Boat by Susan Muller Hacking, A Cruising Guide to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands by Migael Scherer, Kayaking Puget Sound, the San Juans, and Gulf Islands by Randel Washburne, Paddle Routes of Western Washington by Verne Huser, and Watertrail: The Hidden Path through Puget Sound by Joel Rogers.
And the library has you covered if you’re doing more extensive research on boats, too. The Ballard Branch has a Marine Collection, including books about boat building, design, repair, prices, and navigation, live-aboard and cruising guides, and the history of the boating and fishing industries. Also look there for magazines, such as Northwest Yachting, Pacific Fishing, Practical Sailor, and Wooden Boat. And the Central Library has an extensive Boat File, consisting of an index to boat plans and articles appearing in boating magazines and books in the library’s collection going all the way back to the early 1900s.