Bring Out Another Thousand

There is never, ever, a logical reason to have a boat.

WP_20140727_18_31_31_ProBoats are expensive, and if they aren’t they are broken, and need expensive repairs. You need special training to know the navigation, language, and other magic of boat-shit to use a boat. The toilet is called a head. it clogs if you look at it funny. A flat tire is called “sinking”. Everything is trying to kill you or empty your wallet. Everyone on the water is a drunken asshole, with maniacal jet skis swarming about just waiting to lose control and punch a hole in your hull.

But that’s just the cynical view. Mostly true of course, but cynical.

I love boats.

My family had a boat when I was young, not an uncommon thing his the Seattle area. Our first boat was a typical 20-something foot fiberglass Bayliner. It was nice, got pulled about on a trailer, and we dropped it into the lake for the weekend. That was fun, but not so memorable. After my parents divorced, my dad lived on a larger boat for a while. This was a 42 foot Grand Banks type of boat. Wooden decks and rails. A big, slow diesel engine. Multiple rooms and compartments beneath decks. This was the first boat that I drove, and I spent a lot of time on it.

We took longer and longer trips. I learned how to drive, dock, and tie lines. We navigated the Ballard Locks out to the Puget Sound on the way to Shilshole Marina, Blake Island and many other destinations. I always loved the locks, and still do. You pull into the locks, and the lockmasters direct you where to go. Boats stack alongside each other in an aquatic game of tetris, filling the lock. The bells sound when the gates close, and soon you are wrestling with lines to keep the boats from bouncing around as the currents of the escaping or filling water move you about. The gates open on the other side, the water close to level, but never perfect. Currents reverse and swirl as everything comes into balance, and the lockmasters shout down to start moving out. Lines are tossed from boat to boat, engines fire and you head through the gates, under the railway, and out the channel into the sound.

It never gets old.

Now our family has our own boat. We have a 33 foot, twin engine Carver from the late 70’s. It’s big, and slow. I regularly have to go below decks to replace parts that have worn, but the technology is so old that I can do almost everything myself. One engine is rebuilt, the other is overdue for the same. I have a full set of manuals and schematics, so I can work out what is wrong with a flashlight and a multimeter. The engines are Ford and use parts from a Mustang. It is a fiberglass boat, but has just enough wood trim to not look too modern. It is an old Cabin Cruiser design, with the controls on the upper deck, and a full cabin below. Long windows look out from the cabin, so we have views when we motor about the lakes.

Our best summer times are just floating in the sun. Sometimes we anchor, sometimes we find hidden docks along the edge of the lake. You can be right next to where you go every day, but when you arrive by the water it feels like another world. Life and business on the water is different than on land, especially in a city like Seattle. Seattle has a long history as a port town, but also an interesting history in the lakes. Lake Washington is connected to Lake Union via the Montlake Cut. When this cut was created, the lakes weren’t the same level. The cut dropped Lake Washington nine feet.  Two islands became peninsulas. The city built the Hiram M. Chittenden locks in Ballard, and cut from Lake Union to Salmon Bay. Marine traffic could now move from the ocean, to Puget Sound, thorough the locks and up into the inland waterways. This was completed in 1917. It completely shaped our city.

You can drive around the lakes and bridges in the Seattle area, and you see the upscale restaurants, marinas, and parks on the water. Do the same from the water and you see neighborhoods of floating homes and liveaboard boats. Some in the organized marinas, others in little side moorages sandwiched between industrial boat docks and shipyards. Pleasure boats cruise alongside commercial traffic. Seaplanes swoop just feet over your boat and land behind you in the crowded water. The view of the city feels older, like being back in time.

P1030097We do have to deal with some really ignorant and awful boat owners on the lake. This weekend is Seafair, which is the big airshow and Hydroplane races on the south end of Lake Washington. The event is amazing, but it brings out the worst of the worst, and now we just avoid it. We spent Seafair on out boat, away from the events. We had Lake Union to ourselves. We know a public dock in Ballard near the Locks, and went there to cook and swim. We sat and enjoyed the sun. A few planes form the airshow buzzed over our heads. We had no crowds on our cruise back to the dock, and stayed at the dock until the sun went down.

Boating isn’t about the boat. It’s the escape away with your family and friends. It’s a different view of your area and environment. And it is well worth the time spent under decks and in a stinky bilge. The reward more than beats the cost for me.