Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seattle From the Other Side

On Sunday Ian and I took the day, and our boat, and L&S (I told you S and I were still friends—I truly have recovered from the 8th-grade-underpants-as-a-birthday-gift-in-algebra debacle) and went through the locks and into Elliot Bay. Ian had asked to go through the locks and up the Duwamish River for his birthday, and as it is next weekend and we're attending the wedding of some dear friends in central California, we had our adventure this last weekend instead.

It was spectacular from start to finish. First of all, it was a misty morning, with thick gray clouds hanging just over the surface of the water. Hints of buildings and other boats, the bridges, and golden fall trees showed through the mist from time to time, somehow making us feel even more alone. L kept saying it all looked post-apocalyptic. It really did, except the mist smelled of saltwater and not burning buildings and other disturbing things.

S had been through the locks a few times with my family when we were kids; she remembered my dad saying that locks time was "no nonsense" time. Don't joke with him, don't play around, and jump to obey if he issues an order. Locks time was no nonsense time for us, too, but with much less stress. We went through the big lock, as the small lock is still under repair from some damage that happened to one of the doors this summer, but as we were almost the smallest boat, we rafted on to other larger boats and didn't have to be in charge of minding the lines as we floated up or down. On our way out to sea, the smallest boat in the lock was a dinghy about 10 feet long with a 9 horse engine. The guy could almost have just portaged it around.

The first thing we noticed once getting through to salt water was that the mist over the salt water was much rawer and colder. We gassed up at Shilshole, then ran around the point of Discovery Park and through the middle of Elliot Bay to the Duwamish. It was pretty neat to see all the industry up and down the Duwamish—marinas and ship builders/repairers (a small ferry in a dry dock); tug boat companies; cranes hovering over docks where container ships come in; the (now pretty ramshackle) building that used to house the marina office of the now non-existent dry dock where we stored a childhood boat; a barge on its way to Alaska stacked high with containers and a couple trucks on top including a cement truck; a metal scrap yard; a cement factory; a couple of dilapidated houses and some cute ones; two or three bald eagles; several riverside pocket parks. We went up past the South Park Marina to an unknown marina, then decided without a depth finder we'd best turn back around and see sea again.

We then had lunch in West Seattle, then sped over to Blake Island, where we circumnavigated the island (saw a couple sea lions), then moored for a pit stop. While we were there, the daily Argosy tour boat departed, then returned 10 minutes later to pick up two last stragglers, then departed again. In the summer, if you miss your boat it usually doesn't matter, as there are several sailings a day. But in the off season, the next sailing is a week away. And Ian, poor guy, was shat upon by a cormorant high up in a tree.

The fog had burned off by lunchtime, and the wind was mostly calm, so we sped pretty much directly back to Shilshole and the locks on our way home. We did encounter an interesting (read: would've been bad to go over on a plane at 35mph) wave formation: a section of water that looked like it was full of big boxes, from the juxtaposition of a ferry wake crossing a container ship wake.

My overall impressions were these: The lakes are very safe, and very domestic. Seattle and the neighborhoods surrounding Lake Washington and Lake Union look tamed and posh. But immediately upon arriving in salt water, the whole tenor of the city changes. There's a wildness, a grittiness to Seattle as seen from sea. It's connected to the rest of the world—there is nothing but your own good sense keeping you from heading straight across the Pacific to Japan. The water felt different, too. I can't say I could tell a difference in the buoyancy of the boat, but it did respond to a lot more kinetic energy than will even be in Lake Washington. Lake Washington is either turbulent from boat traffic or from wind; Elliot Bay has both those things (and the wind can be quite bad over such a wide expanse of even inland water), but it also has currents. Currents affect the way you dock, the way you drive, the way wakes and wind waves come at you. It's very exciting, and we were thrilled with our day. To see some pictures (Ian took about 500 but he's culled quite a bit so don't worry), go to Ian's photo page. Did I mention it was cold?

All in all, it was a relatively inexpensive birthday present, costing us only about $60 in fuel for the day (L bought the lunch) . . . until today, when the price doubled after Ian replaced the bed that Hoover ate—evidently all over the back yard—while we were gone for 9 ½ hours. Sigh.

1 comment:

Andrienne said...

I'm finally back! Took all of this time to get my e-mail hooked up!!! Looks like I have a lot of reading to catch up with your prolific writing - all my love