Boats 1

The sixties and seventies was a confusing time for me living in Seattle, the boating capital of the Northwest, and maybe even America. We had so many boating choices and opportunities that it was mind-boggling. For instance, I was attending the University of Washington in the early sixties. The UW campus fronted on both Lake Washington’s Union Bay and Portage Bay. My three roommates and I lived on one of a dozen, rental houseboats tied to a rickety floating walkway on Lake Union just around the point and south of Portage Bay. The rent was twenty-five dollars a month, cash. We split that three ways. It was hardly a house or a boat. It was a two-room, fishing cabin mounted on a dozen cedar logs strapped together with cable. We had power, telephone and water service, but no sewer. The toilet, tub, and sink emptied directly into the lake. Things were a little primitive, and an eclectic collection of beatniks and free spirits populated our poor, but happy, vibrant neighborhood.


Our houseboat was on Lake Union to the left of the 5.

I had a sixteen-foot sailboat, the Wild Goose II, which I bought for a hundred-eighty dollars and fixed up. It was tied up to a couple of fir logs at my back door. When the weather was decent, we often headed out into Lake union with a couple of girls and a case or Rainier beer after classes.

IMG_5147  The Wild Goose II was similar to this sailboat

I’ll never forget the afternoon we climbed aboard the Wild Goose II and set sail. There was enough wind to zip along comfortably in and out of the boat and seaplane traffic. However, I knew that the wind would typically die down in the late afternoon, so I knew I needed to be back before that occurred. On the way back, the wind just quit when we were about a quarter of a mile from home. However, we continued to party, and toss our empties overboard, knowing some good-hearted boater would eventually come along and give us a tow. That’s how it was back in the day.

I was surprised when the wail of a siren interrupted our happy little party. It was the Harbor Patrol in their new inflatable thirty-four-footer. A very young officer raised his bullhorn and demanded that we heave-to. I didn’t know how I was going to do that since we weres becalmed and just drifting. However, just to go along with the officer, I hollered, “Aye, aye, Skipper, Sir!”

Despite the fact that we were only a few yards apart, he continued to address us through his bullhorn. He demanded to know if the trail of empty beer bottles that led him here came from our vessel? In his sternest voice, he bellowed at no one in particular, “You have created a threat to navigation, and that is a serious matter.” My roommate, Johnny Be Good, a little drunk, rose to his feet and denied that the bottles were ours, and belligerently demanded to see the officer’s identification. Just then, the wake of a passing boat rocked us, and Johnny fell overboard. Parker and I quickly dragged him, sputtering and coughing, back aboard.

The officer looked puzzled, and demanded, “Who is the skipper of this vessel? Identify yourself immediately!” I cheerfully raised my hand and announced with a big smile, “That would be me, Captain.” Elizabeth giggled. The officer frowned and fell silent as he contemplated what to do with us. I overheard the first mate, an older sailor, say to him, “This stop is a little overzealous. If you charged these kids with creating a threat to navigation, our report would make you look ridiculous, and possibly influence your career.” The young officer nodded and ordered his coxswain to move on. I pushed my luck and asked for a tow as they were backing away. I was surprised when the first mate grinned and tossed me a line. When he cut us loose close to the house, I gave the first mate my best John Wayne salute, which he returned.