Riding the waves to West Seattle

One of the best (and most inexpensive) joy rides in town is zipping seven minutes across the water on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi.

For the past year, the Admiral Pete (borrowed from Argosy Cruises) has hauled asses seven days a week between Pier 54 (a french fry's throw from Ivar's) and Alki's Seacrest dock (a Stratoliner's toss from Salty's). Navigating among giant container ships, sailing regattas, and struggling baby orcas, it's the best two bucks you'll ever spend.

Started in 1997 as a three-month test project that Greg Nickels will take full credit for (actually, in this case, he deserves it), the Water Taxi ran for another three-month quickie in '98, then was docked till last year due to messed-up transit priorities (can you say light rail?). Last summer, the boat carried about 30,000 passengers a month.

The boat itself has an indoor cabin (max. capacity 82), though the best ride is right up front, blowin' in the wind and sucking salty air into the lungs. Ask the captain a few minutes after he leaves port if he'll let you stand on the bow—it really is invigorating as hell.

Stepping off the Water Taxi onto Alki Beach, voyagers can imagine what it must have been like for Arthur Denny and his party on Nov. 13, 1851, as they hopped off their yacht, the Exact, and onto the backs of the Native Americans who lived there, claiming Seattle for their very own. But today, instead of tepees and potlatches, current trading posts rent bikes, blades, and scuba equipment. (The K2 in-line skate rental shack is next to Alki Auto). Alki Beach also sports volleyball, kite flying, kayaks, and the rarity of actual sandy shores (think Venice Beach without the pollution, hippies, or T-shirt sales), not to mention the new Duke's Chowder House and the Liberty Deli (a dinner theater—in West Seattle!). Beware of having too much fun—last boat leaves at 7 p.m. weekdays and around 11 p.m. on Fridays and weekends.

While King County Council member Dow Constantine (dow.constantine@metrokc.gov) is scrambling to make the Water Taxi a full-time gig (he recently secured funding through the summer), his chances seem about as likely as Ryan Leaf winning the Pulitzer. So hurry up and jump on the boat wagon while the idea still floats. Like most great public initiatives in this town (the Commons, Hempfest, and soon the monorail initiative), people will find out only too late that they've missed out.

For Water Taxi times go to www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/tp/watertaxi/fact.htm or call 205-3866. Price is $2 each way and includes a bus transfer. Bicycles are allowed on board at no extra charge.

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