Seattle has had a longtime love affair with water."/>
Seattle has had a longtime love affair with water. We are surrounded by it on basically all sides, and the first settlers in this area--of Scandinavian descent--moved here so that they could continue and capitalize on their well-honed trade of fishing. Thus, boats and all else that floats are many up here, and boating is a treasured pastime.
We have had, since 1950 or so, an annual summertime event here called simply Seafair. If you have grown up in this area, you will most likely associate Unlimited Hydroplanes with Seafair. Those of us who were indeed raised here collectively keep an almost mythological place saved somewhere in our souls for the Hydro (for those of you outside this area, a Hydroplane is a boat that skims across the top of the water. An Unlimited Hydroplane is a REALLY fast fucking boat that skims across the top of the water).
On the first weekend of each August are the big Seattle Cup boat races, and these races always attract a massive crowd.
I remember when I was a kid, a boat called the Miss Bardahl crashed and disintegrated on Lake Washington during a race. I was probably about 5 or 6 when this happened, and some of my first memories are of some of the older kids in the neighborhood bringing little pieces of the hydro back home from expeditions to different shores on the lake.
Later on, I picked the Miss Atlas Van Lines as my boat to root for, and a prized possession was a wall poster of that circa-'70s hydro. I was totally cool!
A big event that coincides with the week of the boat race is the Blue Angels dominating the air in and around Seattle. They torment the neighborhoods with their deafening loudness, and snarl traffic because the bridges have to close as certain times--but I am pretty sure that all of Seattle would not have it any other way.
But Seattle would not be Seattle, and Seafair would not be the same, if there wasn't a bit of quirkiness involved. My favorite piece of quirk is the Milk Carton Derby on Greenlake. Some hippie in the early '70s thought it'd be a good idea to fashion an ersatz hydroplane out of milk cartons and "race" it around Greenlake. A sudden craze and event were instantly spawned. If you notice milk cartons being absent from houses' recycling bins come February or so, the Milk Carton Derby is the reason why.
The Seafair Pirates add a great bit of nautical dirtiness to the whole month of July leading up to the boat races on Lake Washington. From their landing on Alki in early July to the end of Seafair in August, I don't think these pirates see a sober day. I got an offer to be a "pirate for a day" this year, but to be honest, those guys kind of scare me. Wikipedia claims that the pirates " . . . cause perennial objection to their prominent involvement in the festivities" because of their loud and often raucous buffoonery, but that "most people who enjoy Seafair see them as an essential part of it."
The Torchlight Parade is a great event for the whole family, but the only time I actually went was in my punk-rock days. My buddy Ed was getting on one of the Seafair princesses. Yep.
So to sum this whole piece up, shall I ask you all if you have a favorite boat or favorite Seafair memory? Were you ever a pirate or Seafair princess? Did you ever enter the Milk Carton Derby? Do you remember Pat O'Day? Are you glad we kept the radio part local with KJR's erstwhile Mike "Gas-man" Gastineau calling the races?
Keep your head down, here comes another low-flying Blue Angel!