Monday, March 7, 2011

Land Locked Sailors Head West…

This is a long winter in the Pacific NW. Especially here, in NE Washington, it feels even longer than many other areas as we still have several inches of concrete-like snow in the mountain valley’s. So it was with pleasant anticipation we recently packed our bags for a westbound trip over the Cascade Mountains and onto the snowless, coastal plains to visit the village of Seattle. Okay, I’ll concede that for the most part Seattle, with over 582,000 folks, passed the village mark sometime ago. Still there are village like qualities to Washington’s most populace city.
This is a rendered image from two of my photographs. The foreground is a portion of
one of two cedar totem poles, designed by Victor Steinbrueck and carved by
James Bender in 1984.

While we may think of the founding of Seattle as the arrival of the Denny Party in 1851 the area has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period approximately 8,000 years ago. When nautical explorers first arrived the indigenous peoples, now called the Duwamish Tribe, were living in several villages scattered over the coastal plains where Seattle is located. My partner Catherine and I appreciate the very active native culture within the current mosaic of peoples in the greater Seattle area.

One of the things making this trip to the coast special is that a friend arranged for our party to spend our week in residence in a downtown condo located on Alaskan Way overlooking Elliott Bay. As sailors this was a near perfect match of shore-side accommodations with fantastic access to the waterfront.

A view from the Alaskan Way condo looking into Bell Harbor Marina
- photo J. Foster Fanning

While our arrival was marked with a big late winter thunder front, complete with heavy winds, driving rain and pockets of hail, it was only a matter of hours before the late afternoon sun made an appearance and coaxed us into an evening walk up to the Pike Place Market.

Seattle is a unique community. Here are some interesting facts about the Emerald City...

Seattle is ranked the most literate city by Central Conn. State Univ. Everybody reads here. The Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country.

Seattle was the first American city to put police on bicycles. Seattle has the highest percentage of people riding bikes to work compared to other US cities its size.

In 1961, the restaurant atop the Space Needle became the country's first revolving eatery.

Seattle's total land area? 53,718 acres of which 6,189 acres are parks and open areas. That's 11.52%! The parks in Seattle rock. The Port of Seattle parks in town are hidden gems awaiting discovery.

And last but not least...

The Farmer's Market at Pike Place Market is the longest continuously operating farmer's market in the US (1907). So speaking of the Pike Place Market...

Pike Place Market with a partial view of downtown Seattle skyline.
Photo J. Foster Fanning
 My first visit to the market was in 1969, not long after my arrival in Washington State. What a delightful experience the Market was then and remains so now. The market is a destination unto itself. And our temporary abode was just four flights of outdoor stairs below the market. It was a fun experience hiking up to this unique landmark each day.

Pike Place Market overlooks the waterfront in downtown Seattle. Its a place of business for many small farmers, merchants, craft folks, street musicians and peddlers. Also known as the Public Market it remains one of Seattle's most popular destinations and sees 10 million visitors annually.

Built on the edge of a steep hill the Market consists of multiple levels located below the main street entrance. Each layer features a variety of unique shops and stalls. Antique dealers, family-owned cafes, pubs, restaurants and vendors of the unusual and sometimes arcane give a somewhat third world feel to this unique market.

A tidy looking pilothouse seen at the Bell Harbor Marina.
Photo J. Foster Fanning

Our lodging is on the fourth floor over-looking the Bell Harbor Marina, which bills itself as “Seattle's only downtown recreational marina.” Situated at Bell Street Pier #66, boaters can tie up amid Seattle's main waterfront that includes easy access to Pike Place Market, Seattle Center The Space Needle, and Aquarium. The marina offers accommodations for approximately 70 boats, 30 to 150 feet. Guest moorage is available year-round.
Pier 66, Bell Harbor Marina and the waterfront condos.
Photo J. Foster Fanning

Later during one second day on the Elliott Bay waterfront the HMCS ALGONQUIN (DDG 283) a Canadian air defence destroyer arrived on Pier 66. A bit of on-line research revealed this ship was built in the 1970s, early in the 1990s it was extensively converted and refitted with sophisticated anti-air weapons systems, an improved propulsion plant, and advanced weapons and communications systems. The advanced communications capability combined with extra accommodations make ALGONQUIN sophisticated command and control platform. In peacetime, ALGONQUIN can employ its high-tech systems for a variety of missions, from search and rescue to fisheries and sovereignty patrols. The vessel's homeport is Esquimalt, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.
HMCS ALGONQUIN approaching Pier 66. Photo J. Foster Fanning

Above I mentioned the influence of our native population on the Seattle area but the influence extends across the much greater geo-political area of the Pacific Northwest. The name ALGONQUIN means "At the place of spearing fish and eels" . Its name was connected to a First Nations People who ranged throughout a territory from Georgian Bay in the West, to the St. Maurice River in the East and who made their living by hunting and fishing.

M/V WENATCHEE on an evening sail approaching Seattle waterfront.
Photo J. Foster fanning
Third day, whilst Catherine, Clementine and Lacey worked with the Burke Museum, I met a friend who purchased a home near Port Madison a few years back and invited me out for a tour. We boarded the WA State ferry, M/V Wenatchee, for a short cruise to Bainbridge Island. “Wenatchee” is derived from the Yakima word wenatchi for "river flowing from canyon." In their journal Lewis and Clark mentioned the word “Wenatchee” during their travels through the Columbia River valley in 1803-1805. In our case the M/V Wenatchee is a Jumbo Mark II, 460' 2" Auto/Passenger Ferry with a 90’ beam, 16,000 hp engines that can push the vessel along at 18 knots. The draft is 17’3” and it carries a maximum of 2,500 passengers, 202 vehicles. Not only was it a sunny crossing but we fetched along side a regatta rounding a small islet south of the entrance to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.
Regatta rounding the mark off Bainbridge Island March 5th, 2011. Photo by J. Foster Fanning
Sunday morning found our party at the doors of the Seattle Aquarium, as soon-to-be-members of this fine establishment. The next few hours were spent touring the 7th largest Aquarium in the U.S. by attendance (Puget Sound region's 3rd largest paid visitor attraction). The Aquarium opened it’s doors in 1977 and has expanded ever since hosting over 20 million visitors since it’s grand opening.
Tide pool, Seattle Aquarium. Photo J. Foster Fanning

The invitation from a couple of other sailors led us to the Palisades inside the break-waters of Elliot Bay Marina on Sunday afternoon. And what a fine afternoon it was starting out in the sunshine on the southern deck of the establishment with a good glass of wine and a perfect view overlooking several hundred moored vessels. Soon our hosts arrived from an overnighter on their beautiful 38’ vessel and we joined them aboard for refreshments and conversation of the boating lifestyle.

Elliott Bay Marina from the deck of the Palisades.
Photo by J. Foster Faining

While we may not have trimmed a sail or set a course, or even traveled across the water, except for a ferry ride, a visit to Seattle’s waterfront goes a long way toward sating that dreaded ‘cabin fever’ and giving us hope that the winter tarps will soon be off our vessel and we will be under way again. See you out there…

Our hosts ~ Deborah and Marty aboard THREE SHEETS NW. Photo J. Foster Fanning

"Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkien