We spent the last week in Seattle and had a great time! It’s a small city but as the birthplace of grunge and home to global companies such as Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon, it has a big city attitude. It is built on a series of hills so can be a bit challenging to cycle around but the metro and the bus system are very efficient and it was easy to get downtown from the Seattle Yacht Club on Union Lake where we were moored.
The Lake Washington Ship Canal connects Lake Washington and Lake Union to the Puget Sound and divides the city in two. The Canal is strewn with obstacles and passage through requires locks to be navigated and four bridges to be opened. One long blast and one short blast on the fog horn was the signal to get the bridge controllers attention. Then the bells would ring and the barriers go down, the traffic came to a halt and open sesame the bridge lifted. It felt great to have the power to stop traffic!
The Hiram Chittenden Locks consists of two locks in parallel and are used to raise vessels 6.3m from sea level to the water level of Lake Union. On the way in we went through the large lock which is an 80’ x 825’ green slimy box and takes about 15 minutes to fill with water. Once we were inside the attendants threw down messenger lines to take our mooring lines up to the bollards at the top of the wall. We then had to take in the slack as the water level was raised to keep control of the boat in the swirling currents in the lock. It was a relief to see blue sky and green grass again when we emerged at the top. The first time through the Canal was quite intimidating and we were glad to tie up at the SYC and celebrate with a cold beer.
Now we were ready to explore the city and on our first trip downtown we headed to the Pinball Museum. I love pinball machines; the gorgeous pulp fiction style graphics, the insane music and sounds and the clunky bumpers and flippers – love it! The worst thing about a game of pinball is when the last ball rolls between the flippers and “game over” lights up, so having unlimited game time on fifty machines was excellent fun. The games ranged from a 1969 King Tut through Godzilla, Star Wars and the Creature of the Black Lagoon from the nineties to the more recent Lord of the Rings and Ghostbusters. We played until our fingers ached!
Another place we really enjoyed was the Museum of Flight which is located on the site of the original Boeing fabrication works. The museum houses over one hundred and fifty aircraft ranging from a reproduction of the incredibly whacky 1913 German Taube which looks like something from the movie The Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, to a sputnik and descent capsules from Russian and American spacecraft. There is a full scale mock-up of the space shuttle which was used by NASA for astronaut training and the menacing Dark Star – an unmanned, high altitude espionage aircraft designed using stealth technology making it almost invisible to radar. It was a really fascinating museum.
Pikes Place Market is a landmark in Seattle and when we visited on a Sunday morning it was packed. The produce section of the market sells mainly vegetables, fish and flowers. The flower stalls with endless buckets of yellow and purple irises and peonies in every shade of pink were magnificent, and the fish stalls stacked high with fresh salmon and snapper, Dungeness crab and spider–like Alaskan crab claws were impressive for the sheer volume of creatures harvested from the oceans. It does make me wonder how sustainable it all is. The market also sells various handicrafts, bric-a-brac and various other artisanal products – all a bit predictable.
Continuing our quest for the full American experience we went to a baseball game and watched the Washington Huskies play the USC Trojans in an intercollegiate match. Baseball is like a game of rounders on steroids; with helmets, mitts and a great deal more skill. It was a warm balmy evening, we sat on the grass sipped a beer and watched the teams pitching and batting at a leisurely pace. Ball after ball flew over the boundary fence for a home run; I wonder why they don’t make the fields larger.
We happened to be in Seattle for Memorial Day weekend, a long weekend which traditionally marks the start of summer. The weather couldn’t have been better and it was fantastic being on Union Lake and watching the endless procession of watercraft; kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, launches and speed boats all out having fun on the water.
Seattle is a vibrant city with a lot of history and with the technology boom it has a secured a glowing future. It’s a really fun place to be!