It was finally spring. The mostly single, working set of Madison Park followed a strict work ethic.  When subjected to a midweek perfect sunny day, it was widely referred to as “sick leave.” The era was “Peace and Love — not War” (Vietnam) so people were in the mood to get their groove on and forget what was happening in the world for a spell. One had to watch out for that telltale suntan, however.

Lawn mowers were heard and fresh-cut grass filled the air, the birds chirped, and the neighbors lingered animatedly over fences—more signs that spring had arrived. After hibernating like bears, people donned their flower headbands, bellbottoms, platform shoes or miniskirts and enjoyed the smells and colors liberated by sunshine.   

Notably, it was an awakening for the many watercraft owners who devoted all spare time for opening day of boating season in early May. The proud Gus Arno supporters were pumped to get the raft outfitted with new furniture, carpeting over the bare wooden deck (no more splinters!) and general cleaning. 

“Who was Gus Arno?” many asked. We learned he had been a standup comedian in Portland who toured small lounges. It was rumored after each act he would bow and say “Thank you, thank you very much…both of you!” His was a fitting name for our vessel, as it too symbolized mirthfulness. 

The Gus had been moored in the marsh by the Broadmoor slough. The waterproof protective tarp was removed— it was time to wake after a long winter’s nap. There didn’t seem to be any damage to the forward salon.

Only one thing hindered us from beginning our task: it was just a small intrusion. There had been a report of marijuana growing nearby. The police and fire department walked over to investigate our vessel and surrounding foliage and proceeded to fill out their reports. It turned out to be a cluster of ferns, not related to pot (I mean, marijuana). A helicopter covering the story got a great overhead shot of the Gus and that was shown on TV. It was reported that no one was arrested for smoking “fern.” 

A throng of enthusiastic passengers gathered onto the dock for the big day, cheering as the Gus motored toward them. The revelers threw their $5 entrance fee into the captain’s hat for fuel, and were clearly impressed that the refurbishment was a success. Screwdrivers, bloody Mary’s and a bright sunny day created just the right amount of happiness and good Karma.

Getting adjusted on the raft, formulating the morning imbibement, we motored our way north to the Montlake Cut and into Lake Union where the parade started. We found a position between some sailboats and powerboats. After we tied to a friend’s anchor, they welcomed us aboard. Have to admit: their craft with a 50-foot stateroom surpassed our fashion by a lengthy margin, but the friendships formed overcame any inequities.

The Gus was adorned by a sign 30 feet long that simply stated, “This One’s Paid For!” which brought cheers. In the midst of it all, the captain retorted, “I’ve got 28 years to go.” We raised our drinks and joined in his laughter.  

The parade began and, because of the speed restrictions through the cut, we were able to keep up. The onlookers cheered, and we responded with the legendary Gus Arno greeting. Joining the fleet eastward to the Meydenbauer Yacht Club, the wake from passing boats drenched our new carpet. Some worried at the possible outcome of this, to which others chortled, “Dive!  Dive!”

Donned in the uniform for the day — cutoffs and/or bikinis—we tied to a dock at the yacht club and joined the many friends inside. No one seemed to mind the bikinis. After food, drink and a few laps on the dance floor, we said our goodbyes to the Meydenbauer group. 

Heavy boat traffic and the wake that followed slowed us down, so we decided to spend time in a quiet bay close by where we drifted. Stretching out in the forward salon, we enjoyed the silence and recalled the highlights of the day. 

Out of the blue, we heard faint music — definitely Italian, with an accordion and a singer.  Drifting closer a well-attired dude in a tux ran out onto a dock and yelled, “Lehman!” It was a good friend from Madison Park who was getting married. He waved us over with his bride next to him and the whole wedding gathering behind them stopped to stare. They offered us Italy’s best red wine and insisted we have food. It could not have been a better day.

We danced and toasted many times to this newlywed couple. Bidding adieu, we slowly — oh so slowly — made our way back to our little dock. Once well secured to the little dock, we walked to my house, drank coffee and cognac and relished the coolness of the day, toasting our own floating front room, the Gus Arno.