Revisiting the Park: Boating adventures on the water ways

Revisiting the Park: Boating adventures on the water ways

Revisiting the Park: Boating adventures on the water ways

From the cattails of Canterbury to Lake Union to the open waters of Lake Washington and the old ships near the shores of Bellevue, we truly were able to share exciting adventures for show and tell at McGilvra Elementary School.

A handy tool was a map showing popular fishing areas in Lake Washington, and we saw our next voyage should be the Sammamish Slough. Fourteen-plus miles long and roughly 6 feet wide, this body of water demanded an overnighter. It would require a quarter pint of oil, 1 gallon of gas, a new spark plug and some other tools. *Checking Google, it appears our five horsepower Johnson Seahorse was only two horsepower, which was great on economy but had little chance of setting any speed records.

A learning moment: A friend yanked the starter rope, and somehow my hand touched the spark plug line. Wow! The engine had a magneto that produced extra spark to start a cold engine. Live and learn.

One Saturday morning, with clear skies and smooth water, we prepared for our journey by positioning our goods for a more-even stance to allow more freeboard. We crossed the Montlake Cut to Laurelhurst north to Sandpoint Naval Air Station.

Due to restrictions near the air strip, we crossed the lake there east to Kirkland, which was then just a small quiet village with horses and wagons.

Motoring north to the sandy shores of Juanita was a vision to behold — the largest slide in Washington state — three stories high!

Water ran down from the top of the metal slide, creating more speed for those that dared. We pulled our boat up onto the sandy shore and watched people — mostly kids — fly down the slide and fly like hydroplanes when hitting the water. Most kids went headfirst, others backwards.

We made the long climb, and one friend went first yelling on the way down, making a huge splash when he hit the lake. We always dared each other, and without fail, we did it!

It was my turn, and I went headfirst. It was faster than I thought it would be. After hitting the water, I flew. Standing in barely waist-high water, I realized something was odd. No suit! People walking to the slide could see my floating bathing suit about 20 feet from me. They were laughing and pointing as I ran to put my suit on. Far too young for public nudity, it was pretty funny. We ate lunch and headed out looking back at our slide accomplishment!

It was around Kenmore that we stopped to top off our fuel. Not too much further was the shallow 3-foot slough. We motored through cattails and logs, under a trestle and past some fishermen showing their catch, which I think were silvers. Some logs were a problem; a couple pulled the boat over. Frogs and birds swooped and dove down to eat bugs and then nested on low branches. Many large bugs but no bees. There were big skittish muskrats and even a couple of dogs. In one area, eagles caught fish.

This mostly country quiet area was filled with wild animals blocking our way. We killed the engine and waded near the shore, pulling the boat to get a close look at some cows. They just stepped aside and continued to drink water. It was slow going, but we were in no hurry.

By early afternoon, we noticed the water deepening; we were in Lake Sammamish. There were a few boats, mostly sailboats, and we talked to some friendly kids; we were all war kids and had that in common. We idled and laid in the sun, donning iodine and baby oil.

Later in the afternoon, we heard music and saw a fire, so we motored to Alexander’s Beach Resort. Here, there was a concession stand to buy baked beans, salad, buns, wieners and a wooden branch to cook your meal and, best of all, a cotton candy machine. What an unexpected feast! Seeing adults as well as kids do the Schottish to polka tunes was quite the entertainment.

Next stop, head south to a beach and bed down. We woke up to a cool cloudy morning and cinnamon rolls, oh, and a big deer just standing there staring at us.

After he wandered off, we set off to cruise almost the whole lake. Some kids we met told us about another slough just south of us that connected to Lake Washington.

Great, more scenery! It was covered with branches and trees and lots of birds. The slough wound around as darkness descended and a little light rain began.

Under the east channel bridge to Mercer Island the wind increased, and our light jackets weren’t cutting it.

Looking west, the lake was dark, and Leschi was far away. Good thing we had containers from that wonderful meal just in case we had to bail.

We were all very quiet, like sailors meeting a storm, and adjusted things in the boat to get an even stance. The water was now lightly choppy because of the wind, and it was raining harder. Trying to find humor we said, “Hell with it — let’s do it!” Due west, with the throttle to the metal, we changed course several times to avoid big waves. Bailing ferociously, Leschi still looked far away. Then a wave killed our engine.

Grandfather said if the engine dies, just wait, keep it dry, then give it maximum choke. We did it, and the Johnson Seahorse started like a champ!

We zig-zagged north, avoiding small white caps and working in harmony to find areas without strong gusts. We continued to take on water and bailed almost as fast as it came in, but then it was smooth water approaching Leschi. We were wet and almost home, but wet!

Stopping finally at Madrona beach, we tipped our boat on its side to drain and then threw everything back inside and cruised slowly all the way home while laughing nervously, hiding the fact that just minutes before we were frantic about that one big wave over the bow that could have done us in.

Not a dull life for kids without electronics!