Revisiting the Park: Opening day of boating season

Revisiting the Park: Opening day of boating season

Revisiting the Park: Opening day of boating season

Madison Park worked extremely well for the singles set in the ’60s and ’70s with its cheap rent, great shopping and the many beaches and parks. The best form of entertainment in the summertime was boating. 

Anything from inflatables to fancy yachts allowed Seattleites to fulfill their cravings of being on the water. One of the best ways to quench this thirst was to attend functions on the water like opening day of boating season.  

A group of friends anxious to get summer started contrived to build a watercraft to rival most yachts. It was to be a sizeable design accommodating 20 to 30 passengers. As I remember, it began with a steel-welded frame 30 feet long and 17 feet wide with 36 drums wedged between the wood floors. The power plant at the stern was an Evinrude 50hp and a 25hp Johnson.

At starboard an overstuffed captain’s chair was placed and elevated to get a clear view of all. The governor’s chair, also overstuffed, was placed at the port on an oval rug. Next to it was a pole lamp. Just ahead of this was the most important area: the ship’s comfort station and honeymoon area. Forward of this was the main salon, encompassing couches, chairs and a coffee table atop a gold carpet.

Toward the bow was the ship’s bar, and on the bow was a huge innertube with the ship’s name, “The Gus Arno.” There was a comedian in the Portland area by that name; it was obscure enough, so we felt safe in choosing it. This guy was so popular that after gigs he regularly thanked his audience with a “Thank you, both of you!”

The Gus was approved by the Coast Guard and given official numbers. Since our vessel was good to go, we started planning the opening day of boating excursion. We told everyone to meet at Madison dock where the Gus was temporarily moored on the north side catching most of the sun. Free is a good moorage fee. We were to leave at 9 a.m. sharp.

It was a bright, clear day, and our guests began to arrive in cutoffs and bikinis, bringing cocktails, ice and food. Music welcomed them by way of a car radio connected to a battery.  We began the venture by motoring north and entered Lake Union, acknowledging the Coast Guard who waved us into the slower boat lane.

A few banners adorned the raft like, “This One’s Paid For!” and “Hurray! Hurray! It’s the First of May! Outdoor Activities Begin Today!”

Pulling up next to a large yacht and asking to anchor next to them also met with a “We’d rather not…” Unbeknownst to said yacht people, I quietly dove down and loosely tied to his anchor anyway. Thank you, sir. The captain seemed to be questioning why we were so close.

Most male seafarers liked our bikini-clad crew. Some bitter yacht people queried if our outhouse was sanitary, to which we responded we were connected to Metro. A favorite decoration was an aqua-colored telephone that was attached to a battery. We would ring it when a large boat was near and answer, “Hello? Oh, it’s for you!” and hand it to them.

This was our time to not only be observers of the infamous opening day of boating season but to really be a part of it. We were in! And yes, our design was matched by no one in the parade! It was time for the ship’s morning cocktail consisting of 1/4 coffee and 3/4 brandy.

Opening day always had a theme. This particular year it was “Let the Good Times Roll!” and the times certainly did roll. The parade started at the Montlake Cut, and it was wall-to-wall onlookers, even on the bridge. It was then time for the custom of saluting the ships with an exchange of greetings: Proper yachties raised their hands to their brows with a salute, while ours was a brace of moons. Everyone cheered loudly!   

Our goal was to get to Meydenbauer Yacht Club to partake of whatever functioning was to be had. We tied to a willing benefactor and caught rides by small speed or row boats.   Dressed in our earlier attire — bikinis, cutoffs and other fashionable swimwear accessories — we cocktailed, danced and mixed with all of them (even the folks with white and blue attire).  

The captain, the admiral and myself — the ship’s doctor —aimed home laughing all the way. We passed a fancy boat, and the captain yelled, “What are you celebrating?” We yelled, “Made the last payment yesterday!” The smiling never stopped.  The hangovers hung, however.

Even though we were labeled “The Scourge of Lake Washington” by Emmett Watson (Seattle P.I. and Seattle Times) we had our name to fame on the wall at the Seattle Yacht Club.

The Gus and its crew miss our adventures and the many smiles created.

This year promises to be the best. Save the date: May 7! The theme is “Boating Through the Decades!