Opening day of boating season was always a blast. After enjoying the festivities, John Gilbert, captain of the Gus Arno — our beloved water vessel — steered us past the Edgewater apartments and, at full throttle, motored to the rear of the parade. We were on our way to celebrate at Meydenbauer Bay Yacht Club, and as we got close, small boats escorted us toward shore and secured the Gus to other yachts. There was some apprehension about entering the club in cut-offs and bikinis, but our minds were put at ease with stares of approval.
A few hours later, after dancing and imbibing with other yacht club members, we aimed toward the setting sun, the Gus on full auto, and slowly proceeded to Madison Park.
Other yachtsmen must have noticed our group having just the right amount of fun! At one point we toasted ourselves at the ship’s bar and the added weight pushed the bow under the water.
Screaming, “Dive! Dive!” we got to laughing but then had to listen once again to the Gus’s weight distribution rules.
We could safely say, after tying the boat to the north side of Madison beach dock, that opening day was truly a day of “over-funning.” Some even sought lodging aboard for the night.
Summer was coming on strong, and the sun shone emphatically, unlike this 2022 present-day wet spring we are experiencing so far. We were fortunate to have the temperature on most of our cruises in the 60s and 70s.
One cruise, however, was quite the gray day, so very few folks showed up at the dock. We took our chances anyway, and at mid-lake the sun broke through. We shut down the engines and declared it cocktail hour, which was a pleasant way to start our day. Other than the distant sound of 520 traffic, it was peaceful.
Suddenly, a shadow cast, and a distant motor could be heard. There was a plane circling and the pilot cut his engines. He asked from about 50 feet above, “Do you have a restroom?”
When we answered in the affirmative, the Grumman Goose landed, and the captain and his lovely copilot came aboard. One by one, they both made a dash to our comfort station. Later, the kindly pilot offered us some outstanding cognac, and it became a bona fide party. We tied the Goose off with a long line, and boaters asked what it was. Unsure if they meant the Gus or the Goose, we laughed and answered, “Oh that, it’s our dinghy!”
Some four cognacs later, while enjoying the camaraderie, listening to our low-fi radio powered by a car battery, we heard a voice in the distance: “Lehman!” A guy on the rear of a flatbed truck on 520 turned and flashed us a moon with style and balance. Cheering erupted! It was the first moon of the day! Our pilot friend said, “Now, that’s something I’d have trouble performing!”
In those days boat traffic was light so whenever a fellow water enthusiast sailed by, everyone waved hello. Sometimes we invited each other aboard to party together.
Our dedicated crew, even after a Friday night gathering in the local taverns, was eager to gather at Madison dock the following morning to enjoy a slow cruise. The Gus was designed for a slow cruise. It was like pushing a brick through water.
The biggest event after opening day of boating season: the hydros! All of Seattle looked forward to both the sights and sounds. Anyone wanting to partake of this event on the Gus chipped in $5 for a full day on the boom. The Blue Angels would not be in the picture until 2007, but entertainment was provided by several well-seasoned World War 1 pilots and various barnstormers.
It was another gorgeous, warm day when we left the dock and motored south. A speed boat carrying one of our friends met up with us; he paid the captain $10 to get to the Gus. One of our more famous passengers was Marty Levine, a newscaster from channel 7 who had transferred from Seattle to Washington D.C. He called to reserve a seat, flew in that morning and sat front row center. Several others reserved spots. Our friendly passengers brought food and drinks for the day. As our crew arrived, we offered the morning cocktail of a quarter hot coffee and three quarters brandy: “Caffeine ala Gus!”
Everything was going well, and with all hands present, we rolled the lines and other things and set our navigation with a 1948 Ford steering wheel. Exchanging waves and moons with passers-by, we arrived near the west end of Interstate 90.
As we passed a 40-foot Coast Guard boat, someone over a bull horn yelled, “Arrest ’em!” It was Dennis Boyle (seaman), son of Mr. Boyle of Boyle’s Drug Store (now Pharmaca), on his last four months of service. The Coast Guard was there mostly for safety reasons, speedsters, drunkenness, etc., although alcohol was in the gray zone in those days. Today, there is so much more traffic, the rules of the sea have to be enforced. We had been truly minding our P’s and Q’s when one of the officers on a police cruiser stated, “I could lock you up for section 107G: ‘flaunting too much fun!’ ”
Cruising west, we saw our spot on the northwest corner and blew the ship’s horn. Stopping just short we saw that it was filled with speed boats. When we approached, ticket in hand, I yelled, “Ah, I think this is our spot!” to which they replied, “Yah, too bad you’re late. We’re here now!” “We have a ticket!” to which they replied nastily, “Tough S@*t!” There was silence, and boats on either side watched for the outcome.
Jack Hendricks and I shouted, “Ramming speed, Captain!”
People applauded and cheered as the boats left in rapid haste. Tying the port side of the Gus to the log boom and positioning three couches stem to stern, we planted ourselves to watch the races. The hydros slowly meandered by and waved to us. Later, we heard it was captured on TV. Too bad we couldn’t record the races for ourselves back then.
It was common for people to walk over and through boats to visit friends nearby. When the races started, you could feel the power of those 16-cylinder engines with their invigorating spray as they whizzed by. The whole day ended up one huge party, and it was so great to see the happiness on people’s faces.