Weekend trip to Lake Washington.

Last Monday morning (30 July) we decided take the boat over into Lake Washington, the largest lake in Washington State. Fresh, warm water! We could go swimming! The only thing standing between us and that lake was the Ballard Locks and 6 bridges, 4 of which would need to be raised in order for us to make it through.

The Ballard Locks move boats from the saltwater of Puget Sound up 20 feet to the fresh water of Lake Union and Lake Washington. Think of a mini version of the Panama Canal….very mini. And the 4 bridges are draw bridges that have to be raised if your boat is taller than 42-45 feet off the water. Palarran is 60 feet from the top of the mast to the water. The bridges are always down so car traffic can drive over them. In order to get them to lift you have to drive your boat up to it and then blast a certain signal with an air horn. The signal is one long blast and one short. The bridge operator will either signal back the same, which mean he will stop traffic (which people hate) or he will give you 5 short blast, which means you have to wait 5 or 10 minutes and then he will stop traffic to raise the bridge (Which people hate).

The first Bridge is the “Train Bridge”(which we failed to take a picture of). This one is actually left up most of the time unless there is a train coming. Today however, it was down. So we gave the signal and waited……and waited……and w..a..i..t..ed… Finally after who knows how long the bridge finally went up and we went under and waited for the locks to signal as to which lock we would go into. You have two choices. Either the big locks or the little locks. The little locks are much easier to negotiate and tie up in. Of course, We got the big locks along with a gigantic tugboat and a few other boats. After the tugboat got in and tied up there was two other boats ahead of us, neither one seemed to anxious to go in. I didn’t want to butt in line, but they were just sitting there. Finally one of the went ahead and we got in line behind them. The other boat just sat there, we would find out later why.

Here are a few pics take from inside the locks:

Inside the Ballard locks Another inside the Ballard locks

As we followed the speed boat in, we watched him lose control and hit the wall a couple times before finally getting tied up. Once we tied up, the other boat came in and was directed by the lock personnel to tie up to us. This is when we figured out why they hung back. It is MUCH easier to tie to another boat than it is to tie to the wall. Cause if your tied to the wall, when they close the lock doors and start pumping in the water to raise you to the lake level, you have to constantly adjust your lines to keep you in place. So they slide up to us and tie off and as old people do, went below and ate lunch!! What the fuck? Here we are in a tight place that looks like it was built to hold King Kong and about to be raised 15-20 feet from sea-level buy pumping millions of gallons of water in to said Kong hole and these goofy old bastards disapper to eat lunch, leaving me and Tawn to not only tend to the lines that is holding not only our boat in place, but theirs as well. And to make sure that the fenders are staying in place so both of our boats don’t get tore up. Gawd damn! I did let my disapproval show a bit and called them “Old Bastards” more than loud enough for them to hear.

Anyway, millions of gallons of water and 20 feet later we are up at lake level and ready to leave the locks, which we did with no incidents or scratches on anyone’s boat. No thanks to the crew of the S.S. Geriatric.

Ballard Bridge

On to the Ballard Bridge, which opened right away for us. Going under this, after driving over it for so many years is pretty cool. In between here and the next bridge is where the fishing fleet keeps their boats and if you’ve ever seen that TV show “Deadliest Catch” on Discovery, the crab boats that are on that show are parked in this area.

After a mile or so through the water way called the canal, The next bridge is the Fremont bridge.

Canal to Fremont Bridge

Fremont bridge

No matter how high they raise it, it never seems like it’s gonna be high enough when you actually go under it.

Open bridge

After that bridge is Lake Union, this Lake is right in Downtown Seattle, so we sailed around here for a bit and dodged sea planes taking off and landing.

University bridge

The third bridge is the University bridge and then past that is the last bridge, The Montlake Bridge.(no pictures of the montlake bridge, I figure your tired of seeing bridge pictures).

We actually got lucky in getting through this last one. Not because it was hard to get through or anything, but because we were unaware that they stop raising the bridge at 3:30pm until 7pm each weekday due to rush hour traffic. We got there just in time to signal them and get it to open. Whew! Otherwise we would have been stuck between bridges, with no place to tie up or anyway to get to shore for 3 hours.

Once through the Montlake cut and under the bridge we were finally out and on to Lake Washington. The wind picked up and we sailed along the 520 bridge looking at all the commuters stuck in traffic…hahhahhah suckers.

We sailed directly to the Kirkland Marina and tied up to the outside of the dock. Took a stroll along the park and called our friends Dave and Rhonda, who live nearby and invited them over for dinner and drinks. After they left for the night (suckers had to go to work the next day) we headed into town for a nightcap.

Kirkland Marina

The next day we got up late, and went for a swim and scraped the barnacles of the prop. The wind picked up very nicely and we sailed back across the lake and started the whole bridge/lock process over again. I will let you know that it is alot easier going out through the locks than it is going in. I’m not sure why, but it is.

As always, I’ve drawn up a little map for your veiwing pleasure so you following along on the not so exciting adventures of Palarran and crew. Be sure to click on all the items, I added a few more pictures on the map than I put here in this writeup. Click here for the Map.

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