Culture Dose: Smooth Sailing

Ahoy, mates! Summer in Seattle = boating bonanza. Now you can also join in the fun.

There are times when spontaneity trumps all. Two Thursdays ago was one such night for me (and for my lucky, globetrotting friends, pit-stopping in Seattle during a yearlong, round-the-world honeymoon). A generous sailing invite quickly evolved into a magical evening on Elliott Bay with some lovely folks who are deeply entrenched in the Seattle boating scene. The best news? You too can experience an evening out on the water. See below for info on how to sign up.

By Corinne Whiting

I’ve been itching to get on a sailboat since landing myself in Seattle last fall, and warm hosts Bobbi and Bruce were kind enough to indulge that desire. (And thanks to them, I can now consider myself officially hooked.) My friends and I were invited to join the Downtown Sailing Series “races” that leave from Elliott Bay Marina every Thursday night through August 16. Says Bruce about the last race of the season, “August 16th is the last and the best. It honors Tommy Rutten, a NW legend and good guy.” (There are similar races at Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard that set sail Fridays through August 24.)

By Corinne Whiting

From the moment we boarded Bobbi and Bruce’s 36-foot Catalina sailboat Evergreen Dreams (which they’ve had for nine years), the couple welcomed us with free-flowing drinks, friendly banter, amusing tales and tasty snacks–think crackers with truffle cheese and homemade guacamole. But the unpredictable scene stealer and conversational hot topic? Bobbi’s famous deviled eggs (their not-so-secret-ingredient: Canadian mustard). These eggs have made such waves that the chef’s been known to hide a few in the bushes for landlocked friends who put in special requests.

As we tacked amongst dozen of other sailboats out on the gray yet pleasant evening, we learned some sailing vernacular while taking in the stunning sights of the Seattle skyline (new Ferris wheel included), distant mountain peaks and a few stand-out, colorful spinnakers. On an average Thursday, 60 to 70 boats join in on the fun.

By Corinne Whiting

So how can you tag along too? The Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA), organizers of the Seattle Boat Show, sponsor boats each week so that non-boaters can experience first-hand the joys of sailing. Signing up is free (go here), and there are no sales pitches or gimmicks. Space is limited, and those who apply are selected at random. The word “race,” by the way, is used loosely, since only two simple rules exist: don’t hit another boat, and have fun. (Now that’s my kind of race!) The “winners” are selected at random from any boats that finish the course.

Photo courtesy Elliott Bay Marina

After the race ended, my kind fellow boaters even gave me a chance to steer before heading back to the marina. (Though the crew was encouraging and patient, it quickly became clear I have some practicing yet to do!) Afterward, boaters convene at the Seattle Yacht Club just across from the boat entrance to socialize at a “family-friendly quintessential Seattle party.” We happily chatted with our new friends over free keg beer, plastic cups of wine and hot dogs (tip: queue up early; these go quickly!).

Photo courtesy Elliott Bay Marina

All in all, it was a lovely and memorable evening. And now that sun has really arrived, I venture to say you’ll find me out on the water as often as possible. I highly recommend that you give it a go too. Ah, so this is what Seattle summer is all about.

Downtown Sailing Series |  Elliott Bay Marina, 2601 West Marina Place | Thursdays through August 16