The Ballard Locks are a one hundred year old marvel of urban marine engineering connecting Puget Sound with Lake Union in Seattle in one gurgling leap of twenty vertical feet. Free for the asking, each year thousands of boats large and small, commercial and recreational clump together like so many bewildered fish in a steel and cement tank to enter a different kind of water, fresh. Ouch, say the barnacles. And so it was for us aboard Laysan, that we too ascended like a salmon into the aptly named Salmon Bay for a couple of days at our friend Don’s marina.
After honking, waiting, and tying up to encrusted piers, the massive railroad bridge lifted and allowed us underneath to get the green light for the large lock in Ballard. There on the wall two stories above our decks stood burly line men in harnesses attached to a smooth long track behind them along side. Like guard dogs for the gates of doom, their chains rattling as they walked, I wondered what calamities would pull them to this precipice. Instructing us to port side tie to the ancient slimy wall behind a tug three times our size in every dimension, they all chuckled as Kathleen tried valiantly to heave her fifty foot line up overhead only to see it repeatedly flop back onto the deck. Sarah, however received a nice courtesy line lowered for her convenience to correspondingly send up her line. Meanwhile, Kathleen continued to amuse the tug deck hands and a small collection of tourists watching from behind the guard rail until we were tied, and the massive steel gates began to close behind us.
And then came the interloper. Skulking along side, an unassuming small green day-fisher with two flimsy fenders rafted on our starboard side arousing some suspicion on our part. Behind us were another collection of recreational boats tending their lines and waiting for the water to rise. Gradually and quietly it did, with only the sound of the lock men’s harnesses rattling as they coached each crew to make their lines fast before the gate to Lake Union would open. And then things happened too fast.
Turbulence in the lock from the pent up tons of water wanting to escape down to the ocean now entered the lock. Almost simultaneously, the monstrous tug motored away in a froth of power, adding to the swirls straining our lines. Yet we remained steady. Next, the interloper released his stern line and Kathleen tossed his bow line, and he promptly lost all semblance of control. In seconds he swept sideways to the current, his bow directed to our starboard side, and he inexplicably roared his engine and T-boned us with a jarring crash. My slow motion view allowed me two words, “Fender!” and then subsequently, “#&€£”. Which was echoed by Kathleen on the foredeck very pointedly in the interlopers direction. As he spun further out of control back down the lock, potentially endangering other helpless boaters between him and the massive leaky gate, I wondered what types of fiberglass carnage might occur. The lock crew, now quite active on their chains and harnesses, called out to us: “better get his information.” Right. Good thing GoPro was filming the entire experience from the flybridge.
Tied up again outside the lock, in the rain, with terse faces all around, we strained to see the damage over the railing and waited for the man of the green boat. He dutifully arrived, but professed ignorance of insurance, and boasting of his many years of boating, promptly blamed the locks, the tug, the weather, but never his hand or eye. Still though, he gave his license, registration, phone and business, so we hoped to find little damage and a responsible soul. Plus, we have GoPro and a lawyer.
Now it is days later, emails and phone calls only perfunctorily responded by the green boat, and we still need to get a professional estimate. After scrutinizing the impact zone while lying sideways on the dock with rubbing compound, I doubt it will be very serious. But the lack of responsibility is a shock. Perhaps more fenders next time. Perhaps more karma next time.
Last night we watched the red moon totally eclipsed and hanging lazily above the peak of Mount Rainier, while we bobbed around in the dinghy to get a better perspective from the anchorage. Beautiful views, clear skies, and rather chilly now into the forties at night, we are almost to the end of this cruise. All is good aboard Laysan.
South Puget Sound