A colorful and traditional rite of spring, the only one of its kind in the world, brings many people to Seattle’s inland waterways this May 5th as boaters celebrate Opening Day of the boating season. Spectators crowd the shorelines of Seattle’s Portage Bay and Montlake Cut as boats, many of them decorated, parade past judges and spectators watching aboard boats anchored along the parade route.
There are small boats, motorboats, rowing and paddleboats, sailboats, antique boats and mega-yachts in the annual Opening Day parade sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club. There are racing shells from top-caliber collegiate and international rowing teams, and this year’s races will feature teams from around the country and the world competing in the 2012 Windermere Cup Crew Races.
Seattle Fire Department boats move by in a cloud of spray, as well as sailboats with spinnakers flying. Two small flotillas of yachts carrying musicians from the University of Washington Husky and Washington State University Cougar Marching Bands set the musical tempo for the day.
Participating yachts will decorate to this year’s theme: “Porthole to Paradise.”
Opening Day in Seattle is a family affair; families decorate their boats for the festivities and parades, families spread blankets on the shoreline and spend hours watching and picnicking.
The boating season never officially ends in the Puget Sound area. There may be less extended cruising during the blustery, wet days of winter, but the faithful keep sailing. Opening Day, however, kicks off the happy spring and summer days of boating for many avid boaters in this area.
Sponsored annually by the Seattle Yacht Club, Opening Day can trace its roots to a Fourth of July celebration on Seattle’s waterfront in 1895. In 1920, shortly after the Lake Washington Ship Canal was completed, linking Seattle’s inland lakes with Puget Sound, the celebration moved to the fresh waters of the ship canal, Portage Bay and the Montlake Cut.
Opening Day offers some outstanding photo and story opportunities. You’ll not find anything like it in the United States or, to our knowledge, anywhere in the world. The only event comparable is an annual parade of commercial vessels in Venice, Italy.
There are lots of story possibilities in the weeks prior to Opening Day as families and friends and businesses decorate yachts, and racing crews from around the world practice for Saturday’s regatta.