Boating on Lake Washington

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Oct 11, 2007
Vessel Name
Circuit Breaker
Vessel Make
2021..22' Duffy Cuddy cabin
Since my daughter and her family moved to the Seattle area 5 years ago I have been interested in what the boating is like on the lake. I've been to the Ballard Locks several times to watch the transiting and have been on the lake a number of times on excursion and private boats.

What I am wondering, however, is the quality of owning a trawler and birthing it on the lake. Do the marinas have slips available? Are the costs significant? Are there numerous anchorages and moorings available? How's the fishing? etc. (All questions are directed at Lake Washington and not the Sound.)

Rather than buying a condo in the area so that I can be closer to the grand kids, I've been contemplating buying a trawler and keeping it on the lake. It would be closer to the kids (they live in Kirkland on the east side of the lake) and when time and the mood strikes me, I can still transit the locks and enjoy the Sound and points north.

Are their members of this forum that do what I am eluding to?
We lived on LakeUnion, south end Ocean Alexander dock for 11 years and loved it. There are live aboard slips available on the LakeUnion. All the marinas on the east side of Lake Washington, Kirkland/Belleview do not allow live a boards.* There are a couple of small ones on the West side, Seattle.* Most of the live aboard slips are on LakeUnion.* We visited out old marina last week while at the boat afloat show and there where some slips open.

Every summer our grand children came to stay with us and swam/played in the fresh water off our swim step, and we would take them tubing/scurfing on Lake Washington as LakeUnion has a 7 mph speed limit.* The fresh water was really as yon the boats as we got 5+ years on the bottom paint and zincs.* LakeUnion is in the center/heart of Seattle so 24/7 there was something to do.* We had a 360 degree view of Seattle and we look directly at the Space needle where fireworks are shot off several time per year.

However, that comes with a price, limited parking and no assurance that they marina might have a better use of you slip.* We moved off when we were paying $1,200/month fora0 ft slip, they meter all the public parking and start charging for parking, you did not dare move your car during the week ends as there would be no parking, and if the marine decided they could needed or get more money, they gave you a 30 day notice.* We finally said enough.* Our of the 7 live aboard there are only 2 left but they own Oceans and have and agreement/understanding, but they both make mid 6 figures.
If/when we become a non live aboard we might/probable move the boat back on the LakeUnion as its so much easier on the boat.* Let me know if you wouldlikeany more information.*
Oh the picture is our boat moored at Ocean Alexander dock on Lake Union.**

-- Edited by Phil Fill on Friday 5th of February 2010 10:10:24 AM
SeaHorse II wrote:

Since my daughter and her family moved to the Seattle area 5 years ago I have been interested in what the boating is like on the lake.

Do the marinas have slips available? Are the costs significant? Are there numerous anchorages and moorings available? How's the fishing? etc. (All questions are directed at Lake Washington and not the Sound.)
To answer your questions in order, and from the perspective of a person who has boated on, operates floatplanes off of, and fished in, Lake Washington----

1. What is boating like on the lake?* Boring unless you're into sailboat racing, which I did for several years in the early 80s.* All you can do with a power boat is cruise back and forth or up and down.* There is a five mph speed limit within x-distance of the entire shoreline and all the land around the lake except for a few small parks is privately owned and developed.

2.* Are slips available?* Sometimes, usually with a very long waiting list.

3.* Are the costs significant?* Staggering.* At least compared to the slip costs in the marinas up north. This also applies to Lake Union.

4.* Are there numorous anchorages and moorings?* There are none except for a very small park bay in the southern half of the lake which is generally a staging area for drunken parties.* The handful of marinas on the lake are primarily for the berthing of private boats.* Most of them have little, or no, guest moorage (Kirkland probably does).* With the exception of Kirkland, the marinas are all in neighborhood areas.* So there is not much in the way of shoreside attractions near them.* There are some restaurants adjacent to Leschi marina north of the I-90 bridge and Seattle is just a short taxi or bus ride away.* And there are one or two marinas adjacent to Bellevue on the other side of the lake and one could walk the mile or so up into the main part of town.* Bellevue is totally car-oriented, however, so it's not a particularly walker-friendly place.

5.* How's the fishing?* Well, you rarely see anyone fishing on the lake, so that's an indication right there.* There are some trout and a few people troll for them.* There is a salmon run--- I believe sockeye (if the sea lions don't decimate them)--- that goes up the Cedar River at the south end in the fall but fishing for them is very tightly regulated and the season is generally only a few days long if there is one at all.* There is also a Chinook (king) run that goes up the Sammamish Slough at the north end of the lake to Lake Sammamish and the hatchery in Issaaquah.* So far as I know, this salmon run is always closed to any fishing.

The lake is solidly developed all the way around it other than a few parks, most of which do not have facilities for visiting boats other than small runabouts.* There are hundreds of larger boats based on the lake, almost all of them docked in front of their owners' homes.* I am aware of perhaps six marinas on the lake.* They are all very small and most of them cater to smaller boats, perhaps up to 35 feet or so.* There are a few larger slips, open and covered, at Kenmore at the north end of the lake--- I know someone with a GB42 up there, and it's about the largest boat there.

The trawlers or larger boats you see out on the lake during the year are all doing one of two things.* They are heading for the locks to go to Puget Sound, or they are coming back from the locks to their home berth.* Other than boat testing or just floating around in the middle on a nice day, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do with a trawler-type boat on either of the lakes, Washington or Union.

There are two big boating events on Lake Washington during the year.* One is Opening Day, which features a parade of boats through the Montlake Cut, and the Seafair Hydroplane races, which features a log boom around the race course to which people can moor their boats to watch the races.* You need reservations for a spot on the log boom.

There are a number of large marinas on Lake Union.* However the waiting lists are very long for these, there are liveaboard restrictions, and moorage costs are extremely high.* Again, this lake offers no place to go except out of it, either to Lake Washington to the east or through the locks to Puget Sound to the west.

I believe the liveaboard possibilities on Lake Union are very restricted but you'd have to check on that.* The Port of Seattle has opened up the large commercial fishing harbor at Fisherman's Terminal on the Ship Canal to private boats, and I believe they do allow a few liveaboards there.

So... Lakes Washington and Union are both a convenient place to keep a boat if one lives in the area and can find and afford moorage, but neither lake offers anything much in the way of "things to do" in terms of boating.* As Phil said, the lakes are close to Seattle and there's plenty to do in the city, so that's a benefit.* But for actual boating activities, not much unless you're into sailboat racing or just like to drive your boat back and forth.* Basically, Lakes Washington and Union are very convenient parking lots for boats.

The boating on Puget Sound and points north is, of course, incredible.* The best in the world in my opinion, in terms of scenery, places to go, things to do, and the amount of area covered.* You've basically got a thousand miles of fabulous, protected-water (for the most part) boating.

-- Edited by Marin on Friday 5th of February 2010 01:47:23 PM
I agree with most of the comments - tere isn't much to do on the lakes short of day tripping around.
There is one advantage that hasn't been discussed - moorage in fresh water, which does make a difference in long term maintenance. I had a 50' pilothouse that had been sal****er moored, first in Cabo, and then in Seattle. Salt air corrosion can be insidious. I had to replace, for example windshield wiper motors because the shafts had corroded badly.

So, if there is a choice (which not many have, I realise), there can be an advantage to fresh water moorage.
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