Did you know that you can go on a free sailing trip on Lake Union in Seattle? No? Well, me neither until last weekend. I was checking out some museums in Seattle and found the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB). After reading a little bit on their website, I saw the offer a castoof, a free public sail. Besides that they have a lot of boats at the docks to experience. The CWB is a non-profit organisation and wants to preserve the history of maritime culture in the Pacific Northwest. They offer sailing classes and a lot of other fantastic activities.
Every Sunday they have their public sail, if weather permits. You can call them ahead of time to make sure it’s on before you go there. Sign-ups begin every Sunday at 10 am at the Center for Wooden Boats and are open for the rest of the day. Get there early enough to catch a spot. Availability of rides varies each time. All depending if there are enough boats and volunteer skippers to take you out on the lake. This is a first-come, first-served activity. You can sign-up 3 more people after you reached the front of the line. Means one person can sign-up a group with maximum 4 people. There is no phone-reservation possible, only if you are a member at the CWB. Once you reached the front of the line you get to pick a boat and time for you and/or your group. They staff will help you if you have any questions and will try to fit your group on the same boat. After you successfully signed up, you can roam around the area, but don’t forget to be back 15 minutes prior to departure of your boat and remember the name of your boat.
I showed up at 9:30 am and was the fifth one in line to sign-up. The sign-up started on time at 10 am with a little pre-briefing of the procedure. My choice for the boat went towards the Lavengro, the biggest sail ship available that day and the 12pm departure. This was a great choice, as I would find out later on aboard the boat. After signing up I walked through the nearby areas of the city to explore them more and came back 15 minutes prior to departure and signed-in to let them know I am here. Outside a staff member was shouting out the name of my boat and the departure time and the people gathered around her. We all picked a life vest and walked to the boat at the end of the dock. In my group were 14 other people, not counting the crew of the boat.
As we started our journey, we all had to sit on the starboard side of the boat. This helped the crew to maneuver the boat out onto the lake. Once we got away from the dock, the skipper asked for four volunteers to help set the sails. This is amazing that they even let you help and make you work aboard that ship. Makes you feel like you are part of the crew. Now we were also able to spread out all the way around the boat and sit on either side of it. The sails were up and we are on our journey around the lake. They let us also steer the boat if we wanted too.
Above you can see the route we took on our sail adventure on the lake. Being so excited I forgot to turn on my tracker and turned it on a couple of minutes already out at the lake.
Another great part of my trip was, that I met Vera from Italy. She was visiting Seattle just by herself. She needed someone to take some pictures of her aboard the ship and I volunteered. The crew was super friendly and answered questions with great passion. They even pointed out interesting things, like the houseboat used in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle”. That was an awesome bonus.
At Gas Works Park we started turning around and heading back towards the Center for Wooden Boats. Shortly before we reached the dock, me and a couple of other people volunteered to take the sails back down. For the final docking procedure we all had to move over to the same side of the boat again. That was the end of our approximately one hour lasting journey across Lake Union.
During the trip you will probably see a couple of seaplanes starting and landing on the lake, which is pretty cool to watch.
If you want something else and no sailboat, the also have electric boats and steam-powered boats. On a day with no good breeze, it’s better to take an electric boat. They can go further in the same amount of time. We were lucky and had a nice and sunny day with a good wind filling our sails.
Since Vera and I didn’t had any other plans for the day, we spend the rest of the day together exploring the city and watching the Lunar Eclipse from the Columbia Center Skyview Observatory. This turned out to be a fantastic day in Seattle. Originally I was only planing to take the sail trip.
This free sunday sail seems to be a hidden gem in Seattle. I have been to Seattle many many times and never knew about that place. I don’t think even all the locals know about that. This reminds me about the two rooftop gardens I found in Seattle.