New Year’s Eve afloat

Your likely view of the New Year's Eve Space Needle fireworks if you don't take your boat (Photo by Wonderlane)

Your likely view of the New Year’s Eve Space Needle fireworks if you don’t take your boat (Photo by Wonderlane)

Boaters in the Seattle area have a secret when it comes to a lot of big events in the region: with our many interconnected waterways, they can nearly always beat traffic and get magnificent views of fireworks and other high-profile events.

Such will be the case tonight as fireworks sparkle in the air at midnight from points all around the city. Sailors and lubbers alike will find places for some wonderful vistas on those fireworks, but when it’s all over, and bed is calling, folks on land will be looking forward to another hour or so of gridlock as they try to depart the more popular viewing locations. Those on the water will be able to motor right back to their slips, and in most cases, bed down there for the night to awaken refreshed in the first light of the New Year.

For boaters contemplating taking to the water to enjoy the glow of rockets reflected all around, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Check your lights! If you haven’t been out recently, make sure your nav lights are all still working. For that matter, be sure you know which to show. Remember, drifting idly isn’t the same thing as being at anchor. A quick primer: Navigation Light Rules.
  • Be aware that new Boating Under the Influence laws have taken effect this year; have fun, but anyone who is going to be at the helm needs to be sober.
  • While you’re at it, check your safety gear and make sure your passengers know the drill for crew overboard scenarios. If a tipsy passenger goes over the rail in the dark and cold, it’s not time to be figuring out where your flashlights and throwable flotation are at.
  • Pick your spot! Elliott Bay? Lake Union? Lake Washington? You want a great view, but you don’t want to throw away your transportation advantage by having to deal with bridge openings (which would have to be arranged in advance at that hour) or transiting the Locks.
The unobstructed view you deserve (Photo by Kashyap Hosdurga)

The unobstructed view you deserve (Photo by Kashyap Hosdurga)

Fortunately, there are terrific views of the Space Needle from either Elliott Bay or Lake Union, so no matter where you moor your boat, you can have a Locks-free evening and still take in the fireworks.

This is all well and good if you own a boat, or (better yet) know someone else who owns a boat that is going out on New Year’s Eve, but what if you don’t? Are you condemned to sit in that post-fireworks exodus traffic jam, with thousands of tired people, hundreds of irritable cops, and no prospects of bed until 3am?

Not necessarily! Two local cruise lines run New Year’s Eve cruisers to let you catch the fireworks from the water, drink as much as you like, and let someone else handle the lines on that chilly dock in the dark.

Waterways Cruises offers a New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise from Seattle and a champagne cocktail cruise departing from Kirkland.

Argosy offers a dinner cruise on New Year’s Eve aboard the Royal Argosy, and fireworks viewing and dancing aboard three other boats, all on Elliott Bay.

However you choose to celebrate the arrival of 2014, be safe, and have fun!

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