Monday, May 9, 2016

Rules of the water

Seattle has been under Viadoom 2016 for the last two weeks.  The Alaska Way Viaduct was closed as Bertha, the resident tunneling machine, dug her way underneath.  This created traffic chaos, and therefore a spin off group of the Notorious Alki Swimmers.  5 of us met at the usually meet up time this weekend, but at a different beach-- Golden Gardens.  This north end beach allowed us to not have to travel the viaduct to Alki and to still get in an open water swim.

However.  It was boating opening day.  So as we pulled up to Golden Gardens, we were greeted with probably 200 sailboats parked just off shore, luffing.  Our swim started around 9:30, and at precisely 10am, they all tacked and started to sail away.

Except there was no wind.  And there were TONS of boats in a very small area.  So some of them tacked toward the beach.  One of them came withing about three strokes of me.  The captian waved at me, so I know he saw me.  But it still made me uncomfortable.

Since boating season is now officially open, and swim season lasts all year, this is a good time to review the rules of the water.

Seattle Parks website outlines the rules for open water swimming as follows:

SMC 16.28.010 indicates that swimming is prohibited except:
  1. in designated swimming areas
  2. within 50 feet from shore, unless the swimmer is accompanied by a boat that is designed for both swimmer and boater, is within 25 feet of the swimmer and have lifejackets for all persons on the water
SMC 18.12.180 states that watercraft cannot operate within 75 feet of a swimming beach, and powered watercraft cannot operate within 300 feet of a swimming beach.

75 feet of a swim beach. This sailboat was MUCH MUCH closer.  I could not have been more than 20 feet out, as the line of sailboats was probably less than 75 feet out. 

I looked for further information to make sure I was in the clear.  Seattle Police list the following information about swimming:


Swimming (SMC 16.28.010)
Swimming in all the navigational waters of Seattle shall be prohibited except:
  • A: In designated swimming areas; or
  • B: Within 50ft from shore or a pier; or
  • C: Within 25ft of a vessel
Swimming is prohibited in:
  • Government Locks
  • Montlake Cut
  • Fremont Cut
  • Under any bridge
  • Within the confines of any guide wall
  • Within 300 feet of a ferry slip
  • Within 300 feet of a boat launch ramp
So basically, I was in the clear.  The sailboat was in the wrong.  However, being right is not helpful if you've been hit by a boat.  I will continue to practice defensive swimming-- wearing bright colors, keeping aware of boat traffic in the area, doing my best to make eye contact with the boaters, etc.

There were at least three times as many by the time we swam!

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