This time last year, the City of Seattle installed a series of seaplane advisory buoys in Lake Union to manage seaplane, boat, and other watercraft traffic during busy season. This year, the Department of Natural Resources granted the City of Seattle a permit to install this on-water runway of sorts once again, and just like last year, the buoys were installed prior to Memorial Day and will remain in place through Labor Day weekend.
It’s no secret that boating in Lake Union can get swirly during the summer months, and with kayakers, power boaters, paddleboarders, sailors, crew teams, house boats, seaplanes, and more floating about, it’s extremely important to know the rules of the road to promote safe boating and ensure a happy-go-lucky day.
The buoy addition is the City’s experimental way to encourage and facilitate communication between pilots and captains and to keep on-water safety a top priority. The line of five north-to-south buoys in the center of Lake Union doesn’t alter the right to our public waters and on-water rules, but merely acts as a notification system to alert boaters of incoming seaplanes.
When the buoys flash, boaters are asked to move 200 feet east or west of the buoy centerline if it’s safe and easy to do so. The lights will begin flashing two to three minutes before landing or takeoff to notify surrounding boaters of future seaplane activity, and after the seaplanes are out of the way, the flashing subsides, and boaters will know it’s safe to mill about once more. If all goes as well as last year, these buoys could eliminate that fear of a too-close-for-comfort seaplane encounter and save the pilots some tricky landings.
Seaplanes are a Lake Union mainstay and have shared these waters for years; 103 years ago this June, Bill Boeing took off in his first seaplane flight from Lake Union.
But even so, some boaters and local paddle business owners aren’t as enthused as the seaplane companies, expressing their qualified concerns for limited space and difficulties getting around. It’s a balance the City has, and must continue, to carefully navigate, what with Seattle’s constant growth and increasing boat traffic over the years. What’s your take? Shoot us a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear your thoughts!