The Time We Volunteered at Seafair


This year, we, or technically he, volunteered to be a patrol boat at SeaFair.  I was so excited to do it, (we) dropped off the boat on Monday night of last week and parked it at the dock in Stan Seyer Park on Lake Washington.  We would not see her for two more days.


On Wednesday afternoon, we loaded up the Monster truck with all sorts of clothes, sleeping bags, pillow, two coolers (food) and (drinks) and half of the rest of the house.   We headed off to the park for the volunteers dinner, dedication of SeaFair and general get your stuff and meet your people night.

As we were unloading all of our stuff into the boat, we met Peter, Captain Number 3.  He was literally docked to us, with a tiny  tender boat as well.  He was in charge of patrolling the East Highrise, and immediately upon hearing that we had yet to be assigned, he claimed us as his own.  Eventually, he became known to us as “Captain Dildo”, but only on our boat.

Captain Number 3 (Captain Dildo), or as I called him in my head, Peter Brady

It was spaghetti for dinner and a very sad presentation about how many people that SeaFair had lost in the past year.  There must have been ten.  The youngest, a 42 year old female, died of alcoholism.  Take that as you will.

The best part about that dinner was seeing an old friend.  This is Kris, we love him and haven’t seen him in several years.  Unbeknownst to us, he has been a volunteer worker at the “Tower” for the past eight years, he loves it, and looks forward to it every year.  He’s a real trooper, and stayed until today, helping to clean up and of course attending the after parties.  It was great visiting with him this weekend.   But, back to the story.


We got our volunteer shirts (which we never wore), our nifty badges (see above), a radio and boat banners.  Here’s how we looked.


We’ve slept on the boat before, but now the plan was to do it until Sunday (still Wednesday night).  Patrol boats dock at the “Hydro Pits” overnight.  Believe it or not, Hydroplanes are pulled in and out of the water all day, just for races.  They never really sit at the dock.  Here’s what the shore looked like the first night.


On to Thursday, we were woken by Captain Dildo, stepping into the Rooster boat and crashing around over to his.  He lets us know we need to be on the LogBoom dock by 7:30 for Roll call.  It was 6:45.  You bet we got up, drank a monster and headed out to the “Compound”.

The Compound is a barge, with the Chief Seattle Fireboat anchored at one skinny end and a long dock anchored to the other .  The Sea Scout vessel was anchored along the long side.  The Compound was the logboom patrol boat headquarters.  Us and about 20 other boats were reporting for duty.  The Compound is home to the Yellow Team and both Highrise Teams, East and West.  On the barge was several porta potties, an ice machine, a couple of pallets of water, two coffee machines (think industrial) and the Logboom Chairman.  Lewis.



Now that you have the visual……  At the Compound, my Rooster was given a megaphone.  We headed out to the East Highrise, following Captian Dildo shortly thereafter.

Eastern Highrise, I-90

Our job was to make sure that all boats stay out of the “Big Airbox”.  Under the bridge and at least two miles out were a series of giant orange floaty bouys.


We had to keep all vessels behind the orange buoys and allow no one to cross under the bridge, before, during and just after the Blue Angels practice.  It was kind of a boring job, until boats started making a run for it.  Dumbest idea ever.  There were police boats everywhere, Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxillery were even more prevalent, then there was us, and our Captain.

The idea was to keep everyone back, and if someone made a break for it, you chase them.  Once a chase started, the police and Coast Guard would join in on the pursuit.  I don’t know why anyone thought that they could make it.  Each time they were caught, they were treated to a complimentary Coast Guard vessel inspection.  Lucky guys.

On one such pursuit, the Rooster boat motor crapped out, it sputtered and it died.  Captain Dildo had just come by telling us it was time for the “Break Out”, which meant the bridge was going to open.  My Rooster tried in vain to call him on the radio (it didn’t work, why there was no radio check beforehand, I could never say).   He tried the megaphone….. Also a no go.  He honked the horn, and like magic the engine started.  We could only putt.  We couldn’t slow anybody down or chase them if we wanted to.  We barely made it back to the Compound before the boat died again.

At the dock, my Rooster tore that boat apart, and there was no end to the apologies from Captain Dildo, for leaving us behind.   A decision was eventually come to that spark plugs, a coil or two and fuel filter could all be culprits.  Our new friends, the other logboom boats helped to call around and finally the parts were found at West Marine in Ballard.  Captain Dildo was kind enough to give us a ride to Pits and then to the truck, parked a mile away in a soccer field.

It was a pretty cranky ride to Ballard in rush hour traffic, and we arrived we found that the coil that they had reserved for us wasn’t the correct one.  The correct one could only be found in Tacoma.  We headed home for the night.  It was great to be able to take a shower and sleep in our bed, also nice was watering the plants and checking on the cats.

Friday, we picked up the parts and had lunch at the Ram.  There was no reason to rush as we probably wouldn’t be able to get back out to the compound until the Hydroplanes were finished.  It’s a big no no to ever cross the course.

When we arrived back at the park, it was packed.  There wasn’t even room to park in the soccer field.  We parked in Vendor parking, risked subjecting the monster truck to towing, and ventured inside.  There was no way to get back onto the Log Boom.  We were looking at three hours in the blazing sun……….

My Rooster is great at a lot of things, and finding a solution is one of them.  In no time at all, he found a Chairman (very high up), who arranged for Shore Patrol to take us the long way around to the Compound.  Things were looking up.

By the time the parts were installed and the motor running, the work day was over.  The boat would still not gather any power and was stuck at idle.  The kicker motor roared back to life after a change of plugs, so at least we weren’t completely out of luck.  We returned to the pits to dock up or the night with all of the other patrol boats.

Here’s what the shore above the pit docks looked like by Friday night.


It was jam packed and crowded.  All of the racers, mechanics and volunteers had abandoned the park and their very expensive equipment and hydroplanes for the night.  If we were the vandalous type, we could have had a hey day.  But instead, we respectfully walked around the crowded circle, waiting for the moment of truth.

Captain Dildo had already informed us that the Rooster boat would no longer be eligible for East Highrise patrol, he even suggested that we call it a day.  My Rooster immediately tried to contact Lewis (Logboom Chairman) by cell phone.  There was no answer.

We settled down on the boat and started making dinner.  A boat BBQ is a must have in these situations.  Just before dark, we were visited by Lewis and his number 2, Rich.

Lewis informed us that normally in cases like this, he would send the volunteers home.  SeaFair regulations and insurance state that if a vessel becomes disabled, Vessel Assist must be called, which would cost SeaFair $300.  However, in light of the fact that the secondary motor was now in working order, and that we could achieve “Wake Speed” on the primary motor, we would be invited to join the “Yellow” logboom team.  But only if we would transport his gas grill to the Logboom in the morning.

My Rooster graciously accepted, though truth be told, we were both a little worn out and heading home would have been a relief.  In order to get home though, we would have had to drive the boat to the Rainier dock, outside of the SeaFair area and pick it up with the Truck from there.  That was a feat that was seemingly impossible.

I can’t drive the monster truck, and especially not with a trailer, it’s just too big.  I could’ve driven the boat and met him at the alternate dock, with him driving the truck, but I was too afraid that the boat would break down again, leaving me floating with no recourse.

Yellow team, here we come.

Saturday morning we reported to the Compound, boat still running, with the BBQ for delivery.  We were given some instruction sheets (finally) regarding dealing with the public, rules for the Yellow area and a map of the waterway.  We were given a working megaphone and radio, and instructed to proceed at wake speed, patrolling around the yellow area (party zone), cutting back up and over around the red area (rich boats and mega yachts).  Finally an interesting assignment.

Yellow, Party Zone
Mega Yacht Row

We worked both Saturday and Sunday on the Yellow Team.  We missed the flipping of the hydroplane Saturday as we were too busy telling the party boats to get their swimmers out of the water during the races.  We did see the Oberto boat’s engine blow on Sunday in the final race.

The best thing about the Yellow boom was that each day from Noon until 2:30, we were required to be docked at the compound, as no boats were to be moving while the Blue Angels flew.  We got some great photos of those guys.


All in all, it was a fun weekend.  Even though we worked from 6 am to 6 pm everyday, we made some new friends and overcame every challenge that came our way (no thanks to me).

Will we do it again?  Honestly, we’ll probably go ahead back to Sturgis next year, but it was an experience of a lifetime.  No one else had a better view of the races, or the air shows.  We got in some civic duty as volunteers for the event and really learned how it works.  I survived sleeping on the boat for three out of the four nights.

Today’s lesson…… Perseverance.  Never give up.  You never know what you can achieve if you just keep on trying.



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