The Strohs Mothership

Right now, is Seattle we have started that period of time that makes us love living here.  Starting the day after July 4th, the weather gods smile on our state, and you have a better than even chance of having a nice day for your outdoor activities.  This period of time can stretch clear into the beginning of October.

Since the weather is great, this is also Seafair time in the Seattle area.  Seafair is a month of festivities starting with the Seafair pirates landing on Alki Beach (basically a punch or rich old drunk guys who get to be lecherous while dressed as pirates (Purely my opinion of course 🙂 )) and culminating with the hydroplane races and Blue Angels the first weekend in August. (Sadly, due to the sequester, there will be no Blue Angels this month.)

The Blue Angels performing over Lake Washingto...
The Blue Angels performing over Lake Washington in 2007, with the Bellevue skyline in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the summer of 1986 though, Dave gave me a call, saying “HEY, Dan is putting together a raft for the Seafair Sunday, want to build one together and meet him out there? “

Now I should explain that the races happen on Lake Washington.  People with hella-expensive huge boats pay big money to tie up to a log boom to watch these races.  Outside of these boats, is a rag-tag flotilla of party boats, rafts, smaller boats and almost anything that can float.  These folks can’t see the race, but they can see the blue angels, and they can drink beer.  (OK NOT a good combination, but shoot I was only 21 at the time!)

So when Dave asked I said “Well of course I will!” and it was off to his house in Suquamish to build it.  Dave’s folks lived on Puget Sound, and Dave was born for the water, add to it, he can build ANYTHING, so I knew I was with the right person.

He had an old row-boat that leaked like a sieve.  BUT, I had (from somewhere) a huge roll of industrial plastic.  Wrap it around the outside of the boat, and staple gun it inside of the boat, and Voila!  Waterproof!  This was the basis of our raft.

We then cruised the shore in his parents ski boat, and came upon two huge pieces of styrofoam.  Using 2x4s and plywood from a nearby construction site (I am sure all the wood was in the scrap pile) We built what amounted to a poor-man’s catamaran or a very slow outrigger canoe.

Strohs Mother Ship
Strohs Mother Ship

Now Dave, also had an old motor, so we were ready to go!  We invited his sister and our friend Katie to go with us (we had two studs so we needed hot chicks!).  Turns out, serendipitously, that our design was big enough for 4 lawn chairs AND we could store the cooler under the decking in the boat!

We launched at Seward part, and ran into a glitch.  Engine wouldn’t start!  Did that stop us?  NO!  I jumped in the water, grabbed a rope, and started walking along the shallows towing us (They kept yelling “Flipper go get Bud!” as I towed them)  while Dave worked on the engine.  He got it going, as long as we continuous filled a plastic bag with water, and streamed it over the engine block through a whole in the bottom.  (Just don’t spray it on the spark plug!)  We were underway!

We made it out to the crowd, found our friends and hung out for the day!



We had no life jackets, no plan to get back if the engine wouldn’t start again, and plenty of beer!  We learned later that Katie did not know how to swim!  We asked “Why would you come out on a raft like this if you couldn’t swim??”  She replied with a shrug, “You two built it, I knew it would be safe!”  Yep I am sure we puffed out our chests a bit after hearing that!  (Man Pride!)

There is more to the story, that I may tell later.  But I will always remember this event.  The scavenging, building, launching of the boat and just experiencing Seafair Sunday.  I never did it again, nor probably will I again.  But damn, every time I hear someone say Seafair, I think of this boat. Dave, we can build anything!

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